Shopping with kids can cause anxiety in even the most mellow parents. Something about taking your child to a store for an extended period of time and expecting them to behave seems so far fetched. I’ve compiled a list of some of the best tips from other moms on making your shopping experience more enjoyable.
Tune in to this week’s podcast episode if you prefer to listen instead of read: Episode 29
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Create a List
Making a list before you leave the house will help keep you focused and efficient. Bonus points if you organize the list by section – grocery, frozen, canned, etc. You can have your kids help pick the menu for the week and quiz them on what ingredients they think you will need. This will help keep them interested and engaged while you are shopping for the items that they picked out.
Make sure you are prepared
Check the diaper bag for snacks, a change of clothes, toys, sippy cups/bottles, and the rest of the necessities. (Check out my full diaper bag packing list) Bring your shopping list, coupons, and whatever else you might need for the actual shopping trip. And finally, make sure your kids are ready – fed, rested, and happy babies make the best shopping companions.
Find a store with the “fun” carts
Some stores have mini carts for your child to push themselves while others have the little cart buggies for them to sit in. Either option will help keep them entertained while you do your shopping. If you have multiple children, it might be worth finding stores that have a double seat in the cart so more than one kid can sit up front. Figure out what will make your life easier, and find a store that offers those options.
Wear your kids
This is such a great way to shop with younger kids! Starting from the newborn phase, wearing your baby is the perfect way to prevent strangers from getting too close to them. Plus, babies love being held up against their mom so they get the warmth and comfort. Most babies will sleep or relax the entire time if they are in a baby carrier. Even as kids get older, they love the movement and the feeling of being held. Babywearing is especially great for parents with more than one kid. This way, you only have to worry about the older children while staying hands free.
For a great soft carrier that easily fits into the diaper bag, check out the k’tan. If you are looking for a more structured carrier with some lumbar support for the longer shopping trips, I love my lillebaby.
Let them walk alongside you
A lot of parents say they let their kids walk with them instead of being put in the cart. This allows them to feel a bit of freedom and lets them explore a little more. However, almost every parent said that as soon as their kid starts to walk off, they go right back into the cart for the rest of the time.
Bring a Helper
It might be beneficial to wait until you can bring your significant other, or ask a family member to join you at the store. Have one person in charge of watching the kids while the other is focused on quickly running down aisles or grabbing things down the dangerous isles. (aka: the cereal aisle, ice cream, candy, or anything near the toys). This also allows for one person to step outside to help calm down a fussy child if needed without having to abandon your cart. Some parents say leave your kids home with this helper all together and get some alone time in while you peruse the aisles untouched. Either way works!
Let your kids help
Even if your children are not old enough to help decide which color grapes to purchase, you can still keep them involved. My son is 11 months old and is OBSESSED with putting things inside containers. When I take him shopping, I give him the items and tell him “in” and he will drop it in the cart. It may add a little more time to my overall visit, but it saves me from dealing with a meltdown when he gets bored.
If your kids are older, you can put them on coupon duty and let them the responsibility of matching coupons to your shopping list. This is a win-win because it not only keeps your kids entertained, but it also saves money! You can also let them hold the list and cross off items that you have already purchased.
Bring Snacks, Lots and Lots of Snacks
When I reached out to the Facebook and Twitter community, snacks were the number one item on the “must have while shopping” list. Kids love snacks, therefore parents love snacks. Packing snacks from home can serve multiple purposes. First, you can use it as a distraction if your kids start to get bored or whiny. Having something delicious to fill their bellies usually helps get them through the last part of the store and through the checkout line. Second, you can offer a snack from home if your child decides they want something from the store that you don’t want to buy. Sometimes they will really want that candy bar, but the thought of melted chocolate in your car and a sugar crash doesn’t sound too appealing. Pack a healthier snack like oatmeal cookies to help persuade them to leave the treat on the shelf and go for their homemade food.
Make it a game
Have them guess the weight on produce or the price on an item you are about to buy. This will keep them engaged and makes the visit more enjoyable. It will be like a home version of the price is right! You can also ask things like “what are three healthy foods we like to eat for snacks” or “name three fruits that are all the same color”. Making a game out of shopping can help make the time go by faster.
Let them pick an item not on the list
Some parents let their kids pick any item from the store while others give them a category to choose from. Categories allow them to feel like they get a special treat without having to buy an excess of ice cream or sugar. You can allow them to pick out any fruit they want, or give them the option to try out any new veggie, or even a new kind of granola bar for snacks. Some parents rotate the category each shopping trip to mix it up a little bit.
Let your kids ask the questions
If you have to talk to the butcher or you need lunch meat or cheese cut up, let your children ask for what you need. This will not only keep them entertained, but it will help with their social skills and teach them to use manners. Hopefully it will make them more interested in the food since they helped pick it out. You can also encourage them to ask questions about different types of food, what regions they come from, if they are grown above or below ground, or anything else of that nature. Kids are constantly learning and absorbing the world around them, and their curiosity usually leads to a multitude of questions. You may not be able to answer everything off the top of your head, but this behavior is what leads to independent thinking and smarter kids!
Pack toys and entertainment
A mom on the Growing Our Family Facebook group suggested having a toy specifically for when you are out and about. This makes it special and will hopefully keep your kids entertained for the entire shopping trip. Just keep the toy in the diaper bag or store it in your reusable shopping bags so you always have it with you. The important part of this is to not bring it in the house when you are done. Keeping it hidden away until the shopping trip is what makes this toy so special in your children’s eyes!
Do not EVER shop during naptime
This is a big parenting no-no. Tired kids are cranky kids, and there is nothing you can do to keep them happy once they’ve hit their limit. Plan your shopping trips for after naptime, and after they eat something so they are full and well-rested. This isn’t as big of a deal with a newborn because they will most likely be able to sleep in the baby carrier or in their car seat. However, as your kids get older, try to determine exactly when their naptime is. This will help you avoid scheduling anything for this time.
Park by the shopping cart return
Before kids, the goal was to always find a spot as close to the entrance as possible. Now, the premium spots are the ones next to the cart return (bonus points if it’s in the shade too). These spots are perfect because you can load your kid in the car and return the cart without having to walk away from your car. Otherwise you would be unloading your cart, walking to the return, then carrying your kid back to the car before buckling them in.
If all else fails, sign up for grocery delivery or pickup!
If the thought of shopping with your kids gives you anxiety, maybe it’s time to look into grocery delivery or pickup. So many stores are jumping on this bandwagon and offering some sort of option that does not require you to do your own shopping. I personally use instacart and love it (I am not an instacart affiliate, it’s just amazing). There are also plenty of free options out there like Walmart pickup. You just go online and order your groceries, schedule a pickup time starting the next day or beyond, and when you drive up a walmart employee will help load your items into your car!
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