Shopping with young children can be incredibly… well, you know the drill, or do you?
To make the shopping experience more fun and relaxing, we did a few things. Now, mind you this will take some time, effort and commitment on the part of you the parent. The first thing we always suggest is “DO NOT BLUFF”. Every child at some point and time will have a meltdown at the mall, and you’ll hear the parent saying something like, “If you don’t stop we’re going home” and they repeat this a dozen times until finally the kid gets a chocolate bar or something to shut them up, or they just let them wail. We say, take them home. Yes, it is very inconvenient to leave the mall and have to do it all over again some other time… But a one time inconvenience is worth a thousand silent trips. Think of it as short term pain for long term gain.
Here are some of the things we used to do with our kids pretty much from the time they could walk and crawl. The first thing we did, was go straight to the toy section. We would set a 15 minute time limit on our watch or phone and when the alarm went off, we’d tell the kids that it was time to go. This was a look time, or as my wife taught the kids, it was “window shopping”; you look at all the stuff and then we talk about what we’d like to have and why.
Rule 1 to doing this is never buy a toy when you’re window shopping. Rule 2, spend those 15 minutes talking with your kids about the toys. What you like about them, what you don’t like etc… when the fifteen minutes is up you tell them to put what ever they are holding back on the shelf and while you’re walking away you talk about some of the stuff that you’ve seen. At the beginning the child will most likely ask for more time in the toy section. Just tell them that you’ll come back next time we come shopping. If they argue, ask them if they enjoyed the time looking, and then ask if they would like to do it again next time they come back. That’s the rule of window shopping.
The impulse aisle; all the colors, gum, candy, chocolate mmmmm…. I used to love watching people look at my kids in this aisle. I remember telling the kids it was time to go and they came without a word of protest, and there was a lady there and she asked, “How do you get them to leave without a hassle?” I told her that 1, we never ever buy anything from the impulse aisle and number 2, we told the girls that they could play a game in the aisle while we waited for our turn. The game was simple… find all the candies that were not in their proper place and put them in the right area. Sometimes it would be one or two pieces, other times it took a little longer, but they had fun doing it.
Remember to let the kids know when you are window shopping and when you are not. When you go to the toys, you say, “OK, we’re gonna window shop for 15 minutes, then we are going to go buy you some clothes” or what ever you have to buy.
If you want this to work you have to be consistent; do it every time the same way and watch the magic. When you’re in a rush, let the kids know a few times on the way to the mall that today you don’t have time to window shop, that means you won’t be stopping by the toys and most times they’ll be cool with it. Another important thing is for parents to be prepared for switch-flipping. If you’ve been out for a while already, there’s a good chance a young child will reach a breaking point and suddenly be ‘done’. Just done. A meltdown ensues and there’s no consoling. The best time for shopping with all its sensory overload is early on or right after nap time. Also bring a snack and a book or favorite toy.
Hope this works for you.