Is this a familiar sight this time of year? For most of us, by this time we are getting a little tired of fighting the crowds just to find that perfect gift for our loved ones. And just think about our children. If you're like me, you may have been dragging your little ones around to all the store with you until they are ready to pass out. But if we take just a little time while we are out to make the trip fun and educational, it can make all the difference. Maybe even become your own family tradition.
0-2 Year Olds:
- With this age group, they are taking in everything they see around them. Make a game out of shopping like looking for a particular item and whoever spots it first, gets to choose the next item to look for.
- For younger children who aren't speaking much yet, teaching them new vocabulary is a great idea while you are going around to places and seeing things they don't see everyday. Point something out and repeat the word a few times.
- Make a game out of waving at people, of course only the ones who are friendly enough to initiate the interaction themselves or people who work at the store like the cashier. Teach your child to say hi, bye, and other polite greetings.
3-5 Year Olds:
- Signs are a great learning tool. Have your child point out letters or numbers they know on the sign, especially letters that are in their own name. Let them compare the different types of writing they see on the signs. Talk about the difference between capital and lower case letters.
- Sing a song. In the car, maybe in the store depending on the atmosphere of the store you're in. Let the children choose songs they like, but also add in some with rhyming words, ABCs or counting.
- Have the kids help you make a list before you go to the store. Some of them may even be able to help you write down some of the words. Give each person an item they are responsible for finding in the store such as a gift they will be giving a grandparent. This will help keep them on task so they don't get bored as quickly and distracted by that brand new toy that Santa already got them.
- Talk about safety in the parking lot and have them tell you some safety rules they already know such as look both ways before crossing the street.
- Get them involved in the shopping. Maybe even give them some money (unless they already have their own). Pull out the calculator (or smart phone) and have them do some math. Adding and subtracting the amounts things cost to see how much the total cost will be and how much will be left over. Have them estimate what they think the total will come to.
- Measure distances between things or how long an aisle is using footsteps. (Not recommended in a crowded store)
- Compare prices on different brands of a product by looking at the 'per unit' pricing label.
- Talk about caring and sharing. See if they can come up with a way to help people who are less fortunate. Offer to let them choose a gift to buy for Toys for Tots or some other organization or encourage them to save their own money to buy an item to donate. Have them put some change in Salvation Army's bell ringers bucket. You could even have them go through some of their old toys, clothes, etc and choose a charity to donate them to.