Thursday, April 28, 2011

Shopping with Children: No Child Left Behind


Today, I was asked what may be a very interesting question for all you moms. One of my very best friends asked me, “How do you manage a productive shopping trip with 3 children in tow?” We had a very fun conversation about shopping with the little ones and we found one of many things to be true: It’s sad to say that we know many a mother who will only
shop alone. Creeping into stores in the wee hours of the night to get some alone time and shop all at once is the light at the end of the days tunnel for some moms and dads.
Maneuvering through cavernous aisles and risking *little hands tossing unwanted goods into the basket may be too much to handle for even the best of parents so it seems easier to just go it alone. I've always taken my children shopping with me. I love their companionship in the stores and they love to get out of the house and see all of the new items for sale. I may be in the minority but here is how you can enjoy it just as much as I do!

Use The Store as a Classroom. Believe it or not I use our shopping time as a teaching tool. Everyone must shop at one time or another so my feeling is that it is best to gain early experience. Teaching them proper behavior inside of a store, patience, time management, and budgeting are just a few things that I try to instill into my children on each trip to the shops. There are many aspects to shopping depending on where you are purchasing your goods. If you are at the market remind children that food is vital to life and we can all share in choosing ingredients for a meal. If you are shopping for shoes, iterate the importance of buying properly fitting clothing and how clothes should make you feel comfortable. Shopping, as far as I am concerned, is a complex life skill

that must be thoroughly taught. If not learned properly, bad shopping habits will end up co$ting you in the long run. Use shopping time as teaching time so that your children will truly learn the importance of shopping.

Plan Ahead.
Planning ahead for shopping trips with children are key. There are 2 items that you need when planning ahead: Food & Entertainment. Packing snacks and treats will help to keep the little ones appeased. Apples slices, whole wheat crackers, carrots, box o’ raisins and water are suggestions to help you get started. I strongly warn against sugary drinks and treats as this may cause them to stash & crash. Keep it simple & healthy so that your shopping trip will be the same way.
Bringing along electronic portable devices can seriously buy you some time. It never hurts to have a fully charged iPad or iPhone on hand while shopping. It is easy for you to regulate what they are playing and for how long they play. They may not need be too interested in bra sizes at La Perla so give yourself grace and allow them to slice some digital fruit while they wait.

Timing is Key.
Whether it be to the market or Neiman’s, timing is critical when shopping with children. I feel right after breakfast is the best possible time. Children are so cute & fresh after resting and eating so get them going as soon as you are done clearing the table. I prefer the mornings because I can plan to be home for their nap. This is a great shopping goal. It’ll motivate you to check off all of the items on your list before the witching hour sets in. Nap time also gives me a breather in the middle of the day to sit down, go over my purchases, and determine what needs to be returned on my next trip.




Here are some serious non-negotiators when you are out shopping with younglings:

1. Do not let children go off alone to the bathrooms or random parts of the store.
Even the most sophisticated child is susceptible to the dangers that lurk beyond the watchful eyes of parents. I have seen more and more parents do this these days and I have also seen more and more weirdos around. This is not a good combination at all. Keep your in sight and close by at all times. At the grocery store, utilize the cart by putting small ones in the front seat and tell older ones to either hold or hang onto the basket as you go.

2. Do not make any impulse purchases to curb ill-behaved children. If you plan ahead and have some tools in your bag, there should be no need for bribery. They don’t realize how lucky they are to even be out shopping so a quick fix won’t let them see the light. They don’t need a toy every time you go shopping so don’t feel any pressure to use this as a bargaining tip.

Unless the purchase was pre-ordained and factored into your budget, toys as manipulators will only backfire. A pep talk before you go in should help set shopping behavior but if things get too out of control for you, then head out.

3. Do not wear-out your welcome at the store or your children will let you know it. Have your list and stick to it. After you are done, you’re done. You don’t want a well-planned shopping trip to turn into a nightmare because you had to try on that cashmere sweater that was not even on the list. Keep that witching hour in mind and look forward to nap time. Save browsing for the internet.

I know I am not completely alone when I say that I would absolutely love to take my children shopping. Let’s be real, I do not take them on every trip and sure, there are times when it is insane. Just the other day upon arrival at our shopping destination all of my children had to go to the restroom at the exact same time. Out of tradition, we all made a trip to the bathroom before we left the house but let me introduce you to the family with the tiniest bladders. I loathe, absolutely hate, public restrooms but what was I going to do? These things happen but I cannot let it ruin my good time. As John Lennon famously quoted, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

My children are very skilled shoppers now but this is only because of years of practice and patience, by ALL of us. They have become quite helpful these days and I couldn’t imagine some of my trips without them. Something to note, many of the above suggestions & principals apply to shopping with husbands as well. Go figure...


*Canned watercress, individually packaged tiered gelatin, baby leggings, and a tiny lizard. These random items were mysteriously found in my baskets on my last few shopping trips with the children. I try to be so cautious but as my child once told me, “Mommy, little hands can be sneakier.”

What random items have you found in your shopping carts on your trips to the store with the kids?

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