Friday, November 21, 2008

Surviving Holiday Shopping with Small Children

Crowded stores, long checkout lines and overworked clerks can make holiday shopping stressful. Add a screaming 2-year-old, a heavy diaper bag and an occasional temper tantrum and shopping becomes nearly impossible. Before calling it quits or hiring a babysitter, consider another approach. With the right plan and mindset, shopping with children is not only "doable" but fun and rewarding, too.

According to Judy McCraw at the Primrose School of Peachtree City taking your child holiday shopping can be a rewarding experience and should be seen as an opportunity to teach and share the spirit of giving.

McCraw offers these tips for holiday shopping with your child:

• Create a plan and stick to it.
Before you leave, make a list of people you plan to buy for and some gift ideas. Don’t get sidetracked and try to do too much at once. Young children have short attention spans and will surely have a meltdown if you take on the whole list in one day. Explain to your child that today, you’re focusing on buying gifts for others. To avoid tantrums, bring paper and a pen to create a “wish list” of things your child may request.

• Be prepared.
Shop early in the morning to avoid crowds and make sure your child is fully rested, clean and well fed before you venture out. Bring a change of clothes, a portable snack and drink, and a small toy to keep them occupied. Never feed your child sugary sweets before shopping. And don’t forget your stroller—it is a good place for tired children to rest. Try to keep trips short and choose stores where you can quickly put a dent into your shopping list.

• Engage children in the process and help them understand the importance of giving.
Talk to your children about what you plan on accomplishing on your shopping trip. Tell them that you’re shopping to find special gifts for people who you love. Share the list of people who you plan to shop for and engage children by allowing them to choose one item, among two or three that you pre-select, to give to that person. Talk to your child about why giving is important and try to find thoughtful gifts that will bring your friends and family joy.

• Keep them safe.
Before heading out to the mall, talk to your child about safety. Carry a cell phone and put the number of the cell phone in the child’s pocket and instruct them to hand the number to a clerk if they are separated from you. Parking lots can be especially congested and dangerous around the holidays, so make sure all small children exit your vehicle on the same side so you can keep a watchful eye. Secure a smaller child in a stroller before getting the other child out. Inside, keep your children close by at all times. Small children are easily distracted by the lights, sounds and excitement of the holiday season.

• Help children experience the season.
Remember the joy and excitement that the holiday season brings to children. Help them fully experience it by finding sidewalk shops where you can hold hands, sing songs and enjoy the decorations, lights and tinsel. Make it truly meaningful by sharing your favorite childhood memories and building in some fun family traditions along the way.

McCraw suggests you bring your camera so you can capture your favorite moments on film. Children won’t remember the presents they received each year but memories of these special times with you will last forever.

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