Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Shopping with Young Children

(My nieces and nephew on their first shopping trip as 3)

Anyone who has ever tried shopping with young children knows how difficult and stressful it can really be. Children can be easily overwhelmed by all the colors and objects in a store, as well as their feelings of desire, frustration, and boredom. As I personally have been training my kids to have peaceful visits to the grocery store, I have both found, and come up with, a few successful ideas that I would like to share with you today. Hopefully you will find something that works for you and your kids!


Many mothers fear the grocery store because their children will inevitably break into a major tantrum every time they visit. I've found two things that helped me to combat the grocery store tantrum. The first is to have a tantrum sign in your purse. The moment your child starts freaking out, simply place the sign that says, "WARNING: Tantrum in Progress" on the floor next to your child, and then walk away. You don't want to actually leave your child unattended, just get yourself out of their view and wait until they are done. Eventually your child will realize he/she is not getting the desired attention being sought, and then they will give up.

If that is too embarrassing for you, you can try simply leaving the store. When your child starts acting up, tell him/her you will leave if you have to warn them to be good again. Then if they test you, immediately and quickly leave the store without saying anything to your child until you are in the car. When you are in the car, ask your child why you left. If they don't know the answer, tell them, and then take them home with no reward in sight.

This one is hard because you only go to the store when you need something. Leaving doesn't seem like the best option but after you have done it 2 or 3 times consistently, your child will realize you mean business and they will change their attitude.


Eventually your child will realize that the store is full of things they can have. That realization unfortunately leads to wanting everything in the store. I have also found two things that work for me in this area. The first is to stump your child by countering what they say. For instance:

Mommy! I want that CANDY!
Oh, that's nice. I want a pony.
But MOM! I want it NOW!
I really wish I had a new house right now.
MOM! I want it! It want it! I want it!
You too? Wow! Too bad we can't always get what we want.

This conversation has worked wonders for me with Brooklyn and now she even plays along. After she figures out what I'm doing she will start to say things like, "Oh yeah! I want a unicorn!" Then she will giggle at the realization that she just played too.

If you tend to be the mother who would just rather give your child a treat, then you might want to consider a treat pouch. A treat pouch is a small bag that can only fit one small treat in it, like the ones above. At the beginning of your shopping trip, simply inform your child that they can pick one treat to fit in their special bag and that is what they get if they are good in the store. By having the small bag, you will keep them entertained as they try to find something that fits in it, and you will save yourself some money since only one small item will fit in their bag!


Both of my children get really bored when we are shopping. Since Lily is still very young, she can be distracted by simple things like holding my phone or a small toy. But once she figured out the "drop it so mom will pick it up game", I had to invest in some chain links to hold her toys to the shopping cart. I use some that are kind of like the ones below, except they close together better.

Brooklyn is at the age where she wants to help with everything, so bringing a special shopping list for her helps with her boredom. It takes a little extra time on your part, but its totally worth it. Just put pictures of the items you ALWAYS get at the store on a paper for you child to find and mark off. Everything else you need can go on a separate list that you are in charge of. Here is an example of our list below:DISAPPEARING CHILDREN!

If you have children that like to run away and force you to put out an Amber Alert every time you are in the store, then you might want to consider a leash...really! I always thought it was horrible to see mothers with their kids on a leash until the first time I lost Brooklyn. Shortly after, Brooklyn had a pink puppy leash and she loved it! We didn't have to even use it for very long before she learned to stay near me.

(Image found at http://blog.newsok.com/ofinterest/2010/03/16/what-do-you-think-about-children-on-leashes/)

If a leash is just too much for you, then try tying a handkerchief in a loop to your basket and telling your child that it is their special handle and they can't let go because you don't want them to get lost. This frees up your hands and gives your child a distraction while you are shopping, and it also helps you to feel like you are giving your child more of a choice then they would get from a leash.


If none of the above solutions sound like they would work for you, you might consider shared shopping. You can do this two ways. You can split responsibilities with a friend or neighbor by taking turns every other week either babysitting the kids from both families, or shopping for both families. You simply give your friend your shopping list and take their kids while they shop, then trade the next week!

If you feel like that is too imposing, then enlist your husband! This is my favorite way to shop. Every Saturday my husband and I drag the kids out to the store and take turns entertaining them while the other person fills the basket. Our children love the extra time with their daddy and have finally gotten to the point where they are actually VERY PLEASANT to shop with!

Anyway, I hope you found some information in this post that will help you in your shopping endeavors. Good luck and happy shopping!


  1. Great ideas Naomi. I especially love the idea of having your kid in charge of their own picture list. Teya would be so into that. She always asks me if certain things are on my list. It would be great for her to have her own, she'd love it! I also love the idea of tying a hanky onto the cart for them to hold onto. Right now both of the girls are walking since Cam is in the cart so it's REALLY hard to keep them close to me. I think the hanky would help. I gotta say though, I don't think I could leave the store and go home if my kid was having a tantrum. That's a punishment to ME! It's sooo hard to get them bundled up and loaded into the car and unloaded into the grocery store. If they were having a meltdown I would just stick them in the cart and keep going while they screamed and threw their fit. (done it before) It's another a way of ignoring them but you still get your shopping in!

  2. Great ideas Naomi. I remember shopping with 5 children. That was my limit. After that I would pick one child to have a special date with mom. They would help me plan the menu and get the items for the cart. This teaches them how to plan for meals as well as how to avoid impulse shopping. We would also talk about the food budget and how much we could spend. The best part was that we would stop for ice cream or a little lunch. With 8 kids this was an opportunity for good bonding time with that child. I always found that their personality was so different as an individual then with the pack. We usually did this in the evenings or Saturdays when Dad was home.