How to Shop at a Thrift Store with Kids

by Crystal Collins on February 5, 2013

in Frugal Living, Parenting

How to Shop at a Thrift Store with Kids Main How to Shop at a Thrift Store with Kids

We love shopping at thrift stores and getting great bargains for our family’s frugal lifestyle.  Shopping with children brings it’s own challenges and rewards.  Let’s talk about some tips that have worked for me.

Teaching Value

One thing I love about taking my children shopping is that it gives them a sense of the value of a dollar.  They have learned to recognize that their money goes much further at a thrift store than a retail store.  They are able to buy very nice gifts for their family and friends at a fraction of the price of regular stores.  This brings them so much more joy knowing that they can use their own money to give to others that they love.

Scheduled Breaks

I schedule shopping breaks to give my children something to look forward to.  I’ll let them know that once I’m finished looking at a certain section then we’ll go visit the toys or books for a while.  I don’t give time limits because all the kids don’t have a concept of time.  They are able to wait more patiently when they know that there is a free time break afterward.

How to Shop at a Thrift Store with Kids 1 How to Shop at a Thrift Store with Kids

Try Before You Buy

Thrift stores offer the unique experience of seeing how your child likes a toy before you buy it.  I watch which toys my kids gravitate toward and make note of the types of playthings they enjoy.  This helps me purchase toys (used or new) that I know they’ll like and play with.  When the children walk past and ignore a toy that I thought they would be ecstatic about, that turns out to be invaluable market research.

Entertainment on the Road

When the children are still in the stroller and cart, I will usually travel to the toy section first thing upon arrival.  I’ll choose a toy that they can play with while they’re safely strapped in.  I let the child take the item with us as we browse the boring, grown-up areas.  Then I’ll intermittently go back to the toy section to put that toy back and get a different item for the next leg of the trip.  This not only keeps the child occupied but also helps reinforce the idea that we’re not buying everything we touch.  We can shop and touch and play and browse without purchasing a thing and even have fun in the process.

How to Shop at a Thrift Store with Kids 2 How to Shop at a Thrift Store with Kids

I Can See Your Toes

When the kids are very young I always take them in the dressing room with me.  However, when they are older and the dressing rooms are smaller, I have them stand right outside the door and put one of their feet right under the opening at the bottom.  If at any point, I can’t account for all the feet, I immediately come out and address the issue.  After a while, it can get to looking like a crazy game of twister, but I really like the visual assurance that my kids are present and safe.

Out of Harm’s Way

I usually try to keep young children in a stroller or cart until they can be reasonably obedient.  After that we practice not touching things in the clothing section.  We progress to more difficult challenges like coming away from the toys when called and placing books neatly back on the shelf.  I generally avoid the glass and breakables aisles until the kids are excellent at not touching or they can pay for broken items themselves.

How to Shop at a Thrift Store with Kids 3 How to Shop at a Thrift Store with Kids

What are your best tips for shopping thrift stores with kids?  I’d love to hear what works for you!  Please leave a comment below.

beth bio How to Shop at a Thrift Store with Kids


Print This Post Print This Post
*This site uses affiliate links within blog posts. Read full disclosure here.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Patra February 12, 2013 at 8:42 pm

This posting made me laugh. I’m addicted to shopping at thrift stores. Initally, it was a challenge with my toddler. After a few weeks of melt downs, I slowly developed the same strategies you post. We head for toys FIRST! Now my 3 year old and I have a great time.
The only problem I have now is keeping people away from my shopping cart when I take him to the potty!:)


Wendy February 28, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Awesome Tips! Having two kids Girl (14) Boy (16) and 6 week old baby girl , we lived in the thrift stores when they were younger.Now they beg me everytime so they can spend my play money.. .Sometimes I have to sneak out of the house just so they won’t try to follow along because they want everything they see…LOL! I give them allowances only when they take care of home, school and other personal responsibilities. I truly love shopping with them thier soo much fun!

Stop by and share Great Advice!!


KC @ genxfinance April 8, 2013 at 3:35 am

Yes, thrift stores are fun and you can save a lot of money from buying there but it can get a whole lot messy when you are with your kids. These are great ways to keep them occupied, entertained, and out of the way.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: