Mom’s Survival Guide to Shopping with Little Kids

Every parent knows that it is more efficient to leave the kids at home when shopping. We’ve all had at least one horrible experience of dragging our kids to the store. You know what I’m talking about….right? The whining and the tantrums. The baby with a blow-out diaper, the toddler who is hungry, the child who wants to touch every item and climb on every shelf and cart.

A Mom's Survival Guide to Shopping with Little Kids

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Letting our kids join us in the grocery shopping can be daunting at times but it does provide some great life skills for our kids. There are times when you have no other choice but to bring them along so here are some tips for making the shopping experience a little more pleasant for everyone.

Be Strategic with When You Leave

Plan your trip to the store when everyone is fed, pottied and well rested. Hungry, tired children (and mommies) with full bladders can mean disaster while trying to shop. I usually do my shopping with the kids right after snack time and make sure everyone has used the restroom.

Park Next to a Shopping Cart Corral

When you park next to a shopping cart corral you can easily grab a cart, place a small child inside and gather your other children. When you are done shopping and unloading your groceries, you won’t have to go far to return the cart into the corral since it will be right next to you.

Have Them Hold the Cart

Young children can hold the edge of the cart when walking through the parking lot. With seven kids and only two hands of my own, I need some of the kids to hold something other than me. Grasping onto the cart allows us all to safely maneuver through the parking lot.

Wear Your Baby

Have you ever had to juggle pushing the cart, loading groceries, and holding a fussy baby? A carrier can be a great way to keep baby close by and your hands free to do the shopping. My two favorite carriers are the Ergo and the Moby Wrap.

State Your Expectations before Going In

Children’s poor behavior is often a lack of awareness about our expectations and the consequences that come with their bad choices. I usually give my kids a quick reminder of the rules they struggle with right before unbuckling them and getting out of the car.

This is the usual dialogue that happens in my van. “Kids, I want each of you to hold the shopping cart when we are in the parking lot and to stay close beside me in the store. Remember that we are only buying what is on our list today so you don’t need to ask me for additional items. And please no climbing on the shopping carts. If I have to remind you of these rules more than once then their will be a consequence when we get home. Let’s try to see how quickly we can get all of our groceries today! We can go faster and get home sooner if everyone follows Mommy’s directions!”

Let them Help

Children are better behaved when their minds and hands are distracted with a task. Give each of your children one or two items to shop for in the store.

Even little ones can be entertained by repeatedly being reminded of what they are looking for. “Do you see any bananas yet? Keep looking!”

Let your kids pick non-breakable items off the shelf and place them in the cart. I let my younger ones open plastic produce bags for me and hold the bag while I fill it with produce.

Talk to Them While Shopping

No one likes to be ignored. This is especially true with children. It works against us as parents when we repeatedly tell them to be quiet. It might take a little extra mommy brain power to read the list and talk your kids but it will keep them engaged and less fussy!

Tell them what you still need on your list, what you are looking for, or what you see in the isle you are on. My one way conversations usually goes something like this. “Mommy needs spaghetti noodles. Do you like to eat noodles? Should we eat noodles for dinner tonight? Can you help Mommy find the noodles we like? Oh- look, there is a balloon with Dora on it! Do you see anything red on this isle? Keep you eyes open for those noodles…”

Give Bigger Tasks to Older Kids

Older children can help write out the shopping list and read it to you in the store. They can also help price items, look for sales and get items off the shelf and into your cart. Assigning larger tasks to your older children gives them practice in important life skills. Plus, if you train them well, there may come a time when they can do the shopping for you.

Our goal as moms is usually to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible with as few tears and tantrums as possible. Remember though that part of our role as mothers is to prepare our children for the real world. Use some of your trips to the grocery store to train your kids…. and the rest of the trips you can pray for the sanity to survive it!

What do you do to make grocery shopping with your kids easier?


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