Shopping with children is one of those unavoidable things. Whether you shop daily, once a week, on weekdays or on weekends, you have to shop to keep life, limb and family together. You can’t always leave your children at home and neither should you. The only way for children to become good shoppers is to learn through positive shopping experiences with their parents.

We need to teach our children well by turning an ordinary experience like shopping into an extraordinary memory. Busy parents today spend much less time with their children than they used to and this means connecting emotionally and making fun out of nothing wherever you are, even if that is while pushing your child/children and your shopping in a trolley!

Children need to learn the rules of engagement in the early years. I’m talking 1 – 5 year olds here, most specifically. If you get it right early on, they will grow into human beings who are actually fun to be with in a shopping mall.  The foundations though, start with you and your own level of emotional presence. I promise you that if you take children shopping and your mind is far away, they will find ways to bring you into the present, and often these will be publicly embarrassing such as a temper tantrum, whinging, pulling something off a shelf or hiding from you. So, you need to be as focused and on purpose as possible whether you are doing grocery shopping or the Christmas marathon gift shop.

To make shopping with children a more pleasant and positive experience for parents on the run, I have come up with 10 Commandments for taking young children to shopping centres

10 Commandments for taking children to shopping centres

  1. Avoid suicide/rush hour
    • Suicide hour is not called suicide hour for nothing. When children are tired, hungry and thirsty after a long day they are going to be cranky in the shops at the exact same time as you are also short of energy and creative solutions
    • If you have to shop, then make it quick
    • These are the moments when you dangle rewards like a chocolate milk or a sucker for eating in the car afterwards
  2. Make shopping an outing after naptime
    • A well-rested baby or toddler will be a much more pleasant shopper
    • A change of scenery is always nice for children as a boredom buster
    • Remember that seeing the world from the vantage point of a trolley is different to being on the floor
    • This is an opportunity to talk your child clever and connect emotionally – when you are pushing a trolley you are only aN arm’s length away
  3. Work the visit to the shops into your child’s normal routine
    • After a sleep and a snack, hit the shops
    • If it is going to be a long shop be prepared for your child to fall asleep in their pram or in the trolley (pack the blanket and dummy)
  4. Never take a hungry child shopping
    • Feed them before you arrive at the shops to avoid nagging
    • It’s the same when going to a restaurant where you have to wait for food
    • Hungry children play up because, under the age of five they confuse tired, hungry, thirsty and bored and they don’t have the words to describe how they feel exactly
    • If it is a marathon shop, make sure you are in the food court or restaurant area with older children when lunchtime comes around, or near the shopping centre Family Room if they are younger (see Cresta’s revolutionary new Family Room concept situated in the fast food court next door to Toy Kingdom for a fine example of an oasis for parents and children to escape to)
  5. Always keep something to eat and drink on hand
    • We are always prepared for this with babies but not when we get beyond the nappy bag stage
    • Always have a bottle of water and something to snack on
    • It keeps your child busy and distracted from having to be strapped in and contained
  6. Hunt in pairs where possible
    • An adult shopping companion makes all the difference whether you have a baby and can’t push a pram and trolley at the same time, or are shopping with multiple children.
    • Two pairs of hands and two set of eyes are much better than one.
  7. Plan your outing strategically so that you are in the right place at the right time
    • Know your shopping centre layout
    • You don’t want to be caught on one end and then realise you actually need a store on the opposite end
    • With the size of shopping malls today it can take a long time to get from one end to the other which might just push your child over the edge
    • Wear comfortable shoes
  8. Take a break and recharge if it is a marathon shop
    • Know where the Family Room or a quieter space is and make sure you are in the vicinity when you need to take a breather, change a nappy, feed a baby or toddler
    • I am blown away by the thought that has gone into the new Family Room facility at Cresta Shopping Centre where parents can check in for up to 45 minutes in this oasis of tranquility away from the hustle and bustle, including being able to microwave food and sit your child in a high chair, or play with toys on a play mat next to the toy box – see pictures below
  9. Set the scene/rules/boundaries before you arrive
    • Do scenario planning like a good CEO
    • Explain to your children where you are going and what you are going to do
    • You are creating a blueprint of predictability for them that makes them feel more secure
    • Tell them they are going to sit in the trolley, that you are going to race around the shops at lighting speed like their favourite TV character (thinking Lightening McQueen) and that when you are finished they will be able to have…….(a ride on, or an ice cream, for example) or go to……. (visit the toy store, or pet shop, for example)
    • If you are going to allow them to buy something then tell them what that limit will be in advance
    • Boundaries include children sitting in trolleys and prams and not walking around until they are old enough
    • When they are old enough and you have a bit more time and eyes in the back of your head, they can walk with you and learn how to stick with you while you shop
    • Teach children about stranger danger and personal security
  10. Be the boss
    • There is never a leadership vacuum
    • If you don’t lead, your children will
    • Tone of voice is very important
    • Keep it low and firm
    • Be calm and assertive
    • Be upbeat

Happy shopping! I would love to  hear about your shopping success strategies. Drop me an email at

Pictures of the new Family Room facilities at Cresta Shopping Centre where you can take a breather in this beautiful oasis