Kids: Don't Leave Home Without Them
Shopping teaches kids crucial real-life skills: interacting with others (such as the admiring sales staff) and paying for things you buy, says Powers.
■ How to pull it off: Go when your child is fully rested - after a nap or in the morning. Weekdays between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. are the least crowded hours, says Jennifer Brown, a personal shopper at Macy's West in San Francisco. Before you go, map out kid-friendly lunch spots where you can take a break, or bring a (nonmessy!) snack from home and rest on a bench. And get your child involved: Darlene Link, 32, a clinical psychologist in King of Prussia, PA, allows her daughter to try on clothing, and teaches her what "on sale" and "cheap" mean. "It keeps her brain turning," says Link.
■ Biggest saboteurs: Even a mall filled with stuff can get tiresome to a kid. To buy more shopping time, promise a small reward. Say, "Once Mommy finds the skirt, we'll look for a Hello Kitty store." Says Link, "It's a lesson in patience and how things work. 'I help Mommy with this now, she'll help me do what I want later.'"
Sweet Music to Little Ears
At concerts, "Children will hear sounds they want to make themselves, and see instruments they are interested in," says Bonnie Simon, cocreator of the children's symphonic music series Stories in Music, from Magic Maestro Music. "And if it's a great concert, a child will be touched to the very depth of his soul."
■ How to pull it off: To start, try events at community centers, high schools, or churches. Avoid concert-hall performances - which can be overwhelming - until your child turns 6. Kids do best when they're familiar with what's coming, so show him pictures of the instruments he'll see, and listen to a recording of the music before the event. Once you're there, choose an aisle seat for a clear view - and a quick escape if needed, says Jim Joseph of the New Victory Theater, a performance venue for families in New York City. And stay near the middle of the auditorium. "Kids feel detached from the action when they sit far back," says Joseph. "Up front, the height of the stage might block their view."
■ Biggest saboteurs: Little kids often get scared of the darkness when the lights dim in the concert hall, says Joseph. Arrive early to allow your child to grow accustomed to the space, and explain what's happening when the lights go down.