10 Things you should keep in mind when shopping with kids

by Aarti Kapur Singh

Shopping with kids can be challenging! Here are 10 things you must keep in mind during your next shopping trip!

I may be contrary, even weird, but shopping is not my idea of fun at the best of times. Shopping with children is its own special kind of hell. While in my eight years of being a mum, I haven’t experienced a typical meltdown (TOUCH-WOOD!), I have seen quite a few scenes – complete with a screaming, crying blob of a child sprawled across the floor. Either because of a toy, or wanted the t-shirt with the cartoon character that was banned, or was fed up with being strapped down in a cart or stroller. And it is not always the child’s fault.

Whether you’re grocery shopping or mall-hopping, you’ll want to keep these 10 secrets to shopping with a child in mind to save your sanity and avoid a messy scene during your next shopping trip.

1. Timing is MOST Critical: You might love to shop till you drop, but when it comes to shopping with children, your toddler might drop a lot sooner than you’d like. Be aware of ‘shopping drag.’ This is a highly dangerous condition that occurs when delays keep you in the store for more than an hour. After hanging out in the dressing room, waiting at the cash register, and sitting in a stroller looking at the bottom half of mannequins, your tot may (rightfully) tire of the whole shopping trap.

  • First and foremost, taking a toddler mall shopping works best if you keep it short and sweet — leave the marathon adventure for a day when you have a willing partner or sitter to stay home with your tot.
  • Try to plan your shopping trips at the optimal time for your kids. You’ll want to make sure they are well rested, tummies are full and that they feel well.
  • In addition, shopping during times when it’s less crowded – weeknights and when stores first open on the weekends – will help avoid long lines and unnecessary delays when your child is at the breaking point.
  • Go to the grocery store in the morning after breakfast or in the early evening after dinner. Go to the mall on a weekday instead of the weekend.Shopping with kids 03

2. Communicate your expected behaviors: Before you even get into the car, explain to your kids what you expect from them at the store. Ask if they understand.Shopping with kids 04

3. Make a list: Prepare a shopping list, and ask for input from your children. This will keep your shopping on track and will cut down on impulse buying. Allow your children to carry their own lists. For example, if you need to buy them shoes or you promised them ice cream, allow them to write down those items on their list. Ask your children to check the list if they want you to buy something that is not on there. Explain that you will add it to the list the next time you shop. This will help them understand why you are saying no, and will teach them delayed gratification.Shopping with kids 05

4. Throw in some entertainment: Be sure to bring things to occupy your children’s attention. When you notice that your kids are no longer amused by the shopping trip itself, it’s time to unveil those items. Does your daughter need her teddy bear to comfort her during a long shopping trip? Can you put your son in the shopping cart or a sitting area in the store with a good book so he can read or look at pictures while you shop – could be savers.Shopping with kids 06

5. Reward good behaviorWhile some parents cringe at the thought of offering rewards for good behavior, most know it’s only a matter of time. The promise of a treat can go a long way toward giving you some extra shopping time. Rewards can include a new book, watching a favorite cartoon or listening to music and so on. However, if your child doesn’t carry through with his end of the deal (i.e. good behavior during the shopping trip), then you have to be willing to deny you child the reward. This is one of the ways in which children learn that actions have consequences.

But don’t make a tangible gratification the only reward. Thank your children for their help – may be by actually giving them a card or rustling up their favorite dish at home for dinner. Reinforce good behavior by acknowledging it.Shopping with kids 07

6. Educate your kids while you shop: Ask your young readers to read you food labels or price tags on clothing. Younger kids can even look for specific letters and numbers. Have your older children comparison shop. Ask them to find you the best deals on certain items. This will help them learn how to budget. Encourage questions. Children can work on their social skills and learn new things by talking to sales associates and professionals in different sections of the grocery store. For instance, I would always ask my son to pick up at least four t-shirts in a particular color – so we could both sit and choose two out of those. Or I would ask him to find clothes with him favorite prints – dogs or dinosaurs.Shopping with kids 08

7. Engage a young mindTaking further from point No 6, try to turn the shopping experience into a game for your kids. You might have them take turns listing things they are grateful for, ask specific trivia questions about the holidays or an upcoming event, or grab two items from the store and ask them to name differences and similarities between the objects. Be sure to praise their efforts in responding and provide the correct answers if needed. Your interaction with your children will help keep them engaged and your shopping trip productive.Shopping with kids 09

8. Keep giving them jobs: From a sensory perspective, bringing you something heavy like a bag of oranges, gives satisfying sensory input to growing bodies. Besides – any kid feels good when they can help out mom by doing some of the heavy lifting. Give your children age-appropriate tasks. Send older kids off on their own to locate items on your list. Ask school-aged kids to cross items off the list as you put them in your shopping cart or basket. You can also have them read you which items are next on the list. Let younger kids help by counting the number of items you ask for, such as apples, or taking packages off the shelf and putting them into the cart.Shopping with kids 10

9. Don’t put a leash around your child: Children are naturally curious; this is how they learn about the world around them. If they want to examine an attractive item, please don’t scold them. Instead, help them to hold the item safely, or let them know that it can be viewed but not touched. You might say “This is breakable, so let’s just look at it together.” Even if an item cannot be purchased, it can be helpful to share the child’s enthusiasm and interest in it. It definitely takes a lot more time to get through my shopping list of items, but it is totally worth it. In my case, some store owner or cashiers even know my son by name, and the few times he isn’t with me, they want to know where he is! I do let him roam the aisles and touch things.Shopping with kids 11

I don’t ever lose sight of him and never allow him in harm’s way. And yet, I don’t hover over him all the time and always say “no,” or act like every object is a hazard. I’m letting him explore the store using his natural curiosity. I allow him to explore his world in a safe and creative way rather than being left at home or strapped passively in a shopping cart.

10. How to say ‘No’I saved the best, for the last. You know you can actually say no without actually saying no. When you need to say “NO”…give them an alternative. Instead of saying “Don’t touch that!”, say, “Hey, just look at this!” or “Let mum show it to you”.Shopping with kids 12

The most important part of saying “NO” is conveying to the child that we are on his or her side, even if we can’t satisfy all desires immediately. It might help to say, “That is nice, isn’t it? Take a good look and when we get home, we’ll add it to your wish list.” There is no reason why we cannot say ‘No’ to children in just as kind a way as we say ‘Yes’.

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