The usual adult/child shopping experience – parents dragging their children from store to store, or children trying to drag their parents OUT of the mall after hours of shopping. Shopping with children is often a daunting task. While leaving the kids behind may be optimal, here are some suggested strategies to making holiday shopping WITH kids FUN…. Fun? You say, is that even possible?
Prepare in advance. When it comes to shopping with kids, a little preparation goes a long way. If at all possible, choose a destination that offers some form of children’s entertainment, such as a play area or interactive display. Before you leave home, let kids know what you will be doing and your expectations of them during the process. While you may need to repeat the information several times during the outing, take a few minutes before leaving to emphasize that gift shopping means buying things for others. Children can be rewarded for their good behaviour while shopping at the end of the trip. Pick a “reward” that they enjoy.
Bring appropriate toys. Pack a bag with a variety of toys and books that will keep your children occupied whether they are walking or in a stroller. Leave toys that come apart, can’t be carried or are intended for outdoor use at home. And don’t forget your child’s sleep time comfort item. A nap might be your best opportunity to cross a lot of gifts off your list.
Have nutritious snacks and drinks ready. Take along some water or milk and snacks such as raisins, fruit and carrots that will both satisfy kids’ taste buds and keep them occupied. Or better yet, maybe a special SHOPPING snack would make the shopping trip fun – many malls have “fun” types of snack such as “make your own smoothie” or “choose your own popcorn flavour.” This may be something that your child only gets to do when they’ve been “good” during the shopping trip so they should consider it a special incentive!
Play games. At the start of your shopping adventure, give your children a series of challenges that will keep them busy and engaged. Kids who love to count will enjoy tracking the number of a particular item they spy as you shop and emerging readers will have fun scouting letters and words. Older children can be given more sophisticated challenges, such as tracking and totaling the cost of purchases or figuring out how much items will cost when a discount has been applied.
Let kids contribute. Take some of the sting out of being dragged from store to store by inviting your children to help make some of the day’s decisions. Would Aunt Nancy like the blue scarf or the red scarf? Should we have sandwiches or pizza for lunch?
Shopping with children does not have to be so daunting. In fact, with a little prep work it could be fun!