9 Tricks to Make Back to School Shopping Fun (Rather Than a Battle!)


My daughter is an excellent shopper. She is chatty, patient with the decision-making process, and loves to try on clothes. But, that all changes when it comes to back-to-school shopping. Suddenly, there’s a whole lot more negotiation and drama then I’d like (for example, I’m afraid a swimsuit will never be an appropriate first day of school outfit, no matter how many unicorns it has on it).


Judging by the spirited debates that I’ve been hearing in the back-to-school aisles, I don’t think I’m the only one who finds shopping during this time of year to be a bit challenging. So, I’ve come to rely on these tricks to take the hassle out of back-to-school shopping – and even make it fun! Here’s to wishing that what works for me will work for you, too.

1. Get official with a clipboard. Kids love to be in charge and nothing makes a person more powerful than a clipboard, am I right? Clip their back-to-school list to a board and ask them to mark off the items they already have at home and circle the ones you’ll need to buy. Once you’re at the store, let them keep you on task by marking off what they hunt down. They’ll be so busy and focused on what they’re getting, they’ll completely forget to complain about what they’re not. Hopefully.

2. Get dressed up. My kids always act better when they’re dressed up, whether it’s a Batman costume or a fancy dress. By making a big deal of going back-to-school shopping, they start thinking of the event as special and often put on a good attitude to match. If they do have a meltdown, at least they’ll look adorable.

3. Make a day of it. Talk beforehand about how much fun it’s going to be to head to Kmart to get all their supplies. Take a look at the site ahead of time so they have an idea of what they might like to buy. Go to lunch afterwards and chat about how special it is that you get to shop together. Show off their supplies to their dad when you get home. Essentially, make it the equivalent to Disneyland without the long lines and sunburns.

4. Give them “free money.” When I think back over our in-store meltdowns they usually occur over something of great significance, like a pack of gum. I’ll have a cartload of things I’m buying the kids and they’ll invariably NEED (at very loud decibels) something they see when we go to check out, which will make me feel like I’m losing my mind because they’re already getting plenty. So, I’ve learned to avoid this mess by giving them what I call “free money” (a dollar works). They can spend it on whatever they like (candy!), and in return there’s no going off the list, no complaining, and no tantrums.

5. Listen to your kids. If they tell you they don’t like something, don’t waste your energy trying to convince them they actually do. You’ll end up with a pile of never-been-worn jumpsuits that give you hives every time that you look at them (not that I know anything about that!).

6. Decide ahead of time what’s important to you. Maybe you really want your kids to be dressed to the nines on the first day. Maybe everybody needs new shoes and everything else will need to wait. Maybe everyone only gets one Elsa themed item (oh, the drama!). Whatever it may be, let your kids know your priorities ahead of time, and then let the rest of it go. You know that they will one day eschew that Pretty Pony shirt in their first day of school photo, but that’s part of the fun of growing up.

7. Each of you gets one “no way” card. My daughter loves anything with lots and lots of ponies on it, preferably in as many colors as possible. I know she would look amazing in a romper, if she would only give it a try. So far we haven’t managed to find a middle-ground (ie. a pony romper), so we’ve developed a system where we each get one “no way” a shopping trip. I get to tell her there is “no way” I’m going to buy her a dress three sizes too small, because there isn’t one in her size; she gets to tell me “no way” will she ever wear the cutest animal print leggings in the history of the universe. It’s a good way to see how serious she is about her opinion (and to let her know how serious I am, as well!).

8. Buy supplies for kids in need. It’s a lot of fun to shop and get new things, so why not teach your kids to give back at the same time? Have them pick out a couple of extra school supplies to take to school for kids who might not be able to complete their list, or give a backpack of school supplies to a student through Kids in Need.

*This post is sponsored by Kmart. Thoughts and opinions are my own.