I love familiarity. I can get nervous going new places where I don’t know how things are done or pushing myself outside my comfort zone. So when my oldest was a baby, we didn’t do a lot of new things when I was alone with him during the week.
We’d do some story times, go to the arboretum near our house, and take walks around the neighborhood. And that was fine! On the weekends, we’d go on hikes and to restaurants with my husband.
When we moved to Austin with a toddler and a baby at the end of 2019, we were excited to explore all the great things we now had access to. And then 2020 came.
The pandemic has obviously made us a miss out on a lot. There was so much we couldn’t do in the beginning! But it really got me outside exploring the places that we COULD go. I probably wouldn’t have felt as compelled to try new places when I was home alone with my kids if I hadn’t been so stir crazy!
Now getting out and trying new playgrounds, parks and attractions is a part of every week, and we’ve all gotten used to it (and really like it!). If you’re looking to get out of your comfort zone and explore your city more, here are my best tips for going on adventures when you have small kids!
And just know, every time you go it gets easier!
1. Set low expectations
Your outings will not always go well or be particularly long. Sometimes you spend half a day out and about; sometimes you spend 30 minutes and need to go home. But even if you only try a new place for 30 minutes, it’s not a new place anymore and you’ll know what to expect next time!
2. Bring snacks
You probably already know the great secret of parenting is snacks. It’s no different when you’re out somewhere new.
Your kids might work up an appetite or may just feel nervous and want something familiar. You might need to curb an impending tantrum or maybe things will go so well that you end up staying longer than you planned.
That’s why you need plenty of snacks handy. When you think you have enough, pack two more.
3. Your baby doesn’t need adventures
If you are still in the baby phase and don’t have any older siblings to entertain, don’t force yourself to go on outings. At that stage, getting out is for you. The baby doesn’t care.
So don’t try new places if you’re not going to enjoy it. Planning to go anywhere with a baby is stressful, and if the pleasure doesn’t outweigh the stress, it’s not doing anyone any good. There’s plenty of time to try new playgrounds when your baby is older and can actually play.
On the flip side, if you’ve got cabin fever and think an adventure will help, try it! The worst that can happen is you change your mind and head home. Your baby’s not judging you.
4. Start small
Your first adventure doesn’t need to be a national park or some big road trip. It can be a half hour at Target or a morning at the park 3 minutes from your house.
As you get more confident and get your system down, you’ll go bigger and farther places, but starting with baby steps is a great way to feel comfortable and work toward grander adventures.
5. Go with friends
You would think that more kids means more hassle, but it’s amazing how kid magic works sometimes. Double the kids sometimes means half the work for the moms.
If you have a mom friend, especially one with the kids the same ages as yours, invite them along on an adventure. You’ll have an extra person to help you figure out any issues and the kids will play together and occupy themselves. And if you have to run to the bathroom or stand in line for food, there’s someone to help watch your kids.
6. Look at pictures
Before I go somewhere new, I try to find some photos of the place on Instagram, Yelp or the place’s website. This helps me know what to expect so I’m more confident. It also helps sometimes to show the kids where we’re going.
7. Let them take photos
Once your kid is about 4, I can almost guarantee that you can keep them busy by letting them take photos. Get them a cheap digital camera or let them hold onto your phone for a little bit and take photos of whatever they want.
This is a great trick for when their legs are just “sooo tired,” when you need the outing to last a bit longer or when you just want to let them feel special for a bit. Bonus: you get to see the world through their eyes!
8. Widen your comfort zone
Each time you try a new place, make it a little farther from home. If you’re going to a playground, why not just try a new one? Look at the map and find the closest one to your house that you haven’t been to yet.
Soon you’ll know all the best parks around and you can choose to keep trying new ones or go to your favorite when you’re in the mood for something familiar!
9. Be proud of yourself
No matter how well you feel like the adventure went, you should be proud of yourself! You got out there and tried something new. Even if you don’t have the energy to try it again for a while, it’ll be easier next time and you’ll be just a little bit more prepared.
Your kids don’t need you to be perfect — even going to a tiny park is an adventure for them! So no matter where you go, your kids will benefit from you becoming a more confident version of yourself.