Thursday, October 13, 2005

Just One More Toy, Please!

By Christina VanGinkel

With toys no longer contained to just toy store shelves, or even to a specific department within a store, what is a parent to do when their child begs for every toy that comes into view? For example, cereal aisles are a major obstacle for making it through a grocery store, with hang tabs displaying everything from miniature doodle pads to tiny dolls. Hardware stores are even getting into the game of selling toys by creating displays of tot sized chainsaws and leaf blowers aimed directly at the up and coming toddler who wants the same 'toys' Daddy has. Let us not forget the beauty salon that was once a classic spot to take your toddler to show off her brand new dress while you had your hair or nails done. Now it is the spot to avoid, as they are marketing mini makeup kits and doll heads for your toddler to play dress up on.

It is still possible to take your toddler shopping with you, without having to play the big mean adult by saying no at every aisle you walk down, or store you walk in. Start with even the smallest toddler by getting them involved in the shopping before you even head out the door. Sit down to make a list and hand them their own grocery sheet and a crayon, explaining to them what you are doing, and that they should draw their own list. You will be pleasantly surprised at how even the youngest toddler can grasp the aspect of making a list for the store. When it is time to go, make sure they have their own list, and make sure they ride in a cart. There is nothing worse than trying to keep track of a toddler while you are trying to shop. Put them in the cart, use the built in seatbelts, and if they will not stay in the cart, as hard as it may be to do the first few times until they grasp that you really mean it, leave the store if they do not stay put. Stay out of the toy aisles in stores that have specific departments just for them, and when you come into contact with hanging tabs in the regular grocery section, be firm about telling them no. Never use a toy purchase as a bribe. I know our parents did with us, but back then, the abundance of things to purchase was not at every single turn in the store.

It is possible to overload a child to the point that 'getting' a toy is the thrill for the child, not 'having' it. That is what you want to avoid. When you do purchase a toy for them, get down at the child's level when you get home and actually play with the child and the new possession. Show them how you expect them to care for it, and put it away. Too often, we just imagine that our kids will know how to do these things, and forget the simple facts that if no one shows them, how will they know. Remember that the best way to teach a child not to ask for a toy every time they enter a store is not to get into the habit in the first place. If you already have, then try a slow reversal, talking to your children about why you have decided not to let them get everything their little hearts desire. It may be a bit tough to start, but your child's behavior, and your pocketbook, will be much happier in the end.

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