Grocery Shopping with Toddlers
By Christy Wilson Millard
The chaos begins the moment we walk through the automatic doors. As I struggle to detach a grocery cart from the cart corral, my 3-year-old spies a huge display of iced sugar cookies and darts over to it.
“Cookies!” My daughter shrieks, jumping up and down as I approach with the cart.
Calmly, I explain we don’t need the cookies, but I do need her to ride in the cart.
“No, mama!” She shouts, loud enough to draw a crowd. “I want cookies! I wanna push!” To prove her cart pushing skill, she grabs the cart and promptly propels it into the cookie display! Cookie containers crash to the ground.
“Clean-up on aisle two,” blares from the speakers.
I sigh in resignation knowing the next hour’s shopping will be the most difficult hour of my week!
Grocery shopping with children isn’t easy. Sure, it’s faster to do the shopping alone, but that’s not always possible. Fortunately, there are ways to make your grocery shopping less painful – and even fun – for you and your toddler.
Try these suggestions for better grocery trips:
Avoid the rush hours. Less shoppers mean shorter lines and easier movement through the store. Plan your shopping trips to avoid stores’ busiest times. Stores I polled said they have the fewest customers weekday mornings before 11 a.m.
Worst times to shop? Weekday afternoons and early evenings when after-school and after-work shoppers drop in.
Make a list. With all the colorful displays and long aisles, it’s easy to lose your focus at the store. Add the additional distraction of an active toddler and you’re lucky to remember your name! A list allows you to shop quicker and keep your attention on your child.
Try listing items in the order you encounter them in the store. For example, if you start your shopping in the dairy department, list milk at the top of your list.
Teach and talk. Use your toddler’s natural curiosity. Engage him in talk about what you are seeing and doing. “Oh, look. They have pumpkins now! Do you know what pumpkins are used for?”
When it’s appropriate, let your toddler touch or smell the product. “These gourds are bumpy! Would you like to feel?”
Shop on a full tummy. A hungry child is not a happy shopper and will demonstrate this unhappiness loudly and often! One of the easiest ways to make a shopping excursion better is to feed your child prior to visiting the grocery store.
Walk, don’t ride. Most toddlers prefer to walk instead of riding in a cart. If this is true for your child and she is capable of staying with you, let your child walk. Remind your child walking is a privilege given as long as he/she stays close to mommy and obeys.
Involve your toddler in the shopping process. This keeps your toddler busy and makes shopping fun. You might say, “We need two cans of green beans. Can you get those for me?” or “I’ll hold the bag while you put the apples inside.” At the checkout, ask your toddler to help you place the groceries on the conveyer counter.
Ask about children’s specials. Many grocery stores have birthday or cookie clubs for children. Children may receive a treat or small gift each time they visit the store. Ask if your store participates in any children’s clubs.
Bring a snack. Children are no different from adults. Being around food makes them hungry! Prepare for this certainty (and avoid tearing open your new groceries) by tucking a small bag of crackers or raisins in your purse.