Your One-Stop Resource for Shopping With Kids
Not all parents have the option of leaving their children at home when Christmas shopping. If you are stuck bringing the kids along, here is your ultimate guide to shopping, keeping the kids happy, and still keeping your sanity (yes, even amidst all the "deal-fighting" folks).
In order to remain happy, kids need to be clean, well-fed, with empty bladders, and well-rested. They also need to be entertained. In addition, along with holiday shopping, there may come some negativity from other shoppers. As a parent, you must also do your best to avoid their negativity or at least retain your own composure for the sake of your children. Below, you will learn how to deal with all of those issues, as well as how to sneak in gifts that are for recipients who are with you (a must for many parents).
Children like to touch many things and this can become a problem when you're in a public place where many other people have touched the same things. This can spread germs. Always bring a small package (or zippered sandwich bag) of hand sanitizing wipes with you. These should be used to not only wipe the children's hands of germs, but also to swipe shopping carts or fast food tables and seats.
For food messes, keep some baby wipes on hand as well. I recommend Huggies Shea Butter wipes, as these are nice and thick and it only takes one quick swipe with these in most instances. Plus, they don't dry out the skin, as they contain the Shea butter for extra softness. These wipes also come in handy for spills and for wiping food off of clothing.
Using Public Restrooms
Many parents are leery of letting the children use public restrooms, as they are often messy. Plus, there is the underlying thought of how many strangers use the same toilet. To save the toilet issue, parents can bring along a folding plastic toilet seat cover and swipe it with the sanitizing wipes after each use. It folds up small enough to easily fit inside a purse or diaper bag. If you're extra nervous about public restrooms, you can even pack your own tissue. Kleenex comes in small purse-sized packages and can work when on the go. Always be sure the children wash their hands. If the sinks are less than sanitary, use the sanitizing wipes instead.
Ah, yes, the children do need to eat, don't they? It seems logical to bring along snacks and beverages for the children, but sometimes in the rush of getting ready, parents don't think of this. I like to pack Juicy Juice boxes or bottles of water for the beverage. My homemade trail mix also makes an excellent shopping snack, as it's lightweight, but filling. Oh yes, and each kid must have their own separate zippered sandwich bag with exactly equal amounts of snack or there is sure to be some sort of disagreement otherwise.
If your child cannot have nuts, substitute any nut product with other things, such as dried fruit or crackers. If you don't have a baby stroller to keep these things under or don't want to carry a diaper bag or knapsack with you, you may want to consider leaving these in the car until the time is right. However, I should mention that it's always easier if they are on hand because as any parent knows, the whining or hunger urges can come at any point, and just your luck, they would come at the moment you decided not to bring your snacks.
Kids can become bored so easily when shopping. In order to keep boredom to a minimum, parents can do things to keep the children busy, like playing simple games or talking about interesting things. The kids can even help with the shopping. Some of my grocery shopping tips also work when gift shopping for Christmas. Gift shopping is also a good time to talk about school, friends, and family events that may be coming up. The key to kids not growing bored is to keep them busy talking or doing something.
Many stores that carry gifts also carry Christmas ornaments, or at least have some sort of Christmas display. Take time out to enjoy the beautiful items for sale or the store displays. Your children will appreciate this. Yes, you can be the annoying person who pushes the button on the singing reindeer for the millionth time. I'm sure the store associates would rather hear that than crying children. Believe me, I know. I've worked retail. Those sound effects items are annoying, but parents who let their children cry endlessly are even worse.
Just have fun and do not rush. Even window shop the toy aisle with the children. If Santa's there, go see Santa. Rushing causes stress. Trust me, you will get much more accomplished when you take your time, choose wisely, and have fun.
This is the inevitable doom of parents who are shopping. The kids will get tired. So if you've still got shopping to get done, what do you do? I suggest bringing along a blanket for a toddler. Line the bottom of a shopping cart with it. One person can push the sleeping toddler and another can push the cart of gifts. An even better option for babies or toddlers is a stroller that lies down easily. I prefer double strollers, as they also provide extra room for shopping.
If your older children are tired, try taking a break. If you're in a mall, there are probably benches to rest on for a bit. This can also be a good opportunity to replenish with snacks and a drink, to stop somewhere and eat, or to have a picnic lunch in a nearby park. If your children are too tired to even use these ideas, it's time to go home for a nap and come back later or another day. The children's needs are more important than your Christmas list.
Some children do not like large crowds of people. Try distracting a child like this with interesting items in the store or with conversation or imaginary play. For older children, try keeping them talking about something that interests them or letting them help pick out gifts for the younger ones. The key is to keep the child so busy and distracted that the crowd goes unnoticed.
Sometimes people are stressed and aren't very friendly. Some will even push, shove, yell, or get otherwise physical over an item that they want to buy for Christmas. If this happens and your children are with you, immediately remove yourself from the situation. The item is not worth letting children bear witness to that negativity.
If they are just pushy and no item is in dispute, still remove yourself and your children from the situation. Later explain to your children that it wasn't very nice and maybe that person is having a bad day. If you believe in God, you may also want to encourage your children to pray for the person and forgive the person. This can be an excellent situation for teaching humility, generosity, and forgiveness.
Sneaking in Gifts
Now this is the trickiest part of shopping with children. I think perhaps the best way to be sneaky about it is to pretend the gifts are for someone else. Now, if you've done this for Christmas gifts before and your kids are older, they might catch on, so you'll have to make sure the someone else also asked for the same gifts as your children. Another way to sneak in gifts is to quickly grab them and hide them under other gifts when the children aren't looking.
If you have teenagers, they can go to another part of the store while you purchase and pay for their gifts. Ask the cashiers to provide a dark bag or double or triple the bags to disguise the items. Some stores even have cardboard boxes and if you purchase a roll of tape, you can seal the boxes.
If you are wanting to purchase breakable items, try carrying a shopping bag or small shopping basket with handles for those items. You may even want to place some soft items in with those for cushioning. Keep these items away from the children as much as possible. When you go down a breakable aisle, keep the toddlers near the center of the aisle (preferable in a cart or stroller). It helps if your children know rules about touching things before you even enter the store.
Shopping for Christmas gifts can be tricky with children, but it can also be fun. You just have to relax, take a deep breath, and expect it to be fun. If you expect it to be hard and put in no effort for it to be fun, then it will indeed be hard. However, if you go into it, looking for fun, that's what you'll get.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
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