Children often enjoy the party atmosphere of garage sales, but sometimes you'll end up with a cranky carload of youngsters who don't want to be saling any longer. If this happens, it's time to turn yard sale shopping into a grand adventure! Young children, in particular, will love to utilize their imaginations to make the hours pass more quickly, turning every box of books into a treasure chest. Older kids, too, can benefit from some of these playful turns of garage sale fun.
Start calling the garage sale expedition a safari as soon as you leave the house. Inform your youngsters that they have to observe the animals they spot along the way and record their behavior in their field notebooks (provide them with small dollar store notebooks and pencils before you head out). Give them a mission: collecting a certain number of dog species, spotting at least twenty birds, or getting a squirrel to eat some crumbs they toss to it (our squirrels love vanilla wafers).
What about making the sale into a treasure hunt? Choose a very specific item -- an action figure, or a book title, or a specific color of V-necked t-shirt, for example -- and task your kids with finding it by the end of the day. When you arrive at a sale, they'll hopefully run ahead and hunt through the merchandise, happily distracted while you go about your business. If they do find the item, offer to buy it for them (this means you might want to choose something that they'll enjoy keeping!).
An alternative to the treasure hunt is the scavenger hunt. For this one, start out with a list of random items -- 15-20 is a good amount -- and give one to each of your children. They then have to search for all of the items on the list to check them off; the child with the most when the shopping day is over wins a prize of some sort. Make sure you don't put fragile items on the list, in case your youngsters are inclined to handle the items without permission.
Older children may enjoy a spending competition. Give your kids a small amount of money ($5 or so is good), the same amount for each child. Their task is then to buy the most things for the least amount of money. Encourage them to haggle and bargain for the items; this will give them a chance to handle money as well as deal in a constructive, safe manner with strangers.
Don't forget to pick up a prize or two while you're doing your shopping, so you can reward the winner of these games at the end of the day. Before you know it, your kids will be clamoring to go with you next weekend!
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