On blistery cold winter days, Manhattan parents often struggle with keeping their rambunctious tots entertained in apartments where space is extremely limited. As the mother of a thrill-seeking 2-year old boy, I’m always searching for new indoor venues where I can set my son free to burn off some energy. For parents in the city’s Upper East Side neighborhood, common rainy-day destinations include The Children’s Museum Of Manhattan, The Museum of Natural History, Barnes & Noble Bookstore, the local library and a variety of pay-as-you-go indoor play spaces. After having exhausted all of the aforementioned resources this winter, this weekend we piled into the car and drove to The Westchester, the county’s premier shopping experience and home to some of my favorite retailers. What could have easily been a series of unfortunate and embarrassing meltdowns with a toddler and infant was actually an enjoyable afternoon for our whole family. Below I will share some easily applied strategies that will help to ensure your shopping day with the kids is also stress-free and delightful.
Put Them To Work
We all have that one mommy friend whose toddler sits peacefully in a shopping cart while his/her mother leisurely shops. Not my kid! Like most 2-year-old’s, my toddler requires constant entertainment and demands immediate gratification. Boredom is our main source of behavioral issues while in public, so giving him an active role in shopping makes him less likely to seek out mischief and lessens the likelihood of any meltdowns. Because he is also extremely independent and loves a challenge, he really enjoys whatever tasks I ask him to complete. Whether it be finding socks of a certain color or grabbing an item from a shelf within his reach, it keeps him busy and gives him an enormous sense of accomplishment. At the Westchester, one of his favorite projects was throwing a few coins into the water fountain and making a wish for us. He loved being Mommy’s little helper.
A trip to the mall is generally viewed as an indulgence for Mom, but should really be considered as mutually beneficial for both Mom and babies. Here’s why – shopping presents a unique opportunity for the practical application of basic arithmetic and other everyday skills. “If we buy 2 pairs of shoes, how many shoes in total will we have? One, two, three, four…” Math is everywhere in a store and the lessons can become more complex as the kids grow. “If we buy 3 barrettes and give one to a friend, how many barrettes will we have left?” A fun game I play with my toddler is finding items of a specific shape as we walk through a store. Kids can also practice reading price tags and comparing the cost of different items. With my infant I focus more on introducing colors and exposure to vocabulary words, but I’m always looking out for those teachable moments.
After combing through the racks at Neiman Marcus, what 2-year-old wouldn’t need a break? I suggest strategically planning shopping trips around either playgrounds or amusement centers as a way of rewarding good behavior and allowing them to burn off some energy after all of their “hard work.” Physical activity also lengthens my son’s attention span and helps him sleep better at night. Fortunately for us, The Westchester had just revealed a brand new interactive play area complete with colossal step-and-play keyboard, fluorescently lit Magna-tile station, wall-mounted bead mazes and a baby-friendly arena with soft, colorful gym equipment. My son had so much fun in this play area and can’t wait for his next shopping adventure at The Westchester!
Kids sure do work up an appetite (even from a smallish spending spree) and stopping to refuel is critical. Incorporating a fun dining experience into a busy shopping day is an effective method to keep kids distracted and happy while simultaneously providing parents an opportunity to relax. Stopping for lunch also breaks up the day and can actually extend your shopping trip and your toddler’s patience. Mariposa, the newly remodeled restaurant at Neiman Marcus Westchester, serves sumptuous New American cuisine in a fine-dining atmosphere. The sophisticated eatery is surprisingly kid-friendly and offers a traditional children’s menu. As soon as we entered, the waitstaff were warm and welcoming and quickly supplied my son with crayons, paper, and juice. Our waitress was extremely patient and understanding and eagerly brought clean spoons to my daughter as she repeatedly dropped them on the floor. Mariposa was the perfect backdrop to our lovely laid-back lunch!
While none of these strategies are foolproof, their execution will almost always buy you at least a few more minutes to peruse the shoe department in peace. Children react well to positive reinforcement, so be sure to praise them for even the smallest good behaviors. With a little planning, patience, and realistic expectations, a trip to the mall can be enjoyable excursion for the whole family.