This post originally appeared at The Journey of Parenthood blog.
Going out with a toddler can be especially daunting if you are not used to doing it on a regular basis.
It can become overwhelming during the holiday season with the busy crowds, many items to purchase, and the decisions that go along with it.
I have a few suggestions that will help make things go a lot smoother this holiday season!
1. Shop Online
This is a no brainer, and something we all do nowadays.
If you know something is going to be hard to find, make the purchase online so you aren’t running all over town looking for it.
At the very least, do your research ahead of time so you know exactly what you want, and even purchase ahead of time and arrange for store pick up if you need it asap.
2. Make lists and have a plan
There is nothing worse than getting into a store, only to get stuck trying to read boxes, make decisions, find things, deal with crowds, and take care of a toddler all at the same time.
Make a list of what you are getting and know where you are getting it. Do you research ahead of time as mentioned in tip #1.
Get in and get out!
3. Go on quick outings
Do not attempt to go do all of your Christmas shopping in one day! Now that you are toting around a little one (or two or three, etc.), it is just not that simple.
Avoid meltdowns by keeping the outing small. 1 or 2 stores is doable- 3 or 4 will have your head spinning and your toddler probably will be a bit stir crazy and wanting to run around.
4. Talk to your children about expectations on the way there
On your way to the store, or even while still at home, remind your child(ren) about your expectations.
Whether it’s sitting in the cart, holding your hand, listening to directions, staying close to you at all times, or simply the fact that if they see something they like you’ll be adding it to their list (not purchasing it), it is important to lay it all out there so they know what to expect.
I always like to make sure my daughter knows that when mama says it’s time to go, it’s time to go and she needs to listen and say “yes, mama”.
5. Get the right shopping cart
This is more of a public service announcement, but please think about what you NEED versus what another mom might need.
The fancy race car carts are great and appealing to all children, but as a mom of 1 child, I save those for moms with more than 1 child.
That’s what they are there for, being that they have two seats.
Have you ever seen a mom with 2, 3, 4 children that doesn’t have one of those carts?
She probably isn’t thrilled to see you walk by with one that only has 1 child sitting in it- she could use the cart to help contain another one of her children!
I only use these if there is a plethora of them, and it is not a busy time at the store.
Save these for the parents that need them. Prepare your child ahead of time that you will not be getting one of these carts.
6. Park close to the cart corral
Make loading and unloading the car easier by parking next to the cart corral.
You can load up the gifts, put the cart back and keep hold of your children much easier if the cart corral is close by.
With the extra crowds and extra distractions, don’t lose sight of safety. Always put safety first. If you feel uncomfortable at any time, don’t be afraid to find a security guard or a manager to help you out to your car. I’ve done this several times. Better safe than sorry.
8. Get your children ready for shopping experiences before the holiday season
If your children aren’t used to going to stores, shopping is much more difficult because they simply don’t have the practice and the expectations get lost.
Children need practice going out, just like they need practice listening to you at home.
It’s never too late to start going out on a regular basis. We often go to Target just to practice listening to mama and learn what behaviors that are acceptable in public.
This is best done when the stores aren’t busy. Literally just go walk around and ask that your child hold your hand, stay close by, stop when you say stop, come to you when called, etc.
Only practice will help them learn your expectations and rise to them.
Happy shopping and Happy Holidays!