December time is here which means school is out, leave has been taken and festive displays are popping up everywhere (although some have been up since September).

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there is no avoiding the colourful decorations, bright lights, and perhaps most daunting of all, the toy displays!

I loathe going to the shopping malls at this time of the year as it is inevitably met with the ‘I want that for Christmas’, ‘please can we put this on my Christmas list’, ‘will Father Christmas bring me one of these?’ It is enough to drive you mad.

Over the last few years I have tried to master the art of December shopping, first with one child and now with two. While I don’t think I have been completely successful yet, I have found that my little ones are getting better and I have, so far, managed to avoid any tantrums or festive season related meltdowns (touch wood).

In case you haven’t been as lucky or if you are interested, here are some of the things that I have tried and that have worked for me.

The pre-season prep
One of the things that drives me absolutely crazy at this time of the year is how much emphasis is placed on children getting the latest and greatest toy or gadget. The reality is that most of us just cannot afford it (nor am I prepared to buy them for that matter, even if I can). When the festive season starts I like to try to remind my girls that it isn’t all about toys and gifts and that there are a great deal of children out there who don’t get anything at Christmas. I try to teach them that we are very lucky to be in the position that we are to give gifts and as such, it is important to give back to those who aren’t. Every year the girls and I pack up two Santa Shoe boxes (one for each of them) as a way of giving back. I find that while my youngest daughter doesn’t quite understand yet, my eldest is starting to and knows that it makes her happy to give and make others happy. We are getting there.


Holiday activities set up in some shopping centres can be a life saver.

The pre-shopping prep
When we have to go to a shopping mall, I like to brief the girls. I tell them what we need, what shops we are going to and how long it will take. I find that when I do this it is a lot easier to avoid going into stores where there are a million toys on display or buying things that aren’t on the list. And, while I know this might be controversial to some, if my girls are good and don’t whine that they want to go here or there and such, I allow them to pick one small sweet or chocolate on the way out as a reward. That way my girls know that if they behave they get a little something and the whole trip is a lot less stressful all around.


The pre shopping prep and snack in the car.

Get your little ones involved
I find that if I involve my girls with the shopping by asking them to hold the list; telling them what items to retrieve; letting them choose between two options etc… that they are far more engaged with me. Being more engaged with me means that they aren’t nearly as tempted by all the festive displays and distractions.

Keep them fed and happy
As you all probably know, a hungry child is a grumpy child. For occasions such as this I make sure that I always have a bag full of snacks and water in my bag. I usually take a variety including yoghurt (the squeezy ones in tubes); pretzels; a muffin or bun; biscuits (for when I am getting desperate) and a small chocolate or sweet (for when I am really desperate). Plus, when your children are busy eating a snack it means their little hands aren’t grabbing things off the shelves.


Two small people making a break for it.

The trolley is your friend
The shopping trolley is not only for groceries, it can magically contain two small children so that you can shop without them running off, knocking over displays or picking up food off the floor and eating it (mmm tasty). Now, I know that can present a problem if you actually do need to put groceries in the trolley, however you can become a master at the push ‘n pull technique. This involves placing your children in one trolley (that you push) and then your groceries in a second trolley (that you pull behind you). Trust me, it works. Just don’t do it on a busy Saturday morning!


Successfully contained in the shopping trolley.

As I mentioned above, I haven’t completely mastered festive season shopping yet however I have found that using one or two (or even all on a single trip) really does make the whole excursion less stressful for mom, which means more enjoyable for everyone.

Good luck to all of you parents out there, the festive season with small children is not for the faint hearted!