How to Bring the Kids and Keep Your Sanity

DEAR HOT: I love to shop, but I'm on a tight budget so I've been taking my 4-year-old son with me to avoid baby-sitting fees. It's turned one of my favorite pleasures into a nightmare. Any tips?

DEAR HOT SHOPPER: Grab a copy of "Party Shoes to School and Baseball Caps to Bed: The Parents' Guide to Kids, Clothes and Independence" by Marilise Flusser. It's jammed with ideas for making shopping almost as enjoyable for kids as for right-minded adults.

"Kids have to be rested and fed and given guidelines as to what you're going to buy before the trip," says Flusser, a New York City-based mother of two who's married to menswear designer Alan Flusser. "Without the structure of guidelines, there's room for tantrums--kids saying, 'Why can't I have this?'--and other problems.

"Going to a store, especially for a young child, is automatically overstimulating. Shopping, to most children, is work. Bring crayons and toys to keep them busy. Don't ask them to try on outfit after outfit. It's physically exhausting and makes them think something's wrong with them."

To avoid clothes fights over what kids want to wear versus what parents prefer, Flusser recommends compromising with inexpensive items such as an Addams Family T-shirt with Thing's hand (pictured; $8.99 at Sears). She observes that children, particularly preschoolers, "use clothing to experiment with emerging identity."

WHAT? NO 976?: I personally can't imagine why anybody would want to advertise an area code or an airport on a baseball cap. But caps bearing the letters LAX or SFO and the numbers 310, 415, 212 and 312 are "flying" out of Pamela Barsky The Store, the Beverly Connection boutique specializing in hip gifts.

There's also a group of caps broadcasting three-letter food choices (BLT, BBQ and PB&J;) and a batch of caps with abbreviated sayings (ETC, AOK, Q&A; and PDQ).

"People are coming in and saying 'PB&J;? What's that?' " reports Barsky, a former advertising copy writer. "I tell them peanut butter and jelly and they say, 'Oh my god, I've gotta have that.'

"I don't think there's person between 16 and 40 in L.A. who doesn't own a baseball cap. But they all have serious things like Malcolm X, or a favorite team or movie they worked on. These are blowing fun at that."

The caps are $20 and made by L.A.-based abbr., short, of course, for abbreviation. According to Barsky, non-Westsiders shouldn't be miffed that there are no hats with 213 or 818 area codes. They're being added to the line.

Wondering where the boys from "Wayne's World" scored the bimbo wig for Garth? Write to Beth Ann Krier, Hot to Shop, The Times, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053. Questions may also be faxed to (213) 237-4712.

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