I have a friend who only has one child. She talks about going shipping with her child as a fantastic adventure the two share together. She talks about being able to browse through the sales rack and thoroughly enjoying the experience. I think that’s great, but it is definitely not my reality. My reality is all about surviving shopping with young children.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few cardinal rules for shopping with toddlers and many children.
The most important rule is: Take as few children as possible. This rule may take some scheduling to follow, but believe me, it saves a lot of headaches, is easier on the wallet, and is a much more pleasant experience overall.
However, there are moments (and they happen a lot in my life) when I have to take at least two children with me to the store. For those moments I have a few other rules to make the shopping trip easier.
1 – Start with a list
This helps in a lot of ways. If the list is written before, then I’m not as tempted to buy things I (a) don’t need or (b) can’t afford. It also helps with the ”I wanna’s” that all children develop. My reaction to my children’s requests becomes “It’s not on the list this time. Maybe next time.” This works with all ages of children from two-year olds to husbands.
2 – Tell them the rules
Every time we go into a store, I always go over the rules for proper in-store behavior with my children. Every time. As we are getting out of the car, I tell them the rules: no running off, no touching things on the shelves, and no asking for things. As we walk in the front doors, I ask them what the rules are and listen as they tell me: no running off, no touching things on the shelves, and no asking for things. Now, while they still may have issues with the rules – here and there – reminding them and having them recite the rules back to me seems to cut down on those issues.
3 – No browsing
Browsing is not something to do with toddlers and young children in tow. I browse online or when I manage to go shopping without any children. Young kids just don’t have the attention span to deal with Mommy looking at this item, then the other similar item. They will not survive too many browsing moments in a shopping trip. The rule of thumb here is “Get in, get what you need, and get out.”
4 – Engage the children in the shopping
If the children are preschool aged or older, they can be good helpers in taking things off the shelf and putting them in the cart. The only dangers are the toy and sweets aisles. If the child is between toddler and preschool ages, talk to the child about what you are buying, what colors you see, what you’re going to make for lunch/dinner. This helps the child feel connected and a part of shopping experience. It may feel a little silly, but sometimes it’s the silly things that help kids through grownup moments.
5 – Use the child containment device
Use the basket to hold the children most likely to cause trouble. If I end up shopping with all five of my children, I will have my oldest push a basket for the items we need to buy, and I’ll push a basket full of children. I get some interesting looks and sometimes people say ridiculous things like “Are these ALL your children?” (I’ve always wondered what to say to that comment.) But containing the children works and generally makes the shopping trip successful.
Shopping with young children can actually be fun, but it takes planning and thoughtful control of the environment. But, I still try to follow my cardinal rule as often as possible: Take as few children as possible.