In a perfect world, holiday shopping would take place free from crowds, with low prices on all the items, and with no crabby children in tow. However, reality often means that time-pressed parents have to brave the crowds to get their presents purchased — and often with children along for the ride.
Holiday shopping can be stressful enough when an adult does it alone. With children factored into the mix, it can turn into an adventure. Unable to dart from store to store and squeeze through milling shoppers, parents must pilot the stroller or shopping cart and battle through. Others must attempt to keep an eye on a youngster flitting through a sea of much-taller people in the mall or store.
Without having a breakdown or throwing in the towel and skipping shopping all together, what can parents do when they have to shop with children? Be patient and follow a few ideas to minimize the confusion.
One of the key things to remember is that children — especially toddlers — have short windows of time of good behavior and patience. While an infant in a stroller may be content to sleep the entire shopping trip away, a boisterous toddler or school-aged child may become anxious when faced with crowds and long hours strapped into a carriage or car seat. Plan for short bursts of shopping so that children will not become overwhelmed or bored by the experience.
Rushing out to shop with a tired or hungry child is another way for parents to set themselves up for disaster. Hunger pangs and sleepiness can turn a normally amenable child into one prone to tantrums rather quickly. Parents should time shopping jaunts for after naps and meals to eliminate these factors from the things that might trigger poor behavior from children. Another thing to keep in mind is meal time. Apart from the hassle of waiting on food court lines for lunch or a snack, dining out with kids in tow also can be expensive. Save time and money by packing lunch in a small cooler, complete with juice boxes and finger foods that children can munch on.
With the many toys, trinkets and other items on display for sale at area stores, children may beg and plead for certain things, making shopping more challenging. Try to avoid the stores that can be big temptations for children to times when shopping can be done sans kids. If a child is allowed to bring a toy, book or other distraction from home, it could help minimize the number of “I want that” requests made.
When possible, talk to older children during the shopping experience. Mention how much things cost and how they are being paid for. Kids can learn valuable life lessons about managing finances by mimicking their parents. Allow children to help with some decision-making processes, such as, “Should we buy grandma the blue or green blouse?” Being involved can make the shopping trip more tolerable and children will feel proud if they’re involved in the process.
While shopping with kids can sometimes be a headache, minor irritations can turn into tragedy quickly if parents do not keep safety in mind when kids are along for the trip. It is very easy to lose track of children in bustling stores. Unfortunately, child predators also can be lurking during the holiday season because they know it’s easier to kidnap a child or take advantage when parents are distracted and there are large crowds.
One last idea – bribery works! A promise to visit the mall Santa at the end of the shopping trip, if the children are well behaved, might just keep your children well behaved for a couple of hours. Try it and let us know if it works.
Holiday shopping with children may not be the ideal situation, but innovative and safety-conscious parents can make the best of it this time of year, even if you hate shopping.