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I’m going to start calling all my posts “Stay”

My Works for Me Wednesday offering:

Crowd control. Herding kittie cats. Roundin’ them up rawhide style. What works for keeping kiddos close when out in public? mentally add three more kids

I like to get out of the house. Often that means taking the five kiddos with me. Organization is not only appreciated by fellow shoppers and zoo animal gawkers, it is imperitive for safety and sanity.

At the suggestion of Heather the Laundress who happens to be a mom of six, I will share what works for me when public appearances are necessary.

Our children have assigned spots next to grocery carts and the stroller. The two oldest flank the rear on either side, the two middle kids walk directly in front of the older kids, and our youngest either rides (if we are using the stroller) or walks in between a set of siblings if we are pushing a grocery cart. If it’s too crowded he “helps” me push the cart by walking in between me and the basket. I encourage them to hold the cart or stroller with one hand, but it isn’t a strict rule. As long as they walk along side, I am happy.

When we enter a store, I say “places!” a la Fantasy Island’s very own Mr. Rourke when the planeload of B-list celebrities lands. Watching the kids line up with precison makes the trail boss in me think of Mr. Rourke’s other command: “Smiles!” It wasn’t hard to teach them to do this because kids are inherently like all explorers—they like to plant their flag and claim dominion over their little slice of anything.

When the spaces are more wide open, I am more generous with granting the freedom to wander. I don’t always aspire to being the shopping version of the Von Trapp family—choreographed and in matching sweaters. I have boys who don’t always appreciate the complex scent of a mall hallway (leather + pretzel cheese). One trick I’ve learned to keep them organized when on the loose is to borrow phrases from the world of transportation.

If the boys get too far ahead, I say “red light stop!” and whaddaya know? They stop. When we catch up I say “green light go!” and the trip to Cinnabon can continue. I was inspired to try this one day when I realized the boys were pretending to be cars driving on a strip of colored tile. Using their language and imagery they can grasp has helped tremendously.

Both these methods of keeping kiddos close and mindful of their surroundings exploit what they are naturally inclined to appreciate—their own special place in the world (even if it happens to be by a grocery cart) and their imaginations.

14 comments to I’m going to start calling all my posts “Stay”

  • I am LOVING that cowboychild on the side of the cart. Yeee HA! Let the shopping begin! Is the smaller child eating a banana? Doesn’t that mother know that when it comes to bananas, you pay by weight? Banana stealer.

    Great idea Gretchen. The red light/green light is good stuff. I think the kids would respond to that a lot better than my normal “Caedmon! Get back here right now, and let go of your brother!”

  • Now, mine are older (12 and 13), so I need to figure out to to get them to remember “When I send you and your brother together to the other side of the store, alone, out of my sight, where I can’t watch you …. please come back together, don’t give me a heart attack, no it’s not funny to ditch him and then have him paged over the intercom, and watch me cry and panic and and and.”

    Any ideas?

  • We do this too! I thought I was the only one who had designated spots for my 3 kids. Boy it makes all the difference. Every once in a while we have to retrain but it still works wonderfully and makes it so I can take them easily to places most parents wouldn’t venture to take theirs. 🙂

  • Okay, now that I’m LOL at Heth’s comment…

    Great ideas Gretchen! I have only 2 kiddos, but it’s amazing how out of control even two boys can get! I like the red light/green light thing, too. I’ve definitely figured out that plain ol’ “STOP!!!” doesn’t seem to do the trick.

  • An excellent tip, yet again. Will have to file that one away should kiddos 2-6 ever make an appearance.

  • This is very helpful for me, as we are working on #4 and I am not about to stay stuck inside ALL the time… we have to go out in the real world every now & then (read: Target!)

  • Very good tip. I always need help in this area.

  • You are so clever. We pretend that the grocery cart is a garbage truck and the kids hang off the side, hoisting the “trash” (groceries) over the side.

  • These are brilliant ideas!

  • I had the assigned places also, when mine were younger. Now that my older two are teenagers…well, I just avoid taking them with me. My bill is always double what it would be if I bring them along!

  • I love it. I hope I remember it when the time comes.

  • Kudos on your great system!

    I was in JCPenny yesterday and heard an announcement on the loudspeaker about a lost child. As they were giving the description of this 2-year-old, I looked down and who did I see gazing up at me with a big ol’ grin on his face, but said munchkin. I scooped him up and headed to the nearest register, waiting with him until his family materialized from the shoe department on the other end of the store. There were 3 teenagers, two parents and a grandpa. You’d think that many people could work together to keep track of one little tike!

    Maybe I should send them to you for lessons?

  • We had “stroller rules” and “cart rules” and reviewed our “store rules” every time we went shopping when the boys were little. They are still little-ish, but we only review “store rules” (Keep your hands to yourself, Use kind and quiet voices, We don’t ask for things) but at this point they have much more freedom of movement. Of course, there favorite is two in the basket, one in the baby seat, and one riding on the front. Which I allow and find to be fun, too!

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