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Oklahoma State University

Ease holiday shopping with children

Friday, December 14, 2007

By Katie L. Reim

STILLWATER, Okla. – Last minute shopping for those special people on your list can be a tough feat to accomplish. When you add to this the holiday crowds and shopping with children— especially young children—the experience can become more trying and sometimes very stressful.

There are several tips to help make holiday shopping with children a little easier, said Debbie Richardson, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service parenting assistant specialist.
“Try not to shop when you have had a bad day or at the end of a tiring day when your patience is already strained,” Richardson said. “Also make sure the children are rested and not hungry.”
It is important to talk with your child before shopping. Let your child know it is a special outing to go shopping with you. Your child can go along and have fun as long as she understands the shopping rules. You can even discuss what the child suggests as consequences if she misbehaves.
“Make your expectations clear for appropriate behavior such as, ‘stay close to me,’  ‘use your quiet voice,’ or ‘running in the store is not acceptable,’” Richardson said. “You could also develop some ‘sign language’ at home with the child such as signals that mean stop, come here or be careful to use while in public.”
Everyone should wear comfortable shoes and clothes while shopping.
“Take clothes or coats that can be layered and removed so that everyone is comfortable with temperature changes,” she said. “Also, pack snacks, a favorite toy or comfort item and diapers or formula as needed, especially for infants and younger children.”
Your child may not always be interested in where you want to shop, Richardson said. Therefore, you need to help your child make it through the places where he or she has no interest and show interest where your child wants to look.
Play games such as asking your child to count how many people are wearing red, how many babies she sees or how many steps it takes to get to the end of the aisle.
Another idea is to discuss the pictures on packages, Richardson said. Have the child explain what he or she sees, name the colors in the picture or read the words.
It is important to reinforce good behavior.
“Statements such as ‘you are being so helpful’ say a lot to a child,” she said. “Do something special after the shopping trip or promise to play a game or read with them when you get home and keep your promise. Also, a hug can be reassuring and say more than words sometimes.”

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