You may have heard the term “planning for success” in reference to going out places with your toddler. You may even do your best to plan successful outings for your family by thinking of the needs of your toddler. Often, our plans include other people who either are older adults (like grandparents) who have not had young children around for quite some time and may not remember how they operate or friends or family members who do not have children and therefore do not know how important it is to think about the needs of your toddler when planning an outing. How do you work with these two types of people to ensure that the outings that you plan together are fun for you, your toddler, and everyone else involved? You involve them in planning for a successful outing and then use that outing as an opportunity to explain how the principle of planning for success works.
For example, this weekend I took the boys to Massachusetts to visit their grandparents and their aunt, who happens to be visiting the aforementioned grandparents. The grandparents are my parents, and since my sister (the aforementioned aunt) and I are in our thirties, it has been a while since they have had to think a lot about the needs of toddlers. Fortunately, they do see us regularly so they have come to understand the importance of planning for success when we take Dylan out. My sister has no children of her own yet, but she does get to spend time with another young child sometimes so it was not a big leap for her to understand what we needed this weekend.
Right now, I think that the most important factors which affect whether an outing will be successful for Dylan and those of us who go with him are realistic expectations and carefully choosing which activities to do or which places to go. Setting realistic expectations for outings with toddlers is important because it makes you think about whether the situation that you want to bring your toddler into is one where he or she has a high chance of success – or of failure. For example, today we were riding in the car and had just come to a consensus that we would wait a bit to stop for lunch. Suddenly, Dylan began to ask about food and began to act like he was getting hungry. We decided that we could not expect him to wait and eat lunch in an hour like we had planned to do, we stopped at a restaurant right away. Our prompt attention to Dylan’s need to eat was rewarded as he behaved well throughout the meal and ate a good amount of food.
Carefully choosing where to go is important too. We’re down in Connecticut and there are many places that we could have gone to eat dinner. We originally thought that we might try to find something unique that none of us had tried before. Then, we realized that it was seven o’clock on a Friday night. Many small places would be very busy. Also, there are many great restaurants where children are allowed to go yet somehow families do not feel very welcome. We wanted to avoid those things, so we decided that a larger chain restaurant would be a better fit. We had a great meal, and again we were rewarded with good behavior because the setting was comfortable.