'Tis the season for shopping. Whether it's buying gifts, holiday decorations or groceries, most of us will find ourselves in the stores a lot more than usual at this time of year. If you are heading to the stores with babies or toddlers in tow, here are some ideas to make the experience less stressful for everyone.
Meet basic needs first. Kids who are tired, hungry or thirsty are more likely to act out. Plan a shopping trip around nap and eating schedules. Bring healthy snacks and drinks with you. Babies and young children can become dehydrated in the dry air of shopping malls, so be sure to take breaks for drinking or breastfeeding.
Bring a distraction/entertainment. Bring along a toy, a game or a book to keep your child busy.
Avoid the crowds. If you can, try shopping in the morning or early afternoon on weekdays, or have dinner a bit earlier and shop in the quieter early-evening hours.
Say no and still be supportive. Even if an item cannot be purchased, it can be helpful to share the child's excitement and interest in it. When your child reaches for an item try saying something like "that is nice isn't it?" or "we can't get that today but maybe another time."
Involve your child in shopping. Include older toddlers in decisions - asking your toddler to help you choose which item to buy, whether it's a holiday decoration or a piece of fruit can make the shopping experience more interesting for them.
Keep kids close and safe. Babies are almost always happier when carried. Consider a sling or a carrier that allows you to move around while providing a comfortable secure place for baby - be sure to use a sling or carrier safely. Keep toddlers close by - make sure you always know where your toddler is. Only leave your child alone with people you trust completely. Teach your child to check with you first before going anywhere with anyone or taking a gift or treat. Make sure your toddler understands you need to know where he is all the time and what things are given to him. For more information see Toddler's First Steps - page 145-146
Respect everyone's limits. If you find you are running low on patience and energy, take a break - go outside, visit a play area, or sit down in a quiet place. A few moments away from the crowds can make a big difference for both you and your child.