Beware of checkouts!

Sue Atkins for Mams and Dads Family Magazine

Sue Atkins

I think Christmas shopping and shopping generally with toddlers, is given a bad press! With a little bit of planning and some common sense there are many practical ways to take the stress, frustration and tension out of buying your father- in – law his annual socks and festive tie!

  • Avoid the crowds. Try shopping in the morning or early afternoon on weekdays, or move dinner up and shop during the quiet early-evening time between 6 and 7 pm.
  • Make sure you have had enough to eat and drink before you go out, keep your energy up! Feed your child; remember -a hungry toddler is a grumpy toddler!
  • Get your child to wear something with pockets. Once you are at the shops fill their pockets with something healthy like raisins. Toddlers love to sit in the shopping trolley or their buggy independently digging out their snacks. Be mindful of choking – use common sense and supervision!
  • Babies and small children can become dehydrated in the dry air of shopping centres – take frequent juice or water breaks.
  • Choose a time when you know your little one will have a nap and make sure they are in the buggy so you can shop while they are asleep.
  • Share your kids with friends – they go shopping for a couple of hours on their own while you look after their children and then you swap.
  • Being surrounded by a crowd of adults can be a really intimidating business to small children, especially when shops are busy. Using a backpack can be one way of bringing toddlers up to a height where they are more contented. It can also prevent the common, frightening experience of losing a toddler in a crowd.
  • Make sure you take breaks in your shopping to let them get rid of some of their energy and have some physical fun. Lots of shopping centres have places for them to let off steam – or while you have a coffee let them move about but don’t forget to supervise them.
  • Make shopping fun – get your toddler engaged in counting the reindeer or looking for snowmen or any other game you can think of.
  • Keep their hands busy with a toy or a book to occupy their minds.
  • Make the trip a learning time – sing Christmas songs or Nursery Rhymes, talk about colours or shapes, see how many circles they can find along the way.
  • If they want to examine an attractive item in a shop, don’t automatically tell them off or shout at them. Instead, help them to hold the item safely, or let them know that it can be looked at but not touched. Share your toddler’s enthusiasm and interest at this exciting time with all its sparkle and magic and see the world from their perspective of curiosity.
  • Toddlers can begin to be included in some of the shopping decisions. Involve your toddler with questions such as “Which of these toys do you think Sophie would like to play with?” This can turn a boring, frustrating experience into a pleasurable for everyone.
  • Be prepared for the challenging check out.
    With colourful, enticing sweets and treats on display, be ready for a temper tantrum. Bringing a favourite healthful snack from home should help.
  • If you reach the limit of your patience and energy, try to remain calm, centred and grounded and press your internal “pause button”. Even a few moments of fresh air away from the crowds can make a big difference for both of you
  • If your toddler has reached the end of their tether – respect that. Shopping can wait; an exhausted, hungry, or overly-excited child can’t!
  • Look for ways to positively praise your toddler for their good behaviour.
  • You get what you focus on. If you think the shopping trip will be stressful, frustrating and tiring ….. guess what …. it will be…., so get playful and creative yourself and remember to do this before you go out.

Toddlers will pick up on your mood so make sure it’s a cheerful one and they will follow you example.

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