Shopping with your preschooler

Father and daughter with shopping cart

Taking a young child shopping for gifts and groceries in crowded stores and malls can be a stressful event for parents and children alike. During the holiday season, it can be even more intense. Nonetheless, if you take your child with you on your shopping excursions, you can turn this event into a rich learning experience.

Remember that young children learn new things constantly, and that there are many ways and many opportunities to teach while you are shopping together:

  • Involve your child in some of the shopping decisions. Ask your child to help you choose a gift for a friend, a sibling, or a family member. Present some choices and discuss what this person would prefer, and talk about how happy this person will be to receive a gift. This will help your child learn to see things from someone else’s point of view.
  • Make shopping fun. Play games such as “I spy with my little eye…” or talk about colours and shapes.
  • Be a good example. Model patience for your child when waiting in a long line by talking about how it makes you feel and how you can deal with it. For instance, “I don’t like waiting like this, but I have to. Maybe time will go by faster if we talk about the decorations we are going to put in the house later.” Be prepared and bring some snacks from home to eat while waiting in the check-out line.

Watch for signs that your child is getting overwhelmed. At this age it is still difficult for children to behave appropriately in stressful situations, and it is a good idea to keep shopping trips as short as possible.