Holiday Shopping … with the KIDS!

Ready or not, the Christmas season is definitely upon us. Children are busy building their wish lists, while parents are busy strategizing their gift giving. As parents, we may really want to shop with no children at our side…but let’s face it, we don’t always have that option. Here are a few suggestions to help us all survive the next trip to the mall or department store.

Prepare in advance

Having children fed before you leave the house to avoid having emotional meltdowns later on. Consider bringing snacks, a change of clothing, and ensure that the kids have comfortable walking shoes on. Go in the morning or after children have had a nap so that they are well rested. These are also the times when malls are less busy, and you can avoid the stress of a large crowd.

Create goals for you and your child

Be transparent and clear about your shopping goals, their positive behavior and a need for family fun. Offer rewards such as, “After we visit these three stores, we can go get a treat if you are well-behaved.” Mix in some fun with trips to see Santa Clause, snack breaks, visit the play land and more.

Do shopping in short intervals

With short attention spans, children aren’t likely to withstand a shopping spree that lasts more than two to three hours, at a time. Indulge in some treat or play breaks with the kids. A fun option is to team up with another parent or family groups and take turns supervising the kids and/or shopping. This could be very helpful and fun, for those involved.

Remember that children are naturally curious

Children are naturally curious; this is how they learn. If they want to look at something, please don’t scold them. Help them to hold the item safely, or let them know that it can be viewed but not touched. Use it as a learning experience to talk about colors, shapes, and how things are made.

Don’t be afraid to say NO

It will be easy for children to become distracted by all of the toys and games. When the begging begins, don’t be afraid to say NO. Offer to put that item on their wish list when you return home. Explain the joy of having a surprise under the tree or in the stocking, and that your purpose is to shop for others. Have them help you pick out gifts for people on your list, and involve them in the gift giving experience.

Plan a treat for after the mall

After a well-behaved shopping trip, reward children with a special treat. This can include a new or favorite movie to watch at home, baking cookies, sipping hot cocoa, playing a family game, or dinner out at your family’s favorite restaurant.

Here is hoping you have some happy, stress-free holidays from the Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area Board and staff.


Carrie Kube is a director for Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area Board. All thoughts and opinions expressed are that of the author and not the board and/or its community partners.