Once upon a time I worked outside the home, and although I never enjoyed spending my lunch hour racing through the mall in a desperate attempt to finish my holiday shopping, it was way easier than shopping with two kids in tow.
What I’ve learned is that holiday shopping with kids and without a plan is a distinct brand of seasonal torture. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be. With a little preparation and the right frame of mind, holiday shopping is not only possible with kids, it’s enjoyable.
Check out my tried and true methods for meltdown-free shopping with kids after the jump!
Be realistic: Look, I know your holiday shopping list is super long, but there’s no possible way to conquer that gift list in one outing, so don’t even try. The absolute longest you can expect your kids to keep it together before going stir-crazy is three stores maximum. Hauling your kids from store to store (to store to store) is a recipe for behavior disaster.
Take breaks: Stop for lunch at an eatery of your children’s choosing, go to the park to blow off steam do something, anything to break up the monotony of holiday shopping. Your kids need fresh air, food, and a change of environment to keep smiling (and so do you).
Reward good behavior: Yeah, that’s code for bribe. Absolutely bribe your kids with activities to look forward to, rather than stuff. Promise a family game or movie night, breakfast for dinner, to stay up an extra half hour. Bribe away and reap the rewards of good behavior.
Come prepared: Don’t even think about shopping with kids without an arsenal of snacks and entertainment. Bring food and drink rations, chapter books, tablets, portable game devices, and portable DVD players. Worry not about fellow parents judging you, they’re just jealous they didn’t think of it first.
Bring reinforcements: Shop with a friend, bring a grandparent - anybody! Another set of hands (and eyes and ears) are always helpful when you’re looking to maximize your holiday shopping on a limited schedule.
Have a list: I know you think your mind is like a steel trap, but when you’re shopping and managing kids, all kinds of important stuff seeps through the mental tracks. Decide what you’re buying for whom before setting foot in the store. Stay sharp and focused.
Don’t: You heard me. Don’t take your kids shopping unless you have to. Lessen the holiday blow and shop online whenever possible. Save yourself and your kids the brick and mortar retail experience.
Shop on off-hours: I’m not psychic or anything but shopping at noon on Christmas Eve is probably not a good idea. Shop early mornings or later evenings on less popular shopping days. Avoid peak holiday rush hours for your sanity and theirs.
Shop small businesses: Stimulate your local economy by shopping small businesses in your area. You can take pride in knowing you’re doing your part to support small business owners and enjoy the peace that comes from avoiding the heavy crowds of large retailers.
Shop smart: Now that you’ve decided you’re only going to a few stores (you can thank me later), try to grab as many gifts from your gift list as possible there. For example, a local independent bookstore might allow you to cross 3- 5 folks your list just like that!