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Navigating a Flea Market with a Toddler

We always say that Flea Market Season is our favorite season. Hands down. (It’s just luck that it coincides with summer, right?) We love it so much that we wake up early for it – like, 5 AM early! – and the day follows a ritual of sorts. Fresh brewed coffee and flaky croissants. Loading up our backpack for jackets, snacks and cash. A good podcast for the drive. But I’ll be honest and say that we hadn’t been to a proper flea market in well over a year, and we have one very good, very little reason – Lucy!

How to navigate a flea market with a baby or toddler | via Yellow Brick Home
parka | Lucy’s hat | diaper bag

In Lucy’s first year of life, we stayed close to home or Tree House, soaking up our weekends with lazy Sunday brunches, long family walks and kitchen renovations (as you do). But now that Lucy is almost a year-and-a-half old – a toddler (sniff, sniff)! – she’s much more engaged in our activities, and as her personality emerges more and more, we’ve realized that – although shy at first – she is a lover of people. Of crowds! Because of this, we knew the time was right to initiate her into her first flea market experience – a day we’ve been waiting for. Wanting to set ourselves up for success, we planned our adventure day around her routines (the secret to her happiness, truly), and it was a success! Our favorite flea is in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, an hour and a half drive from Chicago, which we actually used to our advantage. Below, I’m sharing what we did to successfully navigate a flea market with a toddler – and have a blast doing it!

How to navigate a flea market with a baby or toddler | via Yellow Brick Home

Make the Drive During a Nap

Don’t mess with naps! Just… don’t do it. Lucy is a clock to the minute, and although the old Kim and Scott would have been on the road by 6 AM (you know what they say about early birds!), this time, we paced our morning as usual. We had breakfast together as a family, we read books and played with toys. But once the clock hit 9, we buckled Lucy into her carseat and began the hour and a half drive to Wisconsin! 5 minutes in, she was ready for her nap and fast asleep. On the opposite end, we timed her afternoon nap to the drive home.

Bring Along Her Favorite Mode of Transportation

Which mode of transportation does your toddler prefer? A wagon? A carrier? A stroller? Bring along what they enjoy! Lucy loves a wagon ride, and we knew it would fill two roles: toddler transport and goodie haul. (If your babe loves a carrier, even better; you’ll have a much easier time maneuvering through the crowds.)

How to navigate a flea market with a baby or toddler | via Yellow Brick Home
How to navigate a flea market with a baby or toddler | via Yellow Brick Home

Prevent Over Stimulation with (Multiple) Breaks

This one says it all, but build in a break or two (or three)! When we noticed that Lucy was more engaged with a certain booth, we spent more time there. We took advantage of running through the empty vendor lots and paused during her usual snack time. If she began to feel overstimulated (punctuated by the Lucy zoomies!), we would take a moment to pick the dandelions and feel the grass.

How to navigate a flea market with a baby or toddler | via Yellow Brick Home
How to navigate a flea market with a baby or toddler | via Yellow Brick Home
rain jacket | sneakers

Take Turns

It was a rainy day for the flea market, which can be good and bad. Good, because it was less crowded! Bad, because some of our favorite vendors were a no-show. Even still, we took turns browsing through the booths that interested us, while the other stayed on the outskirts with Lucy and the wagon. This is a small thing that lends itself to less frustration and feelings of overwhelm in a crowd – for us and Lucy!

How to navigate a flea market with a baby or toddler | via Yellow Brick Home
How to navigate a flea market with a baby or toddler | via Yellow Brick Home

Give Her An Activity

Here’s a funny story: A decade ago, we discovered that if we give Jack a ‘job’, he’s much less anxious with a new experience. (Example: Holding a ball when company comes over.) As it turns out, it works on babies, too! Ha! When we feel time closing in on us, we find that giving Lucy a a job – or, activity – goes a long way. In this case, pulling her wagon thrilled her to no end; this had the added perk of attracting a crowd (her favorite). Everyone wanted to stop and say hello!, which made her day.

How to navigate a flea market with a baby or toddler | via Yellow Brick Home
How to navigate a flea market with a baby or toddler | via Yellow Brick Home

Make Time for a Family Pit Stop

On the way home, we gave ourselves time to stop for a mini family pit stop. It wasn’t much – we had lunch at a pretty pub and played in the grass – but moments like those are our absolute favorite. It’s a treat to carve out that time for our family and enjoy each other’s company after a visually stimulating adventure surrounded by others!

How to navigate a flea market with a baby or toddler | via Yellow Brick Home
How to navigate a flea market with a baby or toddler | via Yellow Brick Home
Lucy’s glitter boots | sweatshirt

Be Kind to Yourself

Be (really) realistic. Know your and your toddler’s limits. It may not go as planned, you may need to pivot, and that’s okay! Overall, be kind to yourself. Going to the flea market has the potential to be an all day event, but we knew we needed to shift our mind set and our expectations with a toddler in tow. Although we browsed the booths for a much shorter time than we had in the past, we had the ​​​​​​​best time by keeping the focus on the time we were able to spend together!

How to navigate a flea market with a baby or toddler | via Yellow Brick Home

What else would you add?

PS: You can come along with us in this flea market adventure, and you can check out all of our flea, thrift and yard sale experiences right here!

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  • Mariana5.23.19 - 7:07 AM

    I don’t have kids and won’t anytime soon, but read through this post for the pictures of sweet Lucy. She’s precious! ReplyCancel

  • Connie B.5.23.19 - 11:17 AM

    This post brought such wonderful memories for me! We have always been big flea market supporters and when my boys were young (they are now 33 & 29!) they visited many with us! The red wagon was the chosen mode of transportation, for exactly the reasons you stated. We always kept them engaged by having things for them to search out-like a scavenger hunt! My youngest always looked for old soda bottles and Hardy Boys books (the older, the better). We still have these collections! My oldest liked looking for comic books and old Boy Scout memorabilia. And it was always fun to see 2 boys helping Mom by looking through the boxes of antique hankies! Thanks for the memories!ReplyCancel

    • Kim5.23.19 - 1:58 PM

      Awww, I love this! And the scavenger hunt is such a great idea. Can’t wait to do that with Lucy in a few years. :DReplyCancel

  • Jill5.23.19 - 2:04 PM

    All the baby-toddler-big kid stages are so unique & fun in their own ways. Loved reading this & drooling over that Fiestaware, omg!!! ♥️ReplyCancel

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