Monday, April 02, 2007

Shopping with kids

I have had so many emails asking how I manage to shop with kids. This puzzles me, because, as much as we would love a big family, we only have two little ones! Have I given people the wrong impression? The Mother's Day post below highlighted a week's worth of shopping, not a typical morning. Here are a few of my strategies for shopping with kids:

1. Hyper-punctuality: The museum shop was across the street from the pediatrician; we were half an hour ahead of schedule. It's more feasible to shop when it's not an outing unto itself.

2. Balance: Let your kids know that shopping's not all about you. Follow an errand with twenty minutes at a playground. After Belle Meade Plantation, we zipped into Phillips Toy Mart to see the Easter live bunny display.

3. Conversation: involve your kids in the shopping expedition. Are you buying a gift for a relative? Who can spot the first blue half-price tag? What is the silliest thing you see here?

4. Distraction: In thrift stores, I let Andrew pick a few books and read them as I push the cart. Now he sits in the basket and reads to Elise, which is great. We reshelve before leaving.

5. Play: Kids can't sit forever. I wear Elise in the sling or Baby Bjorn--she's comfy, and my hands are free. If other kids are having a ball in the toy section, I will let Andrew join the fun for a set number of minutes while I browse nearby. We make a point to leave the toy area cleaner than we found it.

6. Reward: If Andrew pines for an expensive toy, we add it to the Christmas/birthday list. When he spots a toy that is too great/cheap to leave, I buy it for our "family general store." As he earns points for chores and good deeds, he can spend points for tv time, computer time, or a small selection of toys. This program is working wonders, both behavior- and budget-wise.

Perhaps the other secret is that we usually frequent thrift stores instead of "regular" places. I'm one of those people who wonder how you make it through the mall with kids! And those very cute, highly breakable boutiques? Forget about it! Actually, Monica from Homespun Heart just pointed me to a great blog, Curious Sofa Diaries. It's like taking a behind-the-scenes shopping trip with tips from the owner herself!


Mom2fur said...

I like the conversation suggestion. Maybe one reason kids get so bratty during shopping expeditions is that mom's (or dad's) mind is elsewhere. I mastered the art of hugging while pushing the cart, LOL! I miss those days.
BTW, you could give Andrew a coupon you plan to use and have him keep an eye out for the product. You probably already thought of that one!

Anonymous said...

Please show us the 'after' picture of your new drapes.

Carrie J said...

Good list. Another tip I learned as a mother of 4 is to always make sure kids aren't hungry or too tired (if possible) before you leave home. We always took a baby blanket for the bottom of the buggy, after the stroller age, so if they were really tired they could lay in the buggy comfortably and read or even nap. I would take our radio headphones for the older kids, now you could take an Ipod with kids songs etc.

Ann @TheAssetEdge said...

Great tips - I especially love your family general store idea!

When my 5yr old begs for a toy, I remind him that we can add it to his wish list at home. We use the free website as a year-round wish list. It helps relatives know what toys/books/clothes that the children need/want. It's a great lesson in delayed gratification.

We also carry neat snacks with us sometimes - slices of apple, graham crackers or a ziplock bag of non-crushable cereal.

Finally, my 5yr old pushes my 2yr old in the cart, while I push the baby and the groceries. The older children entertain themselves & it gives me room to actually put groceries in the cart!

Happy shopping,

Amy said...

Great tip about the general store. I would not have thought of that! The kids always go shopping with me unless I need some me time. If I need me time though I usually hit the coffee shop or a library :)

Monica Wilkinson said...

I love Curious Sofa - they were featured in a recent Country Living spotlight. Isn't it great?! I loved your tips - I was just thinking recently - how does she manage all the stops with her little ones! I am excited to try the "family store" thing in the future and I also liked how you let Andrew read books in the cart to occupy him while you're shopping!

Jenn @ Frugal Upstate said...

Meredith-I'll have to check out the Curious Sofa! I do a few of the same things.

I frequently let Buddy or Princess hold a book or toy in the shop with the understanding that we are not buying it-they are just looking at it or playing with it until we leave. (this works especially well with helium ballons at the Dollar Tree-plus then if they get ahead of me in the aisles I can see where they are by looking for the balloon!)

I have also taught them about waiting for toys. I have gotten some strange looks from other shoppers in Wally World when they hear a 3 year old say in the middle of summer "Mama-I'm going to ask Santa for that" or "Mama, can I have this when I'm older?"

Then again, I'm just blessed to have a little boy who LIKES to shop. He actually gets upset when we leave a store and he asks "where are we going next" and the answer is "home". He always cries "no! I want to go to another store!". How much longer do you think THAT will last?

Robin said...

Can you explain about how your point program with Andrew works? I would like to use something like that with my 3 year old, but I'm not sure where to start.

TulipGirl said...

"2. Balance: Let your kids know that shopping's not all about you."

I think it is wise and also considerate. Personally, I'm not above a well-placed bribe, errr, incentive. I've been known to say, "When you cooperate with mommy here, then we can go to the library. . ."

When my boys were toddlers/preschoolers, we had "Store Rules." They were (okay, and still are!):
1. Keep your hands to yourselves.
2. Stay in/hold the cart/Mommy's hand.
3. Use quiet and kind voices.
4. Don't ask for anything.

While I tried to phrase them to be what TO do, instead of DON'Ts, I never did find something to replace #4. Rule 1 eliminated touching everything (and breakables!) #2 kept them from wandering. #3 prevented whining/yelling/demaninding/unkind voices. And #4 kept us focused on our purchasing target.