Having a hard time getting your kids out of the house without yelling or bribing? Here are some tips on what to do when your kids won’t sKIDaddle!

Get kids going

Attempting to get your kids to leave the house can sometimes be an impossible task. Screaming, bribing, crying (me as well as my kids) and ultimatums were used all too often in our house.  My daughter struggles with anxiety and often times she refuses to leave the house, even when we are headed to someplace fun.  After I realized that yelling and bribing literally weren’t getting us anywhere, I decide to try a new approach.

Although my daughter’s anxiety was the reason for my change in parenting, the following tips can be helpful for all children.  Try these simple tricks to help you get out of the door in a reasonable amount of time, without a lot fuss.

1. Discuss what will be happening in advance with your child

anxious kids

Surprises can be a wonderful thing, but when a child is anxious about going places surprises can be overwhelming. My daughter needs a lot of information to feel comfortable with new places. When it’s a big outing, (not just a trip to Target) I sit down with her to discuss the details about the trip.


2. When eating out, let them see the menu ahead of time

This tip is similar to number one because you’re planning ahead to avoid a meltdown later. I try my best to show my daughter the menu online before we go to new restaurants.  Discussing the menu options before we go has allowed us to enjoy many more meals while eating out. Now when we get to the restaurant she can sit down and start coloring, and we avoid the anxious meltdown.

3. Have them pack their adventure bag for the journey and don’t forget the snacks

Once we started to encourage our kids to pack an adventure bag for our outings, we received a lot more buy-in from them. Although they are not always involved in the ultimate decision of where we are going, they do get to be in charge of what they bring.

Food is a very big motivator in our house. If snacks are involved, my kids usually come willingly. Let them pick out what they want to eat along the way. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can get them out the door.

4. Plan for sensory needs

Some places are loud and overwhelming for our more sensitive kids. When a child is feeling worried about going somewhere, getting them out of the house can be a serious struggle. Learning to read your child’s distress signals will help you be better prepared to meet her needs when she is stressed. I have learned that my daughter gets overstimulated by busy family gatherings. When I see that she is getting stressed out by the situation, I know to pull her aside and talk to her. Often times she just needs a few minutes in a quiet room to regroup, and then she can continue playing with the other kids.

To learn the signs or overstimulation in children checkout this information How to Know When Your Child is Overstimulated from the Fatherly website.

For a sensory-friendly adventure in Minnesota take a trip to the Science Museum. Every third Sunday the Science Museum offers a quieter, calmer learning environment for kids who need a less sensory-stimulating place to explore.

The Minnesota Parent website has a great list of sensory-friendly outings in the Twin Cities.

5. Buy an alarm clock

Our battles in the morning are by far the worst. My 6 year old does not like to get up in the morning. It’s a huge struggle to get her out of bed, dressed and fed without nearly missing the bus everyday. And without screaming like a crazy person. Last year for Christmas we decided to get her an alarm clock. OMG it was a game changer! The melodic sound of chirping birds awakens her every morning instead of my nagging voice. Not only does she wake up on her own, she happily gets out of bed. I was shocked and so relieved!  This one from Amazon has a lot of neat features.

6. Plan and pack before you have to go somewhere

Waking up in the morning on her own did not solve the frenzied panic of finding gloves, homework, library books, etc. The night before we go over the schedule and set everything out that we will need for the next day. I am encouraging her to put things where she can find them to make her morning easier.

7. Give them choices and let them have more say in things

Would you like to wear a cape or tiara? Should we ride the bikes or take the scooters? If wearing pajamas to run errands gets them out the door, then go for it! It’s okay to still set limits on how often and when it is appropriate, but a little flexibility can go a long way.

Being a control freak by nature, this has been so hard for me. Since the apple does not fall far from this neurotic tree, my daughter also has the innate sense to control things. In fact, she wants to control EVERYTHING! I want to encourage her goals of world domination, but for right now, I let her pick what park we go to or what animal we see first when we go to the zoo. Those little moments of letting her take the lead helps us avoid a lot of the battles that we normally would have throughout the day.

Get kids out the door

8. Give them a schedule to follow

Having a visual schedule (or written for older kids) to follow helps them knowthe expectations of the day. Obviously my daughter knows that she needs to brush her teeth and get dressed, but having a visual list to follow really gets her going. Who doesn’t love to check things off a to-do list!  Here is one of my favorite printable daily routine checklists.

9. Use a timer

Playing beat the clock is a great way to challenge your kids to get out the door super fast. This is my favorite timer for playing beat the clock or for giving limits on screen time. This cube timer on Amazon is easy for little kids to use as well.

Kids who struggle with time management and transitions really respond well to auditory cues. In the morning, the timer goes off when breakfast is over and it’s time start getting ready for school. Then another timer will give an alert when it’s five minutes before the bus arrives. The cube keeps us moving, especially when we’re half asleep.

We also love using our Echo Dot for our timer. You can ask Alexa to set a timer or use music for your motivation. At the end of the song, we move on to our next task. As a reward for efficiency, my kids ask Alexa to read them a story as they wait for the bus to arrive.

10. Don’t forget to give them down time

My daughter’s (and my own anxiety) amps up when we’re too busy. Even if your child doesn’t suffer from anxiety, this is still a very important tip to remember. Planning play dates and enrolling our kids in classes is great, but don’t underestimate the importance of downtime. Kids need time by themselves and a lot more time to just play and be kids. Encouraging open-ended playtime without electronics allows children to develop skills in creative problem solving. For every outing you do, make sure to follow it with time for your child to decompress. This is a great article about downtime, Is Your Child Getting Enough Downtime?

11. Help them understand and discuss their feelings

Sometimes our little ones don’t have the words to describe their big feelings. Helping them learn words to talk about what is worrying them is important. When my daughter’s anxiety started, it was natural for me to try to protect her and stop doing things that made her nervous. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t help us move forward and learn to overcome what worries us. When she was able to communicate her feeling to me, we started working on things as a team and overcoming a lot of the axioms feelings.

For a great resource on childhood anxiety go to AT Parenting Survival.

After you get the kids out of the house, head over to our Best of section to find our favorite places to take the kids.

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sKIDaddlers was started by 2 local Minnesota moms with a love for traveling and a knack for research.  Learn more about us and what you can find on our site here.