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How to Beat The Pickup Toddler Meltdown

If you’re a parent of a toddler who goes to preschool, you’ve probably listened to the agonized wails of said child as you left them for the first time (or 20, or 40) in the classroom. Perhaps you’ve built up quite the strategies for making your exit with the least amount of tears (for both of you). But for all those cries and acting like you were going off to war, you would think that school pickup would grant you something of a hero's welcome from your toddler. Well, not so, apparently. Because there’s a whole other thing you didn’t account for: The Toddler Witching Hour.

Pickup is also the time when toddlers are overtired, hungry, and just about ready to lose their little minds. And guess what? That’s the precise moment when they’re offloaded to you, their parent, and most likely when you need them to move along and get them home. So how do you prepare for your toddler’s worst and try to squelch a meltdown before it begins? It helps if you’ve done some advanced planning.

Here are 8 tips for taming a toddler tantrum during school pickup.

1. Come Armed With Provisions.

Kids love snacks. They just do. And they’ll do almost anything for snacks. And no, we’re not talking about those chickpea crisps you’ve been trying to pass off as “chips.” Do yourself a favor and come with a snack your kid actually likes. Only allow them to have the snack if they listen to you and get in the stroller or car to go home.

2. Engage Comrades.

If you know that you absolutely must get home and you can’t get your toddler to go down the preschool stairs at anything more than a glacial pace, quickly look your kid’s favorite friend to have a play date with. It’s not ideal because you won’t get a nap in immediately, but you will get yourself and your toddler down those school steps, and to your next destination. So what if the thought of hanging out with their playmate’s mom makes you want to start drinking at noon? Isn’t that what mimosas are for?

3. Establish A Routine.

One of the best ways to avoid having your toddler go boneless and refuse to move an inch from that spot on the sidewalk where you told them that you would not be going to a store to buy a toy today, is to have a routine. A routine that your child can depend on each day, letting them know exactly what to expect after pickup.

4. Look for Landmarks.

It helps to have little landmarks that you both look for every day and that might be fun to look forward to passing on the way home. You can work the landmarks into your routine. For example: you arrive at school, you get the lunch box and the sippy cup, you wave at the security guard, get into the stroller, and then stop for a moment at the little fountain where all the kids throw pennies, before strolling on towards home. Giving your toddler something that’s special between the two of you, on the walk home, is a great way to fight the terrible tantrums.

5. Ease On Out (Don’t Rush).

Transitions aren’t easy for kids in general, but they are especially hard for the toddler set. It can help a great deal to not rush out of preschool, and instead leave time to make a slow exit. Many preschools have a waiting area for parents and caregivers where you can read a book, color, or play with a favorite toy.

6. Employ Bribery.

It’s not the cleanest of strategies, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Think of it as a negotiating tactic: “I’ll get you a special cookie from the bakery, and then we’ll head on over to [insert wherever you need to take your toddler.]”

7. Be Prepared To Deal.

Sometimes a tantrum is unavoidable, and all you can do is put on your game face and pretend that this is all a bad dream. Toddlers are especially skilled at being noncompliant creatures, no matter what appealing options you’ve thrown their way. The Walk of Shame home with a screaming toddler is just about the most awful thing you can endure as a parent, but know that it happens to everyone. One day, that college girl with her earbuds on who stopped to give you a look of horror on the street when she saw you go by will understand exactly what it was like to be you.

8. Bring Backup.

If you’re going through a particularly sticky time with your little one, you might want to consider bringing a friend (of yours), relative or babysitter with you to help you handle your toddler. Someone new and refreshing that they don’t see at pickup often – like Grandma -- could help flip the switch. Sometimes it helps to just have another person next to you as you’re pushing your stroller down the street with a screaming toddler in it, because then it signals to the rest of the world that you are a fine human being who others like to be around, and not a monster.

Mom life demands efficiency. Because while the amount of hours in the day are the same as before kids, now a sizable chunk of that time is spent caring for and loving on those little people. Compromises happen—and let's just be honest, the old beauty routine is one of the first things to get cut.

But, wait! You don't have to sacrifice putting on mascara or, worse, skipping the SPF. Instead, why not flip it, reverse it, and look at the bright side? Here's your opportunity to streamline your morning makeup routine. With some savvy skin care and beauty hacks, you can get your radiant glow on in record time.

Here are our tried-and-true hacks passed down from Motherly mamas:

1. Embrace multipurpose items

If the most pressing issue is limited time, consolidate multiple steps of your beauty routine with a multipurpose item. For example, instead of starting with a SPF moisturizer, followed by spot concealer and a blendable foundation, you can take care of all of that in one go with one of our favorites: Earth Mama's 3-in-one Lady Face™ Tinted Mineral Sunscreen. The beauty stick also allows you to easily fold SPF 40 into your routine, because Lady Face doubles as super-safe, clean sun protection. Even better? The sunscreen blocks blue light from those ever-present digital screens with a ray-scattering, non-nano formula.

2. Revive dried mascara

Especially after a sleepless night (#motherhood), mascara can make a major difference in how well rested you appear to be. If you realize your tube of mascara is dried out, don't write it off as a lost cause. Simply soak the sealed tube in warm water to loosen up the mascara — or add a drop of a multi-purpose saline solution into the tube. That should do the trick until you have time to buy a replacement. (But let's face it: You're a mom. It's okay if you're tired.)

3. Keep coconut oil handy

Coconut oil isn't just for the kitchen. From a DIY hair mask to an in-a-pinch lip balm or naturally removing makeup at the end of the day, coconut oil's cosmetic hack-list is long. For summer, we especially like adding a thin swipe of organic extra virgin coconut oil to the cheekbones at the end of the makeup routine for a bit of an extra glow.

4. Multitask while deep conditioning

If your hair needs a bit of TLC, consider applying a natural, paraben-free deep conditioner before doing chores around the house or even a short workout. By working up a bit of a sweat, the conditioner will set even better before you rinse off in the shower.

5. Start your hair care routine the night before

As you work to find your new normal morning routine, it can help to simply reschedule a task or two—like hair. If you shower the night before, get a jumpstart on your look by blowdrying, straightening or even braiding it for loose waves in the morning.

6. Even out your skin tone

Between multiple wake-ups during the night and wavering hormones, complexion issues can become a thing for most mamas. Thankfully, the hack for managing that is as simple as finding a great foundation that goes on smoothly and doesn't cake or crack through a morning of momming. Scope out the ingredient list for naturally nourishing components like coconut oil, shea butter or beeswax — and skip the stress (and the return process if the shade doesn't match) by going for something that easily blends with most skin tones.

7. Find brands your feel great about

As a mom, you might find yourself considering bigger life questions: Are my cosmetics safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding? Are they helping the world my children will grow up in? Can I trust the ingredients and mission? Pro tip: read the ingredients on all your personal care products, memorize the ones you want to avoid, and look for third-party certification to ensure the product is actually what it says it is. When you find a brand that walks the talk, you're going to want to be loyal.

8. When in doubt, go for a bold lip

With happy hours swapped for play dates, your daily routine may look a bit different than it used to. But who says you have to leave your personal style behind? If you've always been a fan of makeup and going a bit glam, keep going for it, mama! The extra 60 seconds it takes to apply lipstick or whatever else gives you a bit of pep in your step is well worth it.


This article was sponsored by Earth Mama Organics. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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