A couple of weeks ago my husband and I took our kids on a brief Target run. Having spent the majority of the past year and a half at home or at the park, being inside a store was a real experience for my kids…particularly my youngest. I don’t know that he’d every really been in a store.

This week is Mail Order Catalogue Day, and since we don’t really ‘shop’ like this anymore (browsing the internet could be compared to this) I thought we’d talk about shopping with our kids. As in, actually taking them out of the house, into a store, and purchasing what you went into the store in the first place to get. How do we do this again?

Having a plan

Back in 2019 I posted about Going to the Grocery Store with your Child. I spoke about 5 helpful tips that all parents/caregivers can use while taking children of any age to the grocery store with them. Some of these tips are tried and true.

For instance, have a list. If you’re going on a typical grocery run, bring a list with you so that you know exactly what you need to get. If your child is old enough, let them help you with the list. They can hold it, look for the item, check it off once you’ve put it in the cart. Not only will you feel a bit more in control by knowing exactly what you need, you’ll also be entertaining your child by engaging them in an age appropriate task that will likely allow them to feel helpful and useful.

Choose your time wisely 

Think about where you need to go, what you need to get and how long it might take. Now think about how your child typically behaves at certain times of the day. If you’re heading out to the grocery store, or Target or Costco, mornings are usually the best time to go. You will not only miss the lunch rush, but you’ll also likely have an awake, fed, and content child with you.

If you wait too long into the day your child may be too close to nap time or lunch/snack time or they may just be in a mood from all of the above. It’s difficult as adults to focus and concentrate on tasks that may not be the most rewarding when we are tired or hungry. Now imagine being a child and having to tag along to do something while tired or hungry. Kids don’t have the impulse control that we have as adults (at least sometimes we have it) to be able to make it through a non-preferred activity without losing it.

Give yourself enough time          

Once you’ve chose when to go, make sure that you have left yourself enough time. No one likes to rush in and out of a place. And let’s be honest, your kids will choose that exact moment to move like a snail, which will only lead to you be more flustered and shorter tempered.

The more time you allow yourself the better. Relax…ease your way through the shopping trip. If parts of your shopping trip take a little longer than others because you have to wait in line or because you and your child are having a little fun, that’s ok. Having that list will help you relax but so will knowing that you don’t HAVE to be in and out of the store in record time.

Be inclusive

Engaging your child in the shopping activity will go a long way in terms of their behavior and tolerance level. As I mentioned before, give them a task to do. You can have them help you with your shopping list, or you can give them a ‘job’ such as putting everything into the cart for you.

Kids love to help and feel needed. And if you’ve got a toddler at home then you know all about the ‘No, I can do it myself’ phase. So, let them do it themselves. You pick what you need and then give it to them. You may be surprised at how nicely they organize the cart, or place items together according to color. Giving them a job may also help prevent that unwanted tantrum because it will keep them engaged.

Know your limits

If you sense that you’ve reached your limit in terms of your patience and energy, don’t go shopping with your child. If you feel like your child has reached their limit, don’t go shopping. Whatever you’re buying, I’m sure it can wait. Think about it…is whatever you’re shopping for really worth the tantrum that your exhausted, hungry, over-stimulated, lack of impulse control child may throw?

Tantrums can and will occur. And that’s ok. We’ve all been through one in public and we’ve all witnessed multiple. Although a waft of guilt and embarrassment may flow through you when it happens, know that we’ve all been there.

It’s going to be a new experience             

Even if you’ve taken your older kids shopping with you pre-COVID, know that things are different now. Many of our kids have not been to stores in a very long time. You should have seen P and T’s faces when we entered Target. It was as if they were in the most magical of places. Neither can remember what shopping was like pre-COVID because they were both too young in 2020.

That ‘quick’ Target run to pick up 3 items ended up taking us 30 minutes because my kids were so enamored with the Toy section (and this was a puny little City Target with a mini Toy section). But, because my husband and I had nowhere else to be, so we took our time, allowed the kids to help with the experience and honestly, we had a good time.

No one left with all of the toys they wanted, but no one left crying. And I was able to purchase everything that I intended to get when I stepped into that store. It may have been a fluke, but all in all, I would say it was a successful shopping experience. 😊