Back-to-School Shopping Can Be Fun!

I almost hate to admit this but as a tween and teen, I was a total and complete mall rat. We hung out at the mall all the time, trying on clothes and meeting friends. We aged up, and moved on to working at the mall. Then I got old and jaded and started avoiding the mall, taking kids to the mall, hardly ever — to never! Hawthorn Mall invited me and my four kids (ages preschool through middle school) to experience back-to-school shopping together at the mall.

back-to-school hawthorn mall

I know, it sounds overwhelming, but do you know what? It wasn’t any worse than trying to squeeze in buying the needed school clothes shopping in between shopping for groceries and diapers. In fact, it was actually FUN! We went in with the sole purpose of getting the clothes and shoes we needed for back-to-school. There was no trying to remember if we had milk or needed eggs, and no one was asking for toys or bikes or anything else not on the list. We planned a day to focus on each child and what they needed, and we hung out together doing nothing else. I reminded me of how much I looked forward to that fall outing with my own mom every year.

We found the mall to be comparable in price to shopping where we buy our groceries, but with many more options and styles. My children’s personalities shown through and they got to pick out what they wanted from a much larger selection. Here’s how we did from preschool through middle school:

back-to-school hawthorn mall

First Day of Preschool

Our school doesn’t have a uniform policy, but my husband and I discovered, nearly a decade ago, that many morning fights could be ended if we made our morning dressing routine simple, and purchased colored shirts for each day. It makes shopping easy, and it makes dressing easy — it’s perfect. Being the youngest, he also didn’t need much — mostly just new shoes and some jeans (since he’s built very different from his brother).

His haul (as the kids say these days):

back-to-school hawthorn mall

His shirts and jeans were all comparable to my usual, pick-up-and-grab-something while grocery shopping, but more fun. The four-year-old actually picked out the shirts himself, the shirt on the was left chosen because it was similar to one his older brother had chosen. The shoes ended up being cheaper than what I paid last year for gym shoes at a known kids shoe store.

Shoes and Proper Fit

Let’s take a minute to talk about shoes. My mom was always super crazy about making sure we had shoes that fit properly and that we had our feet measured every single time, and I don’t mean standing on a mat at the supermarket. When was the last time you or your kids sat down and had your feet measured, professionally? Walking into the Vans store I thought this would be a DIY shopping experience, but I was proved pleasantly wrong.

back-to-school hawthorn mall

The associate measured both boys’ feet and was so patient as my oldest tried shoe after shoe only to find none that fit to his liking. She didn’t push and try to sell us on a shoe that he wasn’t 100% satisfied with. It was a great experience!

Grade School Girls

This was a big milestone day for my girls (1st and 5th grade) as they finally got to go into their dream store… Justice!

back-to-school hawthorn mall

My girls were in heaven. Sparkles! Glitter! Leggings! Super-comfy clothes, reasonable prices and girl-positive messages. We all left really happy.

In fact, the entire day was great! We enjoyed time talking together, laughing, and learning about likes and dislikes. We got to explore new to them stores and old favorites. Even the little guy was excited to hang out a the mall and dine at the kid-sized tables in the dinning court. The tween boy, the hardest to shop for, even scored some FroYo, a new wallet and back-to-school clothes. It was such a great day I’m sure we will be making this a tradition from now on, even if it’s just mom and the girls.

We were given a $500 gift card from Hawthorn Mall to use and we used every penny (and a little more). Each kid got at least two outfits, and three of the kids got shoes.  My oldest daughter got her ears pierced, and we stocked up on earrings and accessories at Claire’s.  The kids even put together a front-yard fashion show to share their haul with you:




Outfits and shoes featured from:

  • Justice
  • The Children’s Place
  • Vans
  • Claire’s
  • Gap

Be sure to check out Hawthorn Mall this weekend (it’s under new ownership!) for all your back-to-school needs! You can see all outfits on our Facebook page.


Hawthorn Mall
122 Hawthorn Center, Vernon Hills | (847) 362-2600
Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Disclosure: we received a $500 gift card to use at Hawthorn Mall in order to produce images for an Instagram takeover and this story. All thoughts and opinions are the writer’s own.


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About Melissa Haak 1399 Articles
Melissa is mom to 4. She used to dream of traveling the world, now she dreams of a clean kitchen. She can be found on most social media sites as @PBinmyHair because with this much hair and four kids, you're bound to find something in it.

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