Shopping is not my favorite. It ranks somewhere below scrubbing toilets and clipping my kids’ fingernails in the things I’d rather do. But, alas, Christmas presents don’t buy themselves. And with research I’ve been doing about how shopping locally and at small businesses keeps 3-7 times more money in the local economy, I’m avoiding my Amazon Prime account when I can. But shopping with kids? That’s a whole other challenge.
I know I’m not alone here: Parents agree that shopping with kids is like herding cats, only if the cats were rabid. And drunk. And hangry. And loud enough to draw the stares of an entire block.
So I put on my thinking cap (and asked a few other bloggers) to come up with these tips for shopping with kids this holiday season. If you’re heading out on Black Friday or waiting until crowds die down, these ideas will help you keep your sanity—and family—intact.
10 tips for shopping with kids
- Buddy up. “Bring a friend who also has kids so they can entertain each other,” recommends Tiffany Petit, mom of one and blogger at Short Sweet Mom. Double bonus: You might get about 60 seconds to chat with your friend, and she can talk you down when you’re about ask the cashier if they’d like to buy your tantruming child.
- Snacks FTW. I recently took Kiwi and Peeper to REI because it was the last day to use a big coupon—even though they were already cranky. So I broke out my secret weapon: goldfish crackers. My kids’ sodium consumption might have been through the roof that day, but they stayed happy and I managed to buy new sleeping bags for next year’s camping season. #winning
- Enlist a helper. “Have a list, and involve your kids in the shopping,” recommends Sarah Wall, mom of 6 (!) and blogger at Raising Royalty. If your kids can write, ask them to jot down the things you need before you leave the house; even if they can’t read, they can cross off each item as you put it in your cart or bag.
- Don’t overuse “no.” It can be hard being a kid in a grown-up’s world—everything is off-limits! So when I take my kids shopping, especially during the holidays, I try to limit my no’s. Like when we went to REI, I didn’t stop them from playing in the hanging sleeping bags when I was comparing temperature ratings. Yes, they might have mildly annoyed other shoppers, but they weren’t hurting anything. I saved my limits-setting for when it really mattered: e.g. climbing the stairs safely.
- Go to the bathroom first. “Your first stop when you head into the store should be the bathrooms,” Wall says. It’s so much easier to help kids go potty when you don’t have an armful of merchandise.
- Ask their opinion. Deciding between the black and red scarf for Nana? Ask your kids’ input! They’ll feel so proud their opinion is valued—and if they’re paying attention to scarf selection, they’re not rampaging through the store.
- Break up the day. Plan something fun—whether that’s a special meal out or visiting the play area at the mall (just bring hand sanitizer!!!)—in the middle of shopping with kids. They’ll have something fun to look forward to, and the activity will act as a reset, allowing you to visit another few stores.
- Don’t go too long. You know your kids’ limits. So if they’re little and are usually cranky by the time you leave the first store, don’t plan on hitting up six.
- Have a plan. Sorry, window shopping with kids is asking for frustration on everyone’s end. How to shop with kids: Figure out what you want from any given store before you head out. Bonus for older kids: Ask for their help in making a plan of attack. Even kids who can’t write yet can draw a map (Peeper loves this!) and checking it throughout your shopping trip, even if it has zero relevance to the actual layouts of the store.
- Don’t knock technology. “Save a phone or iPad as a last resort when you need to buy yourself more time,” Petit recommends. If you pull out your cell at the beginning of the shopping trip with kids, you’ll never be able to put it away, but it can save your kids from a public meltdown if you need just a few more minutes to get to the front of the checkout line.
How about you? Do you have any tips for how to shop with kids, especially during the holiday season?