Child crying in shop

Remember that children tire more easily than adults do.

I chatted to Voice of the Cape’s Aashia Hendricks last week about shopping with children, here are some of the things we discussed:

What should you consider before you decide to go shopping with children?

  • Try to plan your shopping trip to avoid the big crowds and make sure that you’ve all eaten so that you’re not hungry, irritable and susceptible to impulse buys.
  • Tell your children how you expect them to behave before you leave the house.
  • Make a shopping list to help them understand that you NEED specific items for the household and that you won’t be buying anything you don’t need.
  • Help them understand how money works.  Money can be a difficult concept for little ones to understand, especially in this day and age where hardly anyone uses cash anymore.  It’s might be easy for a child to interpret your reluctance to buy an expensive toy as meanness or spitefulness. Help your children understand that financial resources can be exhausted by giving them pocket money each month and having them save up to buy something they really want for themselves.
  • Keep your shopping trips short.  Marathon shopping trips might be fun for you, but will most likely be mind numbingly boring for your child – try to keep trips to the store under an hour if at all possible.
  • Avoid stores with big / bright toy isles if you can – if you need food items only, try the farmer’s market instead.  The less temptation there is the more likely your child is to behave.
  • Bring a favourite toy or book along to entertain your child.  Keep it in your bag and bring it out when you see that your child is getting bored.
  • Many parents like to offer a reward for good behaviour during shopping trips.  This might be a good incentive, but try to make the reward something fun that you can do together after your shopping trip instead of a toy or treat to be bought at the same store.  You can say something like: “If you behave while we do our grocery shopping, you and I can go to the ice-cream parlor afterwards”.  This will help curb nagging and tantrums while you are doing your shopping.

What can cause a child to become anxious or uncomfortable when you’re out shopping?

  • Remember that children tire more easily and need to eat more often than adults do.  You’re energy stores might still be high while your little one may start to feel tired, hungry and cranky.
  • Children may find big crowds scary and they might worry about becoming separated from you.  This could be amplified in babies as separation anxiety typically peaks at at the age of about 18 months.
  • Your child may be physically uncomfortable. Is his stroller uncomfortable? Are his little legs getting tired from all the walking? Little babies might feel much more secure in a sling or baby carrier that in a stroller.
  • Complete and utter boredom – try to team up with another mom for longer shopping trips.  This way you can take turns watching the kids and fitting clothes and hopefully your little ones will help entertain each other.
  • Children won’t realise that they are being overstimulated – It’s up to us as parents to try and limit the stimulation our children receive in big, bright, loud shopping centres.

How does shopping with children impact on their development?

  • Educationally speaking, shopping with children is full to the brim with possibilities.  Shopping lends itself so well to developing reading and maths skills for children of all ages. While moms can use the items on heir shopping list to help develop memory and sequencing skills.  Older children can do comparative shopping, helping mom choose the cheapest product or the one with the most nutritional value.  Shopping is also a good way to enhance language skills and to help children understand their basic biology – talk to your child about their body: we use soap when we bath to kill the germs, We need healthy food to grow, too much sugar is bad for our teeth, etc.
  • Children can take part in physical activity while shopping – encourage them to walk up and down the isles, lift items into the shopping trolley and carry the shopping bags when you get home.
  • From a social & emotional perspective shopping with children provides an opportunity to teach them delayed gratification
  • Shopping can also be used to teach good consumer behaviour, such as only buying locally produced, organic food items.
  • And finally, what better way to teach your child financial skills than during your shopping trip?

How to handle a situation that might require you to say no without triggering a tantrum

  • If your child nags you to buy a toy or treat explain calmly that it’s not on your shopping list. The tell them that if they really want it, you can discuss it once you get home and if approved, they can put it on the shopping list for next time. 
  • Remember that children are curious – you might have to help them hold an item so that they can look at it safely, or explain that it’s for their eyes only and that they are not to touch.  Be patient – trying to rush through your shopping with kids in tow is bound to end in tears for everyone.
  • Constantly having to say no may leave you both feeling rather negative.  Instead, try this sneaky trick: If your child asks whether they may have an item say yes and then ask whether they brought their money along, explaining that the item does not fit into your budget.
  • If you’re child does end up throwing a tantrum, don’t despair. Simply stick to your guns and ride it out as this will make it easier the next time.

How to handle a situation where you or your child has reached the limits of your patience or energy:

  • Take a break.  Stop for a bite to eat, read a book together in the book store or have your children let off some steam in the play area before you resume your shopping.
  • Remind yourself of what’s important – Keeping in mind that raising happy, confident, well rounded kids is higher on your priority list than getting all the shopping done in one go might help restore the calm.
  • Be prepared to leave. No one wins when you’re both tired and irritable, rather stop what you are doing if need be and try to order the rest of your shopping online or ask someone else to get it for you.