What can you do to make sure holiday shopping trips with preschoolers and young children go as smoothly and safely as possible? Here are some tips that are valuable to remember all year-long, not just during the holiday season.

holiday shopping with small children

DO’s for Holiday Shopping with Preschoolers

  • Keep children with you at all times
  • Always accompany and supervise children in public restrooms.
  • Create a plan in case you become separated…just like a fire safety plan which should be discussed at home and practiced routinely.
  • Teach your child to look for people who can help…a uniformed security officer, a salesperson with a name badge or another mother with children.
  • Remind children to remain in the area where they became separated…there is a wonderful picture book story that addresses this issue … DON’T WORRY, I’LL FIND YOU by Anna Grossnickle Hines.
  • When Sarah and her mother go the mall to buy Sarah some clothes, Sarah insists on taking her doll. When Sarah realizes she has left her doll at one of the stores, she runs to find it. Now, however, she doesn’t know where her mother is. Sarah remembers her mother’s instructions to “stay put” and so she remains at the toy store and soon mother and child are reunited. Read this story with your preschooler before your shopping trip and discuss the plan of action in case you become separated.

  • Bring along a coloring book and several crayons or some other small hand-held game or toy (no small parts that will get lost). Shopping can be boring for a child who is just sitting in a shopping cart for hours. Engage your child in a conversation as you browse the aisles…shopping can be one of the best educational field trips you can take. Ask your child about the colors and shapes he sees.
  • Prepare some cereal trail mix or another simple non-messy snack that can be put in a zip-lock bag and retrieved if your child gets hungry. This will help avoid the request for junk food when you get to the registers and your child sees the inevitable array of candy and chips the stores put there.

shopping with small children

DON’TS for Holiday Shopping with Preschoolers

  • Children should never wear clothing that displays their first or last name. Avoid giving strangers any opportunity to start a conversation with your child.
  • Refrain from leaving children in the toy area of a store expecting store personnel to supervise your child while you shop in another area of the store.
  • Don’t allow young children to shop on their own to purchase gifts for friends or family members.
  • Keep children from pushing the shopping cart if there is a younger sibling in it…and don’t allow children to hang on the cart, even if it is empty…too many accidents occur when shopping carts tip over.
  • Don’t extend your shopping trip to overlap lunch or naptime…it’s not fair to your child and it’s stressful for you. Keeping to a routine contributes to a happy child and balanced and harmonious day.

For busy parents, online shopping can be wonderful option during the holiday season. It can be done in the evening when the children are sleeping and is a great way to avoid the crowds and parking hassles. If you do go out shopping with your children, keep these tips in mind. You’ll be glad you did!