Holiday Shopping with Children

If the behavior of some caregivers I have observed at malls and area stores are any indication, there are parents, caregivers, and grandparents out there could use some helpful tips for managing their little ones during the holidays.  Here are a few reminders to make shopping with children easier.

Shopping with babies and small children

The first thing to keep in mind is that shopping with children is never an efficient endeavor.  If you go into it thinking you will get several tasks accomplished, you are missing out on an opportunity to connect with your children in a fun way.  If you are very goal-oriented about your errands, consider a sitter to stay at home with the kids.  However, if you don’t mind a little serendipity or side-tracking, if you can easily hang it up early if required, and if there is no real pressure to buy something, then you may have a successful shopping trip.  For example, if your child needs a coat, go to one store (maybe two) to buy him a coat.  Stay on that focus, then give them a choice of one other store to go to. Keep things cheerful and fun, and try not to spend all day at the mall.

I see Moms shopping for themselves with children but who refuse to buy their children anything.  I think it should be agreed in advance that there is some balance.  If Mom is buying a purse for herself, it’s fair to let the child buy something she wants, too.  Maybe first.

Shopping with babies varies depending on the baby.  One thing I see a lot is babies strapped into strollers who look clearly uncomfortable.  You know those car seats that can be converted into strollers?  Not a good idea for errands.  Babies weren’t engineered to be in those seats for extended periods of time, especially in a horizontal position.  The seats restrict the baby in a curled, c-position when placed in the stroller mechanism.  This does two bad things: it interferes with their digestion by crunching their internal organs, and it interferes with their movement.  Babies learn about their world through movement, so when you keep them strapped into combination car seat-strollers, you are effectively impeding their gross motor and cognitive development. This is also true for many baby carriers.  They interfere with movement.  Babies also need touch to thrive, so keeping a calm and alert baby strapped in a car seat stroller for extended periods of time is depriving the baby of the physical and emotional interaction the baby requires.

For a young baby who cannot sit up but who will enjoy a stroller ride, a perambulator style baby carriage for short trips is a better bet.  You can usually set pram position so that the baby can see your face, and you can easily bend down and interact with the baby and make eye contact.   For an older baby with good head and neck control, carrying them in your arms while they are alert (or for example, while seated in a restaurant) is more practical.

Shopping with babies should be for short periods, anyway.  They don’t really get anything out of being strapped in a car seat for hours in a mall and it’s not really good for them.

For toddlers and older children, shopping trips should be carefully considered.  The best time to go is at low-crowd-level periods when the children are not tired or hungry (e.g. Tuesdays, not weekends!).  Children have very short attention spans, and remember they have to take three steps or so for our every step, so they get tired.  Also children can’t see everything you see.  I vividly remember when my young world was a forest of grown-up legs and counter-fronts.  So, shopping may not be as visually interesting for them as it is for you.

I see hot, sobbing children stuffed into strollers at the mall all the time.  No child should be forced to be in a stroller for long periods.  It’s uncomfortable and children are designed to move and explore.  If they’re in an indoor mall, their coats and hats should be removed.  They need frequent breaks for the bathroom and water, and they need interaction with their caregivers.  Excursions can be educational, if you take time to listen to them and answer their questions about the world they see around them.  Mall trips should be short, two hours at the maximum, and should incorporate time for the child to connect and engage with their parents or caregivers.

Can they handle one more stop?

If you are asking yourself this question, tell yourself the answer is no.  It is always no.  Stop while you’re ahead.  It is always best to end excursions on success while everyone is still fresh and happy (not crying and worn out).  So, cut your errands down to one or two, instead of three or more.

If you’re going to the mall, that should be the excursion of the day.  You wouldn’t want to drag your very young child to the grocery store, Target, and the bank all in one morning.

The wisest course is to tell your children what the plan is (involve them in the choices if you can) before you set out, and no matter what, honor the plan!  It’s very helpful to young children to know what to expect and understand what’s coming next.  You will get more cooperation from them if they understand that they will be home soon and you will give them some one-on-one time then.

It’s very tempting to sneak in one more stop if you happen to remember something that needs doing, but children need to believe in your words and will appreciate that you honor the agreement.

Your errands may be even more successful if you give them what they need first, for example, if you start your morning by spending some time with them at the park first, they may feel less resentful when you have to make a quick grocery or Target trip.  Especially if you give them a job to do, like helping you pick out produce.

Museum Visits

This same advice applies to field trips, such as museums, by the way.  Expecting a very young child to take in an entire museum in one day (and behave) is asking too much.  Pick one exhibit to explore, stay an hour, have a snack, then call it a day.

Rest and Naps

Parents who have children in day care or preschool can forget about the rhythm and routine of the child’s day.  Children are not little adults.  They wear out quickly.  Even children who don’t nap anymore need to recharge their batteries with a restful period, typically in late afternoon.  Children also may need two light and healthy snacks, e.g. one at 10 a.m. and one at 3 p.m., plus water throughout the day (not in a sippy cup, which can interfere with speech development).  Keeping the child from becoming really hungry will help forestall tantrums and meltdowns.

Provide a Mix of Activities for Children on Holiday Break

Consider alternating your children’s day activities in an active/quiet pattern, e.g. a 1/2 hour of a quiet activity (like play doh or crafts–don’t expect them to be entertained by this for a whole half hour, however), balanced by a 1/2 hour of an active activity involving movement (like helping with a cooking project, playing outside, or singing game).


1 Comment »

  1. 1

    Shopping for kids for me is not easy. You should have to collect lots of stuff for kids if you are going on a holiday. For clothes i always go for children online stores from where i can easily select children fashion clothes and also find children popular brands.

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