Shopping and “things” with kids

After a trip to JoAnn’s with my kids today, I needed to read the following wisdom from our very own, Jan Roberson. Find more of her writing at Flathead Living

Just say “No”!

I was standing near a couple in a line in Target one day.  The mom pointed to the object in the cart and told the dad that “she wants it”, referring to their young daughter.  They discussed several reasons why it wouldn’t be good for her, yet it still remained in the cart.

Perhaps this is an obvious statement, but children need to hear the word “no” from their parents especially in regard to acquiring stuff. They need to know that they can’t have everything they see and that they don’t need to have every whim supplied.

Stores are laid out to entice children (small and large). It’s called marketing, attractive packing and strategic placement. My children taught me that even though they desired everything they saw, it didn’t last long.  Mostly, for them, it was truly “out of sight, out of mind”.  Of course, this fact never stopped the pleading, whining and begging for things…

I could not afford to hire a sitter every time I had to go shopping, so the kids were almost always with me in the stores.  If that is the case for you, some shopping strategies might help.

Here are a few ideas that I tried or wish that I had!

  • Give them each $.25 a trip to the store (or whatever works for you) and tell them that it is theirs to spend or save for another time and keep it in the car for them.  They will have to save a few times just to start!  Also, you will need to put a time limit on their shopping or it could take forever to decide.
  • Have a budget and stick to it! If you often buy spontaneously or randomly, have a budget for miscellaneous spending.
  • Think up synonyms for “no” ahead of time.  I’ll need to think about that; Let’s wait till next time and see; Wow! There is so much to look at in here!; I don’t think that’s the very best for you right now; Yeah, there are things I wish I could get too; Let’s add that to your wish list.
  • Take the offense, especially with little ones, and distract them.  Try a running dialogue: What color is that? What shape?  Let’s find blue things, round things, etc.  Keep them looking for things in the “game” instead of things they want to buy for themselves.
  • Tell them ahead of time what is on your list and engage their help in looking for it.
  • Have a policy of one in and one out.  If you get a new____, you need to give one _____ away.

Even if you are fortunate to be able to shop alone, kids still have wishes and expectations.  They see advertisements in magazines, TV, catalogues and see what other kids have. For us, this was the worst.  They didn’t watch TV and we didn’t have many magazines or catalogues, but they did have friends with more stuff! When they got to school, the refrain became, “everybody I know has one!”  “I am the last of my friends to have one.”  This was often true! (Try not to answer this with the sarcastic “So, we aren’t everybody”.)

Work out your family’s standards and perimeters for stuff often and early with your kids.  It will help when the pressure comes.  When your kids want something big, perhaps they could get together and come up with some “big” reasons why we should buy this, i.e.- convince me. Their reasons should be guided by the standards already set in your family. Or you could come up with a list of questions to ask before buying a larger item.  Examples: Do I really need this? Where will this be in 6 months? Is it over packaged and unrecyclable? (environmental concerns) Does it fit the budget for such things? How do you keep up the toys/things you have now? (Note: I would avoid the “if you do this, then you can have this” situation as it may circumvent the above evaluations.) Ultimately, the parents have the final say and the children should know that they cannot manipulate, whine, or otherwise control the adults’ decision.

Parents can be proactive with buying toys.  I invested in small quality items like playmobiles and legos which promote creativity.  So when a present was in order, the kids could pick a small addition to the set we were collecting.  We still have these sets and every child that comes over wants to play either with the “little people” or the legos.

How do you decide what kind of toys for your children?

  1. Observe your child or children over a couple weeks’ time…what do they really play with?  How do they interact with a particular toy? Are there some that promote creativity? Some that provoke wild or loud behavior?
  2. How many toys are you willing to deal with-clean, pick up, corral, find a place for, toss or give away? How much time do you want to spend managing “stuff”?
  3. What can really engage your kids (besides TV, movies, and electronics?) so that they can be creative and think; so that you can get needed things done around the house? Look for engaging toys.  Given a choice kids will usually chose a flashy, eye-catching, “candy”-like toy. Give them something more.

Examples: playmobiles, legos, duplos, large cardboard boxes with a door cut into them, playdough, tea sets, sets of small cars, anything small that fits in small hands to carry around; dress up clothes-thrift store or old clothes from you! Something that works as a pretend kitchen for them; anything that mimics what their parents do…office “supplies”-tape, glue, pens, pencils, paper pads, coupons, envelopes, ink and stamps; kitchen utensils and kid dishes; cleaning things-small broom, etc; gardening utensils..small gloves; shopping-basket, play money, a place to set up cans and other food items; games, puzzles, books; put them outside!

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