Escaping the house (intact) with little kids — it's possible!

Are you afraid of the avalanche of kid-sized coats, shoes and strollers by your front door? Have no fear. Going out is about to get easier.

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  • Car seats, coats, hats, gloves, snacks, Sippy cups, diapers, spare clothes and strollers... Does the checklist ever end when you take young kids out of the house? It's no wonder we moms want to hole up at home all day. However, getting out of the house with young kids is necessary and good for our mental health. Staying trapped in the house all day, afraid of the headache that comes with taking our kids out, gets really old — really fast.

  • Leaving home doesn't have to feel like a big production. Use these tips to make your life easier. Pull out of the driveway without pulling out your hair!

  • Keep a bag ready to go

  • Your diaper bag should help — not hinder — the process of going out. Think beyond the bland diaper bags from big box stores. Find a roomy purse you love that can double as both a mommy bag and baby bag. Keep it stocked with the basic essentials and stash it by the door, ready to go at a moment's notice.

  • To meet all mommy needs, you'll want to include: your wallet, chapstick, lotion, a granola bar (or other small snack) and possibly a comb or hair tie. Don't forget to grab your phone on the way out. For babies, toss in: one or two diapers, a small wipes container, a spare onesie, one or two small toys and baby food/formula (for nursing babies, food means nursing pads). Squeezie pouches are a low-mess option for toddlers, and keep granola bars on hand for a preschooler. Keep your bag's contents simple, and toss out accumulated junk once a week.

  • Set up a "go station"

  • The hardest part of leaving the house is usually finding all the various socks, shoes, hats and coats needed to leave. Keep all these items by the front door, including a stash of socks and a pair or two of shoes. If you don't have a coat closet, there are some great, inexpensive options for setting up a makeshift mud room by your front door. However you choose to store things, make sure you consolidate, making things easy for the entire family to find.

  • Plan ahead

  • There's nothing worse than planning an outing only to find out you don't know your way or the activity is off. Kids get crankier and crankier as parents get more and more stressed out — one big cycle of "freak out." Map out a path beforehand, and double-check your plans. Have contingencies if something falls through, keeping in mind that toddlers, especially, get out of sorts when schedules change.

  • Keep trips an appropriate length

  • Ever tried to haul a baby, toddler and a preschooler through two grocery stores, a clothing store and the mall? I have, and it's not a brilliant idea. Know your kids' limitations, and respect those limitations. You might want to get all your errands done in one morning, but ask yourself if that's a realistic goal with kids. Sometimes it's better to spread things out over the course of the week rather than risk a meltdown in the middle of the mall.

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  • Ask for backup

  • Sometimes it's hard managing a brood of kids single-handedly. Let's be honest. Who among us hasn't been there? It's smart to postpone activities or errands until you have an extra set of hands, whether those hands belong to a spouse, parent, friend or caregiver. Go grocery shopping with a friend, plan playtime at a friend's house instead of going to an attraction or bring along a babysitter to help you with errands. Smart parents use resources wisely.

  • Don't cower at home any longer. There's only so much you can do at home before suffering a serious case of cabin fever. Even a walk around the block or a trip to a local park is a welcome outing after a few days stuck inside. Plan ahead, pack light and keep things brief. You'll do just fine.

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Heather Hale is a fourth-generation Montanan and mom to three crazy boys.

Website: http://moderatelycrunchy.blogspot.com

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