When your fridge or food pantry is empty, taking your kids out to the grocery store can be a daunting task even for the most seasoned parents. Between the toy aisle and the candy aisle, it is really hard to navigate around the store with kids in tow.
For example, my daughters like to reach for treats at the checkout lane. They also get really distracted by the random toys hanging in the snack aisle, and insist on having them. When I tell them to put those items back to the shelves, the whining begins.
We all know that kids often having meltdowns at the grocery store. Some kids are bored, but most are usually overwhelmed by the bright lights, activities and sounds around them. Understandably, a lot of parents avoid running errands with their kids in order to avoid the embarrassment of having to deal with tantrums. However, some parents don’t have that option to grocery shop alone.
Fortunately, there are some tips that we can adopt to make grocery shopping with kids less torturous and a more pleasant experience for all. Here’s how you can survive grocery shopping with young children:
1. Make a list and be organized
Before you even leave the house, make a list of the things that you need to buy. Arrange them according to sections. For example, if the fruit aisle is the first place that you will visit, place all your fruits on the top section of your list.
Check you list twice to make sure you don’t miss anything. Your mind will be very distracted at the store if you have little ones with you. It’s easy to forget even the obvious things like milk and bread.
With a list in hand, you won’t be wasting time wandering around the aisles.
2. Time your visit
Schedule your visit to the grocery store after your kids have eaten. With a full stomach, impulse purchases are less likely to happen.
For younger toddlers, make sure they have taken their naps so that they are in a better mood.
3. Give your kid a task
Recruit your kids to help with grocery shopping. Give them a list, and it will help keep them busy. Ask your bigger kids to help look for items from the shelves. You could also ask the younger toddler to “help” by carrying her favorite box of cereal from the shelf to the cart.
For parents who like to coupon, give your kids the responsibility of finding the items that are on the coupons. If your kids are a little older, you could even ask them to help find for coupons prior to the trip, and print them out.
Once they feel like they are your helper, this will keep them busy, and buy you a few minutes of valuable time to shop for other things without interruption.
4. Prepare snacks
When it comes to kids, snacks are usually a good distraction, and this is the one time when it’s perfectly okay to rely on food. I usually prepare a small bag of crackers for each kid so that they can snack their way through the store.
5. Use rewards
If you want your toddler or young child to stay close to you, reward her by allowing her to pick a small treat on your way of the store.
Getting a treat is a positive reinforcement for kids. They will learn to recognize that positive behavior leads to something good.
However, we should be careful not to mistake rewards with bribes. Bribery happens when you give in by buying a treat after a child whines or throws a tantrum. We should be careful not to do that because it sends the wrong message that tantrums are effective in getting what they want.
6. Set expectations with your kids before going into the store
Before you go into the grocery store, establish expectations with your kids.
For example, tell them that you are at the grocery store in public setting, and that tantrums are not acceptable. A little prep talk goes a long way.
By setting expectations, you are also giving them a chance to be cooperative. It would be appropriate to use rewards (as mentioned above) after the trip is done to let them know that they have done a good job.
7. Acknowledge your kid’s desire, but don’t give in
When your kid sees something that she really wants in the store and would not stop whining for it, it would be good to acknowledge her by saying, “Yes sweetie, I see that the toy is really cool”.
Then try this: “This would be a great toy. Would you like me to add this to your wish list for Christmas or your birthday?”
This transforms the immediate want to something that she could possibly get later.
Remember to follow-through with your suggestion by adding it to the running list of wishes and wants.
8. Avoid the “dangerous” aisles
If you know that aisle 7 is the candy aisle, avoid walking down that path if you don’t have anything that you need to buy from that section.
If you really have to walk through that aisle, make it quick so that your kids won’t be begging you for that bag of M&Ms; that they just spotted.
9. Make it a teachable moment
You can seize the opportunity to teach your kids just about anything under the sun.
In one of my prior post, I talked about using grocery runs to teach your kids about the concept of money by asking them to count or compare prices.
Alternatively, teach them new words by introducing new vegetables or fruits like asparagus, and asking them to repeat after you.
Or you could also ask them to pick out things that are of a certain shape throughout the store.
10. Give yourself enough time
It’s easier to be patient when you’re not rushing for time. If you have the patience to deal with tantrums, usually yelling and screaming can be avoided.
11. If all else fails, don’t push it
If your kid starts to have a meltdown, and nothing seems to be working, it is OK to abandon your cart and head straight to the car.
Just know that when it comes to kids, nothing is predictable.
What are some of your tricks for running errands with no whining from kids? Do share some of your tips on how to grocery shop with young children!