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Do's and Don'ts for Christmas Shopping With a Toddler in Tow

Though you swore to yourself last year that you’d get all this year’s gift buying done by Halloween, it’s already well into December and all you’ve bought so far is a chew toy for your dog and a salad shooter for Aunt Peggy. And now not only are you faced with the daunting task of ticking off the rest of the names on that gift list, but you have to do it in a sea of other shoppers while waiting in mile-long lines during the crazy holiday shopping season. But even better (worse), you have to get it all done with a toddler in tow. Oh mama, don’t despair. It can be done. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for Holiday Shopping with your toddler.

RELATED: How Parents Shop, Spend and Tip During the Holidays

1. DO start out early in the day.

The early bird gets the slightly less crowded shopping mall. The earlier you head out to shop, the less people you'll have to deal with, compete with and push through in the stores. You're also more likely to avoid the junior high-aged kids sweeping through the mall, seven girls across, moving for no one, and pausing only for a selfie at Claire’s.

2. DO feed the cub first.

Make sure your little one is fed before you go—unless you love waiting in line at Panda Express for 30 minutes for orange chicken and a fortune cookie while trying to wrangle a small bucking bronco shaped like a human. Meanwhile, that half-human, half-horse creature keeps elbow jabbing the guy in front of you and kneeing the lady behind you while they try to calmly sample the Beijing Beef.

3. DON’T go at nap time.

If you do that, you are writing your fate with a Sharpie. And don’t go at your nap time either, meaning don’t go if you are already in a pissy mood. Shopping with a toddler won’t turn that frown upside down, champ.

4. DON’T take her to the mall play yard.

This will only lead to 1. You leaving the play yard five minutes later with a crying toddler because some annoying 9-year-old, who was way too big to be in there, crane kicked her in the head when he jumped from the turtle to the kangaroo. 2. You spending at least 30 minutes chasing, shouting and lunging for your toddler who does not want to leave and then throws a killer tantrum when you finally catch her. 3. You getting cuffed by mall security and hauled off on a Segway because you tried to fight the parent of the 9-year-old who rolled her eyes at you when you confronted her about her Karate kid. Trust me, though it seems like a good idea at the time, you’ll regret it. Besides, your little angel will have no fun eating fruit cake with mouth and foot disease.

5. DON’T be too proud to bribe.

You’ve got to get 14 people crossed off your gift list before your toddler calls it a day for you. She’s like a ticking time bomb, really. And there's no way of knowing how long the fuse is. So what I’m saying is, bribe away. Guarantee yourself a good 15 minutes of uninterrupted shopping time at Target by getting her a bag of popcorn as soon as you enter the doors. Eek out 10 more minutes at Macy’s by giving her a bag of fruit snacks. Or hell, just buy her a toy at the Disney Store if she lets mommy go to two more stores. Sure, you’ll be out $50 for a Queen Elsa flashlight that she’ll use to burn out her retinas by shining it in her eyes, but you made it to three more stores and knocked four more things off your list. And also, New Year’s and a resolution to not bribe your children with toys and candy is just around the corner.

Pack your bag with stickers, a coloring book, and OK, let’s just get real—bring your friggin’ iPad.

6. DO wear running shoes.

So you can literally run from store to store to make the most of that sweet, short and slightly eerie time when your toddler is just sitting there content in her stroller.

7. DON’T go into See's Candies

It’s not worth it. Unless they are giving out samples of the caramel-covered marshmallows. Then, it’s totally worth it. But be ready to go home right after that. This is because you slipped up and also let your toddler have one of those caramel-covered marshmallows, and you must dip up out of the shopping scene before the sugar kicks in. But mostly because you ended up buying $75 worth of Nuts and Chews, and that right there told you it’s time to quit shopping now.

8. DO have a game plan.

Map out your stops. Carry your gift list with you. Have in mind what you intend to buy. Get shit done! Don’t waste time. This is not a picnic!

9. DON’T go into Sephora

Unless you want to leave with your 2-year-old looking like she just did a color run or be asked to leave because she’s licked every eye shadow sample within reach. Really, DO NOT enter this store with a toddler!

10. DO entertain her.

Pack your bag with stickers, a coloring book and OK let’s just get real—bring your friggin’ iPad. And make sure it’s good and charged.

11. DON’T fool yourself.

You will not even come close to finishing off your gift list. Just aim at getting one gift bought. And you may even have to leave before you buy even one gift. Toddlerhood is full of nervous breakdowns—I mean surprises.

RELATED: 10 Parenting Advice We Actually Want to Hear

12. DO buy a bottle of Pinot Noir to be waiting for you at home.

You’ve gotta take care of yourself.


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