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10 Tips for Running Errands with a Special Needs Child

Over the years we've had our fair share of issues when it comes to running errands with our four special needs children.  Each kiddo is so different with their own set of triggers, sensory issues, and anxieties.  I thought that by our fourth child, we'd be experts. Little did I know we were entering a whole new realm of difficult.

I'm not exaggerating when I say it's taken years to figure out how to be successful running errands with Sunshine.  It's only now that I feel confident sharing our 10 tips for running errands with a special needs child.

10 tips for running errands with a special needs child
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I remember Dinomite becoming so extremely upset when people would not say hello to him at the store.  He did not understand social cues.  Dinomite has always been extremely sensitive to sounds, smells and touches as well.

But despite all of this, I don't ever remember him melting down except for when it was time leave the house to run errands and when we'd transition back to the car after errands.  And then... Oh my!


When Bulldozer was an infant and toddler and we'd run errands or go anywhere, he would lose all expression on his face and revert back into his own world.  He could not NOT touch things.  And if he was extremely overstimulated, (basically every time we went to Walmart) he would end up in a heap on the floor unable to walk.

If didn't end up on the floor Bulldozer would wander.  He would become so easily distracted.  It's not that he was trying to run, he just went where he wanted to go, thankfully he moved slowly.


Princess would jump all over the place and still does.  She just can not keep still.  Safety goes out the window when we're outside of our home.  Her eyes are also an issue.  She is extremely sensitive to light.  If Princess doesn't have her sunglasses, she has a rough time.

Needless to say I've been the recipient of many stares, glares, and unsolicited words of wisdom by total strangers who feel it's their right to tell me how to parent.  Truth be told I became used to this.  But nothing could prepare me for what running errands would be like with Sunshine.


Now let me give Sunshine credit where credit is due.  It took her until the age of three before she would sit in a car seat, stroller, or cart without freaking out.  A freak out always includes a raging meltdown with physical aggression.  These freak outs would last until she was removed from the situation.  She is now okay when seated on the go.  This is HUGE!

It took over a year for Sunshine to show consistent success while running a single short errand with Daddy or Mommy.  By short I mean there was one purpose or one item that needed to be purchased at a single store.  We practiced at least a couple times each week.

Success meant that she didn't rage or become physically aggressive and she stayed safe.  Sunshine loves to run off and go with anyone. At times she also likes to be inappropriate with her words.  But now, she can usually do a pretty good job following the rules.

It took a very long time to understand Sunshine's sensory issues, triggers, and anxieties.  We used our incident questionnaire on a regular basis to put the pieces together.  Once we understood what was going on, which was a mix of everything, we went to work on a plan so that we could once again run errands as a family and have a pleasant experience while doing so.

10 Tips for Running Errands with a Special Needs Child

1.  Map out a plan ahead of time.
Sunshine really struggles with transitions especially when she doesn't know what's coming next, or if it's not something she likes.  If we make a plan ahead of time and share it with her, she is less anxious and therefore transitions better while on the go.

2.  Stick to the plan.
Changes in routine or even in purchases can really wreak havoc with Sunshine.  If we stick to the plan, she can usually hold herself together, but if we don't, most often either myself or my husband end up in the van with a raging child.

3. Create a visual schedule.
We love to use our visual schedule flip book when running errands.  It includes a picture for every store and errand we may need to run, placed in order so Sunshine knows where we're going and when. She keeps it with her so she feels more in control and knows where we've been and where we're going.

4.  Build incentives and reinforcers into your plans and schedule.
Sunshine loves to eat out at restaurants.  We use this to our advantage, planning some of our most challenging errands before mealtime so she has a reason to keep it together and function well.

5.  Bring yummy snacks and drinks along.
There are times when incentives and reinforcers are just not enough, especially in places like Walmart and shoe stores.  In those moments a yummy snack or drink can be a great distraction and enough to keep things going smoothly.  Sometimes the drive thru window works as well.

6.  Have games or activities ready for when waiting in line.
Sunshine may do extremely well while in a store, but then falls apart while waiting in line to pay.  This is why we have a few games prepared for when she needs them.  Sometimes we' play I Spy.  Other times it's Guess Who with Disney Characters.  Then there are times when we sing songs.  It all depends on her mood.

7.  Bring along a travel size sensory kit.
We can never predict when there will be some type of construction, when people are waxing the floors, or if there's a lawn mower right outside the door.  Sometimes a baby may be screaming.  It's at these times that Sunshine's sound blocking headphones and comfy blanket come in handy, along with other items from her sensory kit.  Her wallet is a favorite as she loves to collect receipts.

8.  Dress appropriately.
This may seem like a given, but with Sunshine it's a pretty big deal. Appropriately means no hair ties, buttons, snaps, zippers, or sequins.  Sunshine feels most comfortable in a pair of leggings and a t-shirt.  Anything else and the added sensory input may just put her over the edge.  Oh, and she's always cold, so another layer packed just in case is a necessity.

9.  Make the special needs known.
This may be the opposite of what you may want to do, but in circumstances where the child is raging and physically aggressive, using our handicap stroller or those wonderful new handicap carts for older children are such a blessing.  Not only do they provide a safe way for you to transport your child from the store to the car if need be, but they alert everyone of what you're dealing with.

Using a handicap stroller or cart also helps when you have a child who can't be safe or still, or for one who runs or wanders.

10.  Don't skip on sleep.
Waking up early, staying out late, or skipping nap time when running errands is a sure recipe for disaster.  Plan your schedule accordingly.  So many meltdowns can be avoided, by following this simple tip.  Sunshine NEEDS her nap everyday.  When she doesn't get it, we know a raging meltdown will occur.

Errand days are a lot of work, but it's worth it when we can all go out together and enjoy ourselves.  Learning and following these 10 tips for running errands with a special needs child have been crucial to our success.  If we choose not to follow even of them, we pay the price.  It's our hope that they can help you too.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.

10 Ways to Help Family with Special Needs Children 4 Steps to Managing Aggressive Behaviors Overcoming Struggles with Autism Mothers When Did We Stop Supporting Each Other? Special Needs Event Planner Sensory resources for children who need to chew
This post is part of the Parenting Children with Special Needs Series.  If you'd like to read more excellent posts in the series, click the links below!
Dear Mom at the Park | This Outnumbered Mama

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How to Prepare Your Kids When Showing a Home to Sell

The process of moving can be so complicated and stressful, especially when children are involved.  We do our best to prepare them for the big day, but often forget to prepare them for all of the little steps along the way.  One of these steps is the process of trying to sell your home.

Here are just a few of the questions we've had over the last month.  There may have been a few meltdowns and tears too.

  • Why do we need to keep the house clean ALL the time?
  • Why do we need to leave our house on a moment's notice?
  • Why are our schedules and routines changing?
  • Why are strangers coming to look at our home?
  • What will happen to my things when strangers are here?
  • Why can't we be here when people come?
  • How long do we need to be gone?
  • What will we do when we come home?

After working through strong emotions and questions in our home, I thought it appropriate to share how we've worked through this difficult process.  I would love to help other parents who are going through similar situations.  Here is our guide on how to prepare your kids when showing your home to sell.

How to Prepare Your Kids When Showing a Home to Sell
This post contains affiliate links.

8 Tips to Help Prepare Your Kids When Showing a Home to Sell

1.  Create a social story that explains the process of showing and selling a home.  Read it regularly with your children.

2.  Create a picture schedule that explains the step-by-step process of preparing to show your home. This way when you receive a phone call everyone knows what's going on and what responsibilities they have.  A to do list for older kids may also be sufficient.

3.  Make a plan for when you need to leave your home.  In our case we've chosen a fun activity for when it's nice outside and another activity for when it's raining or too cold.  You may also want to have a plan B in case those plans fall through.  If your home is on the market for an extended period of time, you could even create a jar of popsicle sticks with choices.  Whatever you do, just make it fun.

4.  Make a plan for meals when you are out.  Will you go out to eat?  Do you have lunch boxes packed and ready to go?  Perhaps you'll just have snacks on hand until you return home?  Inevitably showings do happen around meal time. Be prepared and discuss these plans with your kids.

5.  Role play what a showing is like.  Have kiddos take turns being the realtor and the people looking at the home.

6.  Let kiddos pack a backpack or bin with their favorite things to take with them or hide if they are anxious about others touching or taking their special toys.

7.  Remove pictures of your family and pack them into a bin in the case that your child is scared of people knowing who she is or has a past history of trauma.  This is actually recommended by realtors.  It is a great way to protect your children, especially as pictures of your family can show up in pictures that you display of your home online.

8.  Make a plan for when you return to your home.  This transition can be extremely tricky, especially after having fun, changes in schedule, and realizing that strangers have just been in your home.

We have been through five showings and an open house in just two short weeks.  The process of showing a home doesn't get any easier as time goes by. However, the tips we've given above have helped our kids tremendously.  They're starting to get used to what's expected of them and what will happen when we're gone.  We hope these suggestions help you too.

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12 Tips When Preparing to Show a Home with Kids

Our home has been on the market for only two short weeks.  Yet in that time we've had an open house and five showings.  Needless to say we're exhausted and our kiddos are losing their minds.  With each showing we get better at being prepared.  Here are our 12 tips when preparing to show a home with kids.

12 Tips When Preparing to Show a Home with Kids
This post contains affiliate links.

Realtors often give the following advice when you're showing a home.

  • Make sure your home is clean.
  • Get rid of clutter.
  • Hide personal belongings and hygiene items.

As we've worked hard to do these three things, we've come up with the following solutions to make the process easier. We want to sell our home as quickly as possible.

12 Tips When Preparing to Show a Home with Kids

1.  Use toiletry bags meant for travel to store all of your family's personal hygiene items. When you receive a call to show your home, you can just pack the bags away under your bed or in another hidden place.

2.  Simplify bed making to one blanket and sheets.  In some cases depending on the person you can eliminate the flat sheet.  This makes for easy bed making as you're rushing around trying to make sure everything is perfect.

3. Minimize wardrobes.  The fewer outfits each person has to wear the less laundry you will need to do at any given time. The less laundry there is to do, the less time you'll have to spend last minute folding it and putting it away.  Pack clothing items you won't be using so there's no chance they can be used to make another mess.

4.  Use paper plates and bowls.  You never know when you're going to get a call to show your home.  If your counter is full of dirty dishes or it's just after meal time and you only have an hour to get things ready, the last thing you want to do is spend your time washing dishes.

5.  Keep a bin filled with quick accessories to display when showing your home. This bin may include clean dish towels, a throw rug, table cloth with napkins etc.  Basically this is the bin you use for things you want to keep clean at all times.  Pack up these items the minute you return to your home to ensure they stay clean and ready.

6.  Create a daily pick up schedule for kids' bedrooms and play areas.  This may include picking up toys as part of morning and bedtime routines.  Picking up toys at least once daily will help you and your kids stay on top of the mess.

7.  Minimize toys.  Keep your child's favorite toys out and pack all others away.  This way daily messes won't get out of hand and you'll have the time you need to pick things up as quickly as possible.

8.  Have kids help with daily chores to keep the house in order, if they don't already.  These daily chores will help you stay on top of housework and ensure that the house is ready to show at any time.

9.  Choose a day each week to do deep cleaning tasks.  If these tasks are done on a weekly basis, there will be no need to do them just before showings when called last minute.  Kids can participate in this as well.  Just be sure to be flexible with your schedule in case you get a call to show your home on your designated cleaning day.

10.  Prepare quick and easy meals that don't involve the use of an oven (just in case you get a call to show the house while something is baking). Make sure avoid prepping foods with strong odors.  It seems every time we show our home it's close to mealtime.

11.  Create a hidden space to keep the family calendar, permission slips, chore charts and other important paperwork.  Keep things in a place where you can access them when needed, but hidden enough out of site for showings.

12.  Plan something for your kids to do while you're getting your home ready.  They will need to be able to do something that requires minimal adult supervision.  The worst thing to have happen is finish preparing one area of your home only to find another completely trashed.  If you have infants and toddlers, arrange for a babysitter ahead of time if possible.

Preparing a home to sell can be extremely stressful and exhausting.  The stress of needing to have your home ready to show at any moment is enough to drive anyone crazy.  These tips have been lifesavers for us. We hope they help you as well.

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Montessori-inspired Botany Gifts and Resources for Kids

Sunshine, our youngest daughter has autism.  When it comes to learning she is obsessed about botany, the study of plants.  She loves to study trees, flowers, leaves and basically anything that has to do with plant life.  If there are botany activities on her Montessori shelves, she is as happy as can be.

In the spirit of following Sunshine's interests I have gathered together a list of Montessori-inspired Botany Gifts and Resources to use when I'm in need of a gift or a learning resource for her.  I couldn't resist sharing my fabulous finds.  If you're looking for botany gifts or resources, this is the ultimate guide!
Montessori-inspired Botany Gifts and Resources for Kids
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Gifts and resources are divided by category.  I couldn't believe how many fabulous gifts and resources there are out there.  The project was definitely eye opening.  

Montessori Botany Materials

Montessori Botany Materials

For those looking for traditional Montessori botany materials, you can find all of the necessities below.

Montessori-inspired Gifts and Resources for Kids


If you're looking for general plant life gifts and resources I've recommended my favorites below.   There are so many out there to choose from.  These are not organized in any particular order.  Depending on the age and abilities of your child will determine what you might want to try out.

Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Cooperative Board Game

Wooden Balancing Cactus Toy

Green Kids Botany Discover Kit

American Educational Dicot Stem Plant Model

Schleich Plants and Feeding Set

Schleich Fern Accessory

Schleich Agave Accessory

Plant Cell Anatomy Model

Learning Resources Cross-Section Plant Model

Safari Ltd. Life Cycle of a Green Bean Plant


For those who love leaves like Sunshine, there are a few items specific to this particular interest that would work amazingly in the classroom or as a gift.

Young Naturalist Leaf Identification Kit

Creativity Street Leaf Set Embossed Paper

Wooden Leaves Lacing Game

Montessori-inspired Tree Gifts and Resources for Kids


I never realized there were so many fun tree themed resources out there.  No matter the age of your child there's something for everyone.

Playmobil Large and Small Pine Trees

Plan Toys Balancing Tree Game

Tree Rings Set

Tree Blocks

Plan Toys Stacking Tree

Fandex Family Field Guides: Tree

Safari Ltd Trees Toob

Schleich Palm Tree Accessory

Montessori-inspired Flower Gift and Resources for Kids


I have fallen in love with so many of the flower themed gift and resources out there for the classroom and at home.  They are so beautiful!

Wilton Cookie Cutter 7 Piece Metal Mini Garden 

Colorful Garden Paper Party Straws

Wilton Mini Flower Silicone Mold

Double Sided Flower Puzzle

Little Flowers Wooden Puzzle Stacker

HABA Bonita Garden

Flower Press

Green Toys Build-a-Bouquet Floral Arrangement Playset


Just so we don't leave anything out, if you're planning to study roots or have a child that is particularly interested in them, the resources below may help you out.  There's not much, but enough to dive into a fun study.

Root-Vue Farm

Montessori-inspired Vegetable Gifts and Resources for Kids


For those planning a study of vegetables or for a child who loves vegetables in general, there are some great gift and resources out there that are Montessori friendly.

Vegetables Wooden Cube Block Jigsaw Puzzle

Wooden Cutting Vegetables Puzzle Play Set 1

Wooden Cutting Vegetables Puzzle Play Set 2

Plan Toys Assorted Vegetable Playset

Vegetables Wooden Magnetic Set

Mushroom with Screw

Montessori-inspired Fruit Gifts and Resources for Kids


And let's not forget fruit!  Whether your child is learning fruit names or practicing fine motor skills, there are so many choices.

Wooden Cutting Fruit Puzzle Play Set 1

Wooden Cutting Fruit Puzzle Play Set 2

Fruit Threading Wisdom Tree

Hape Fruit Knob Toddler Wooden Puzzle

Fruit Abacus

Melissa and Doug Fruit Basket Jumbo Knob Wooden Puzzle

Fun with Fruit Stencils

Guidecraft Count and Lace Fruit

Learning Resources Super Sorting Pie

Wooden Colorful Branches, Leaves, and Fruit Tree

Plan Toys Assorted Fruit Playset

Fruit Counters

Fruit Wooden Magnet Set

Montessori-inspired Garden Gifts and Resources for Kids


Last but not least, if you have a child who enjoys gardening, these resources are great!  I can't recommend these products enough.  They are staples at our house.

Toysmith Big Gardens Tool Set

Toysmith Kid's 3-Piece Garden Tool Set

Radio Flyer's Kid's Wheelbarrow

Melissa and Doug Chameleon Watering Can

Harvest Time-A Co-Operative Game

Plan Toy Doll House Vegetable Garden

Green Toys Watering Can

Green Toys Indoor Gardening Kit

Nature Series: Science on a Garden Adventure

Happy shopping!  Never would I have ever guessed there were so many fabulous resources for a child who loves plants.  I can't wait to purchase some of these items for our classroom and others as gifts for holidays.

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Mothers, When Did We Stop Supporting Each Other?

I have found myself quite distraught and in tears over the judgments and lack of support from others when it comes to my decisions on how to raise my children lately.  This is nothing new or uncommon.  All mothers experience this.  It's really quite sad, because it is such an unnecessary and preventable thing.

As I've worked through my own feelings, my thoughts have drifted back to experiences I've had in the past and to the stories friends have shared with me.  I find myself thinking about one question.

Mothers, when did we stop supporting each other?

Mothers, When Did We Stop Supporting Each Other?
This post contains affiliate links.

The True Story of Sarah and Emily

A few months ago I was in the craft store waiting in line to check out.  There was a mother with her daughter who was probably about five or six years old.  We'll call the mother Sarah and the daughter Emily.

Sarah was almost finished checking out.  Her cart was filled to the brim.  Emily was not doing well.  As the two headed for the door to exit, Emily went into a full-on meltdown.  Sarah was helpless.

She could not carry Emily and push the cart out of the store at the same time.  It was not an option to carry Emily to the car and come back into the store to grab her cart load.  Nor was it okay for Sarah to take her things to the car and leave Emily in the store.

As this all went down there were several people in line waiting to be checked out. There were multiple people at different check out counters paying for their things.  Cashiers and other workers were watching this poor woman with her child.

Yet no one did anything to help. Sure some stared. Other shook their heads.  There were some that just turned away.  But no one was there to support this mother.

I don't know how long I waited before I took action, throwing my purchases on the counter and telling the cashier I'd be right back.

I quickly walked over to Sarah and asked if I could help her by pushing her cart to her car.  With tears in her eyes she expressed immediate thanks, picking Emily up off of the floor as she kicked, hit and screamed.  We walked to her car, Sarah apologizing profusely for the behaviors of her daughter.  After struggling to strap Emily in the car, Sarah took her cart and I went back inside the store.


Months later I can still feel the heartache I felt as I watched this mother struggling helplessly with her child.  She was doing her very best and yet no one would help her.  There was no support.  Instead, only judgment and ridicule.

When did we start thinking so much about ourselves and so little about others?  Why do we have to judge each other so much and so harshly?

I don't know if Emily has special needs.

I don't know if she had been out shopping with her mother for hours and this was the final straw.

I don't know what kind of mother Sarah is.

But I do know, if I were in that same situation, I'd be saying silent prayers that someone would offer to help me.

Why would others not help this poor woman?

Why would fellow moms only stare, shake their heads or turn the other way?

Mothers, when did we stop supporting each other?


As a parent to four children, all with special needs I am very familiar with the judgments and lack of support from others.  Name a scenario and I'm pretty sure I have a true story to go along with it.  Perhaps this is why I helped Sarah.  I knew how she was feeling and couldn't bear to watch the torture she was enduring.

But seriously?  What's the deal?

We teach our children that if they don't have anything nice to say to not say anything at all.  Yet we have no issues telling a fellow mother what we think she's doing wrong.  Or worse yet, we talk about her to others in negative ways.

We teach our children to show love and compassion to others, yet we can't take a moment to help a fellow mother in need.


Perhaps we should stop with the unsolicited advice about how we think fellow mothers should do things and just listen with love and a sincere desire to support one another, offering advice only when it's asked for.

Every child is different and therefore needs a different kind of mother.

Only I know the kind of mother my child needs.  And if I'm struggling with that I know how to seek help. I know to whom I can go for help.

We are so used to making snap judgments about the decisions of fellow mothers, yet we do not know the circumstances behind the decisions.  In most cases we will never know.  Yet we still don't hesitate to judge.  What happened to trust?

No Excuses

And sure you may be saying, but there are really bad mothers out there!  Just watch the news.  To that I say, do you know the whole story?

My two daughters are adopted from foster care.  Sunshine and Princess are now mine because their mothers were incapable of caring for them properly.  But here's the thing, not a day goes by that I don't doubt that their birth mothers loved them and did the very best they could.

Yes it wasn't good enough, but it still doesn't mean that they didn't try, and that they don't deserve all the love and support that each and every other mother deserves.  Heck, they need it more!  If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have my two beautiful daughters.  They deserve respect.

In some cases you say you are just concerned and are trying to help.  I ask you only one question.  Did the fellow mother ask for your help?  If the answer is no, it isn't your place.  Instead of judging, be an example.  Express your love through kind words, thoughts and deeds.  Provide service. Offer to help.  This is the best way to show concern.

In the situation of Sarah and Emily, some may say, it's not my place.  That's her issue.  May I ask when it became wrong to show kindness and support to another, especially a fellow mother who is struggling?


Mothers!  We're all doing the very best we can with the circumstances we have been given.  Imagine what that best would look like if we all supported each other?  What would happen if we stopped judging?  Imagine if we only showed love and kindness towards each other?

The world would be an unbelievable place to live in.

We would look forward to venturing out of our homes with our children in tow.

We would not live in fear of expressing our most intimate parenting doubts to others.

We would ask for help without shame.

We would smile more.

We as mothers would rid ourselves of those horrible insecurities.

Just imagine!

Let's start showing support today.

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