Hauling the children along on a garage sale excursion can either be a blessing or a chore. It's a chance to spend some focused time with them, at least during the trips between sales, but once you arrive it can quickly turn into a nightmare -- especially if they have any rowdy tendencies. How can you keep your children happy and calm?
Start by proactively setting a budget for them. If you want, you can set aside some money for toy purchases or books, or you can allow them to bring along some of their own money from allowances or small jobs. Either way, set a limit. This will prevent heartache on both sides -- for you, when they come begging for more and you really can't afford it; and for them, when they get home and realize they don't really want the old action figures they just blew all their hard-earned money on.
Before you leave the house, check to make sure you've had a chance to pack snacks and drinks; if you're planning to stay out during lunchtime, bring some sandwiches and fruit too. Hungry kids are the most persistent, and often the most cranky. Boxes of raisins, granola bars, bags of washed grapes, and apple slices will keep little mouths occupied and happy along the trail. Taking food and drinks with you stops you from spending money on unhealthy snacks.
As you shop, let your children be a part of the process. Let older ones total up your purchases for you, and let little ones carry some smaller things. Giving kids tasks makes them feel important and reminds them that they aren't just along for the ride -- they're a part of the family, too. And yard sales can be a great place to teach various life skills your child won't receive from school, such as financial math, bartering, and self-control in regards to purchases.
Another way to keep your kids busy is to challenge them to find things. If you know what you're looking for ahead of time -- maybe a frying pan, a set of dishtowels, or a certain DVD -- send them out into the sale to hunt it down. Ask them to report back to you in a certain amount of time (a great opportunity to work on time skills!), with or without the item. Or, if you've brought Fido along, have your kids watch the pet.
At all times, keep your children nearby. If there is more than one garage sale going on in a cul-de-sac or on a street, don't allow them to run ahead and check out the next one. It's unfortunate but true that children are easily led away by a tempting toy in the hands of a no-good stranger, so having your kids stick by your side is a wise move.
How have you handled your children during garage sale season? Shout out here in the comments, or stop by GarageSaleCow.com and share your tips with the world's fastest-growing online garage sale community.