Holiday Shopping With the Kids

By Linda Natali

"You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I'm telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town." And you know who has to do all the shopping for that guy? You!

With full parking lots, crowded malls and tempting displays, trying to get all the items on your list for the big, jolly, round fellow can be a daunting feat. Add a couple of crying anklebiters to the sleigh ride to the mall and everyone could end up getting a lump of coal in their stocking.

But fear not, below you will find some tips on how to keep the holiday magic flowing (or at least your sanity) in the midst of all the shopping hustle and bustle.

Step 1
Prep the little angels. Talk to your kids and train them before you ever even take them shopping with you. If they're old enough, teach them their name and address and your cell phone number in case they get lost. If they do get separated from you while shopping instruct them to tell a person with a badge (security guard or policeman) or to find a woman with children. Most likely another mom will get them to the authorities where you can reconnect with them.
On the day of the shopping extravaganza explain to your brood what stores are on your itinerary and how long you expect the excursion to take. This way even in their limited minds they will have some idea of what to expect and won't be surprised at what the day holds for them.

Step 2

Arm yourself. Make sure you are loaded for bear. Pack up the diaper bag or a backpack with all of the essentials, including but not limited to snacks (lots of snacks), wipes, diapers, change of clothes, small toys, water, formula, and bottles. A favorite blankie or doll can be included in case of an unforeseeable meltdown by one of the ragamuffins. Don't forget the stroller to carry your bundle of joy or all the presents you scored, whichever needs a ride.

Step 3
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Even on the best of days you probably aren't going to accomplish everything you hoped to on your shopping junket, so it's best to prioritize your trip. Make a list of everything you need to buy before the 25th and for whom, and decide which items need to be checked off the list pronto. Does Grandma's traditional tin of peanut brittle need to get in the mail this week? Then head over to See's candy first thing. Are your brother's favorite jeans on sale today only? Then get a move on to that store right off the bat.

If you accomplish the first three items on your to-do list then consider it a good day. If you are able to check off more than three items on the list while taking the munchkins along then that is icing on the cake!

Step 4
Take a "tween" or drag dad along. If you have a neighbor, niece or nephew who is around 11 or 12 years old, consider taking the tween along for a little back up. Kids this age still enjoy playing with the younger crowd and can help to keep them occupied while you make those crucial purchases. In general men don't usually enjoy holiday shopping, but many malls now have designated play areas where dad can park and watch the kids. He can check the game scores on his phone with one eye and keep the other eye on the little ones while they run around. This will free you up for a bit to hit as many stores as you can without having your angels in tow.

Step 5
Shop online. If you've tried taking your little chicks with you and it is more trouble than it's worth, then once they are down for their nap log onto your favorite stores. This is an awesome option when time is of the essence. Lots of sites have very clear pictures of their products with the ability to scroll over and magnify the merchandise. Many stores have free shipping during the holidays so the prices are comparable to their brick and mortar counterparts. You'll save time, money, and your sanity!

Tips & Warnings

  • Never lock your children in the car while you shop.
  • Don't get distracted by the thrill of shopping and lose track of where the kids are.
  • You can be arrested if you leave your children in the car while you shop. A dental surgeon in Florida is under arrest after the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office says he left his 8-month-old baby in his running vehicle while he went into Flashdance, a local strip club. (Oh, I guess he was doing a different type of shopping.) Still, you never want to endanger you kids by leaving them in the car.

Have any great tips for shopping with the family? Let us know! is an online community dedicated to providing visitors the ability to research, share, and discuss instructional solutions -- real people succeeding at real projects. More than 45 million people visit each month for tips on how to do just about anything.

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