Tis the season when I start looking up city wide garage sale dates and putting them on my calendar. It’s kind of like ordering seeds for spring while the snow is still blowing during winter. It’s the anticipation, the promise of beautiful weather and good deals ahead. But even if you have the inkling to go searching for yard sales this spring and summer, you’re a MOM. The thought of going from yard to yard (filled with kids toys) with your darlings in tow is enough to send the bravest of moms back to bed. So here is a guide on how to garage sale WITH kids.
Not gonna lie, I’d much rather go out to the sales by myself, but sometimes that’s just not possible. I’ve been taking the kids to yard sales since they were a few weeks old. No, it’s not the EASIEST thing I’ve ever done, but it certainly is doable. Point of reference, I have a four and two year old that I take with me.
Here’s what I’ve done to make going to garage sales with kids possible and fun.
- Take it slow and have realistic expectations
You’re with kids…going to strangers garages…garages often filled with fun toys!!!!! It has the potential of being a disaster. If you’re just starting out on the whole garage sale game (and even if you’ve been at it a while), take it slowly. This is going to be a learning experience for you AND your kids. Don’t try to hit every.single.sale in two hours.
As for the realistic expectations, you know your kids best. Some sales they might do great, some sales are total meltdowns. It’s OK. We’ve all been there. It might take practice, but the rewards will be worth it.
- Make a yard sale plan
I do this with or without kids. Sometimes it’s fun to just drive around and see what you can find. With kids, not so much fun to randomly drive around. Take some time the night before and look up on Facebook Marketplace, gsalr.com or even Craigslist the sales around you. Pick the ones that look interesting and make a list of address, time it starts and what interested you. Also, make a shopping list of what you’re looking for. Just like grocery shopping. Be specific. Get in. Get out. Go home.
- Pack treats!!!!
I can’t emphasize this one enough. At least 3 different snacks, toys, a special kids audio story or movie are allllll necessary. And dole them out sparingly. Tell them “after we go to this sale, you get_____ in the car.”
- Plan your morning the night before
The earlier you get out to garage sales, the better chance you have at getting the good stuff. Garage salers are no-holds-barred kind of people. They take this stuff seriously, which means they don’t sleep in waiting for other people to beat them to the deals. No, I’m not going to wake my kids up super early, but I will wake them up by 7:00. (And if you have naturally early risers, all the better!) I have packed the car the night before with all the treats (and gear like baby carrier). They will have slept in their clothes for the day, and so all we need to do is change diapers/go potty and get in the car. Breakfast is dry cereal or fruit in the car (already packed before I wake them up).
- Involve the kids in the process
You are going to be thrilled when you find a good deal and take it home. Your kids are the same. Come up with something they’re looking for or something they can help you find. As a kid, I was always on the hunt for books. My nephew searches for micro machine cars. I’m not all about hauling home a bunch of toys they don’t need, but giving the kids a goal makes it a game and gives them a purpose.
- Leave the kids in the car when possible
Now before you get onto me, yes,I am a loving mother who protects her children. I don’t leave them in the car when it’s hot or in an unsafe situation. But I will pull up right in front of the driveway (against garage sale etiquette, but I’m not caring in this situation), run up to take a quick look around and get back asap. All the while, I’m 20 feet away max. This is what I do 75% of the time.
- Go with a friend
If you have a friend with or without kids who wants an adventure, take them along with you! You can take turns sitting in the car with the kids.
- Have conversation with your kids
Depending on their ages, TALK with your kids about what you’re doing and what they need to do. Do they have money to spend or not? Are they looking for something specific? Even if they are not buying anything, I remind the kids they have ____ time to play with the toys, and then we’re going to say “bye bye to the toys and go look for more at the next sale.” Sometimes, I actually wait for them to have a few minutes to play before we leave. Yes, sometimes they have a hard time, but overall, they do really well when we have to leave.
- Let them take a small toy to the sale with them
Now, this can be a bother to keep track of, but I’ve had good success at letting my toddler hold onto a small toy while going to the sale. He has something that’s his and that he can take back with him to the car.
- Pack the right gear
What is necessary for your kids at this stage in life? Baby carrier? Bottle? Stroller? Heavens, when my toddlers are potty training, I even stick our potty chair in the back. I reeeeally don’t want to stop every 30 minutes for a gas station bathroom.
- Have a treat at the end of sales
Ok, this might depend on how you feel about sugar, but it’s our tradition to stop for a donut. I’ve had a friend who tried to do the donut thing during…don’t do donuts during – they’re sticky and hype up the kids. Maybe you’re treat would be a stop at the park or lunch at a fast food restaurant. Just something small to reward all their hard work and make the morning fun.
So yes, going to garage sales with kids is not only possible, it can be FUN! As with anything, it takes a little planning, a little patience, a little practice. But the rewards are finding good deals on things you need and teaching your kids valuable lessons of saving money, patience for finding a deal and making memories together.
Tell me in the comments below how YOU go to yard sales with your kids.