Christmas Shopping with Kids: Pros, Cons, and How-tos

The average American household plans to spend nearly $1,000 this Christmas, and two thirds of those purchases will at least begin online. This means that at least some shopping trips will take place in physical stores. Should children go on those shopping trips? And if so, how can their experience of Christmas shopping be a good one?

Pros of including kids in Christmas shopping

Holiday shopping can include some special memory-making experiences, like visits to Santa Claus at the mall or checking out light and window displays downtown. Parents who have their own happy memories of these events naturally want to share this with their children.

Kids who only receive presents and aren’t involved in giving miss out on an important part of the Christmas experience. Choosing a gift for a brother or sister is an opportunity to practice thinking about other people more deeply than a small child usually does. The generosity involved in choosing a gift, paying for it, and wrapping it up is good practice for later life. 

Giving kids an opportunity to earn money with which to buy their gifts, or to budget money you give them, helps hone math skills and get some basic economics lessons.

Cons of taking kids Christmas shopping

The Christmas shopping experience can be overwhelming. For younger children, the noise and lights and jollity can spell sensory overload. Santa Claus might be scary, and being surrounded by toys and candy leads to overexcitement. Slightly older kids may be able to handle the excitement, but feel overwhelmed by too many choices or disappointed when they compare their wants with what they can actually have.

Holiday shopping is a materialistic experience. If your family focuses on the spiritual aspects of Christmas or on family togetherness, Christmas shopping might be a contradiction of what your kids have learned about the holidays.

Shopping can bring out the worst in your kids. Especially if they get tired, bored, or hungry, they might act out. If the shopping trip is stressful for you, it might not be fun for your children. 

Make holiday shopping as fun as possible

Healthy, happy holiday shopping with kids often comes down to one thing: planning. Click To Tweet

Plan ahead. Let kids know where you will be going, what you will be buying, and what you expect of them. For example, tell kids that you will be shopping for relatives and not buying any gifts for yourselves, that you will go to just one shopping center, and that you count on them to stay close to you and to keep their hands to themselves. Each family will have their own rules, and things will change as your kids get older, but managing expectations is always good.

Make a plan in case you get separated. Identify one store or other landmark where you will meet up.

Narrow the focus as much as possible. If you really need to buy 18 gifts at stores all over town, get a sitter. Let the kids’ shopping trip be just for the kids. You might even want to skip photos, snacks, and your own shopping to keep things calm.

Make sure your kids are fed and rested before you head out. Make a list of the things you need to bring along, including diapers and water bottles. Make sure everyone is dressed for the weather and wearing comfortable shoes. Taking care of physical needs gives everyone a head start on staying in a good mood.

Malls and stores are great places to meet a virus! Wash hands before you eat and after you get home from shopping, and encourage kids not to touch public surfaces. It’s completely normal for kids to want to touch everything around them, but getting out of the habit can cut down on illnesses.

When kids start getting tired or cranky, go home. You may be concerned about getting all your shopping done, but cutting the trip short while everyone is still happy is your best bet in the long run. Focus on the fun shopping trip rather than focusing on your checklist. You can finish your errands online or when someone else is watching the kids. 

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