YEAR-END sales are here. Many parents will be out shopping with their children. When I look around the shops, I see parents pushing their toddlers in strollers while others have school-age children tagging along.
Children’s safety must be top priority when parents take them shopping. Many children are left behind while their parents busily scavenge through piles of stuff on sale.
During grocery-shopping, young toddlers are left in shopping carts while their mothers select the freshest fruits in the pile. A stranger could easily push the shopping cart away without anyone raising an eyebrow. Parents sometimes assume that their children will be safe.
No child is safe when they are left unsupervised.
Here are five tips on safe and fun shopping with your child:
Plan your trip with your child before heading out to the malls
Before you leave the house, prepare your child’s belongings carefully. Do include a change of clothing, an extra bottle of water, a snack that needs no refrigeration and a favourite game/toy.
If you have a toddler or preschooler, practise some role-playing before leaving home. Your young child needs to know what to do if she or he cannot locate you. Place a name card with emergency phone numbers inside the shirt or pants pocket. Do not dress your child in clothing which has his or her name on it. Avoid letting your child wear jewellery.
Know your child
Know your child’s schedule for sleep, meals and quiet time. A young child may not be able to cope with a two-hour shopping trip, so cut down your shopping time. Your child may feel scared at busy and noisy malls. Avoid taking him to places where he may get anxious.
Young children are naturally curious. They will want to touch and handle things on display. When your child reaches out for the display, tell him: “This beautiful ornament is breakable. Let’s just look at it together.”
Infants and toddlers
Be considerate when using a stroller or a pram. Many parents tend to park the stroller on the side while they look around in the shops. Be vigilant as well, especially if your child is sleeping in the stroller. If you are taking your baby shopping with you, consider a shoulder-carrier. This will free your hands as well keep your child with you while you browse.
Toddlers are active and do not like to be confined to a stroller for a long time. You may want to select shops where your toddler can freely move around under your constant supervision.
Get what you want to buy promptly. Salespeople are not babysitters. They cannot be trusted to take care of your child while you take an hour or two to decide on your purchases.
Crowds are not cool for young children
Shops are usually crowded during weekends, after working hours and during mega sales. These shopping times are very stressful for children. Try to go to the shops during non-peak times when check-out lanes are not long. Go shopping when you are full of energy and able to cope with your child’s needs creatively.
How to say ‘No’ without tears
There is always a more positive approach to saying “No” rather than the flat refusal that sends children bawling and throwing tantrums. Choose positive instead of negative words.
Younger children can be distracted. Say: “You want a treat. Look! I have brought along your favourite snack!”
With older children, try saying something like: “You have chosen something very nice indeed. When we go home, we will add that to your wish list.”
You can also say: “Remember we have discussed our budget? This item costs more than we can afford. You can choose something that we can afford.”
Remember to give a hug and a smile when saying this to your child.
If you are going for festive shopping, you may want to do it alone and get a babysitter for your child. When shopping malls are crowded, there should be one responsible adult to look after the child while the other one shops.
Children enjoy shopping when parents spend time and lavish attention on them. They need short breaks for meals and to use the toilet. Children will behave themselves when they feel safe and happy.
They need a great deal of patience and attention. Help your children to be well-prepared for shopping so that they will know what to expect. They have their limits. Shopping can wait but a tired and hungry child cannot.