Make Errands Teachable Moments

If you're a mom who dreads taking the kids when you run errands, then there are ways to keep them occupied and perhaps make those mundane trips learning experiences for them. For example, a grocery store excursion could become a way for them to learn about nutrition. Make comparisons among the foods in your cart - bananas vs. candy, perhaps - and help them figure out which is the best food to fuel their bodies. Scavenger hunts are great for older kids. Make a list of obscure things like dish towels, shoe polish or light bulbs in the grocery store before you leave the house, and as you go through the aisles, allow the kids to cross items off the list as they spot them. A reward such as picking out the family's frozen yogurt flavor for the week in the ice cream aisle might be extra-motivating! To help smaller kids hone reading skills, ask them to find certain words on food labels, such as "lactose" on milk.

If you have to go to the bank, then turn it into a math lesson by allowing kids to count the money after you receive it or by allowing bigger kids to add and subtract amounts on transaction slips. Trips to the shopping mall can be made less monotonous by asking kids to find things that are out of place, such as trash on the ground or a messy display. On the flip side, ask them to find things that are in place, like a clean countertop or stack of merchandise. If you're trying to keep the kids entertained in a waiting room, like that of the doctor, have kids close their eyes and listen to what's going on around them. Wait 10 seconds, then have the child open his eyes and tell you what he heard and guess what those sounds might be. This is a great way to pass the time - and improve your child's perception of the world around him!