If you’ve attempted grocery shopping with a toddler, you’ll know it’s no easy task.
Between tantrums, wiggling around, and whining – your efficient grocery trip can quickly turn into a nightmare. At the very least, it often takes double the time or you end up coming home with double the number of items intended.
Lucky for parents, knowing some secret tips will turn grocery shopping with a toddler into a walk in the park.
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In This Guide:
Time It Right
Toddlers tend to do best when they stick to their schedules. Planning your shopping trip around their usual meal and nap routine is the first step in a successful outing.
Trying to shop with a hungry or tired toddler is setting yourself up for failure. It’s playing with fire and you will very likely get burned by tantrums and meltdowns.
Also, avoid any times that your toddler is typically fussy.
This can mean you have a small window of opportunity and might not be super convenient for your own schedule, but whenever humanly possible stick to the toddler schedule.
A little extra planning and preparation can go a long way.
Bring The Essentials
Depending on the age of your toddler, you may or may not be carrying a diaper bag, but it’s still important to have everything you might need.
For instance, if they’re still wearing diapers, bring an extra.
If they’re potty training, bring a spare set of clothes. Also, be sure to have them try to go potty before leaving the house.
Make A List
Having a good shopping list is really helpful when trying to shop with a toddler.
Knowing exactly what you need will save you time in the store. Shopping quickly with a toddler is ideal as it gives them less opportunity to get bored or upset.
Your toddler can also be a big distraction while shopping making it easy to forget some of your groceries, especially if you’re trying to rush.
Make a full list of every item you need. You’ll be glad you did.
As soon as babies learn to walk, they take off and never seem to stop! And while this is great for burning off their energy at a park, it’s much less helpful when you’re attempting to go grocery shopping with a toddler.
It’s essential to keep them contained and close to the cart at all times. Here are a few suggested methods:
Strap Them In
Even once your child knows how to walk, don’t let them walk freely around the store.
If you choose to place them in the front of the shopping cart facing you, be sure to strap them in so they are unable to stand up and fall out of the cart.
Use the cart wipes towards the front of the store to sanitize the cart before placing your child inside. Another idea is using a shopping cart cover to provide a barrier between your toddler and the germ-infested seat.
Kid Car Carts
Many grocery stores have hideously large carts that look like tractors/fire trucks/race cars complete with steering wheels that are perfect for shopping with a toddler.
My kids love these because they are often able to face out and pretend to be driving rather than staring at me.
As a parent of adventurous children, I’m not above kid leashes.
When your toddler insists on walking instead of riding, a wrist link is a perfect solution. Strap one end to the shopping cart and the other to their wrist and you’re good to go – no escaping toddler.
Keeping Them Occupied
One of the simplest ways to distract your toddler is to keep them engaged in conversation. For chatty toddlers this can be super easy and may even require very little input on your part.
On the flip side, you may have to carry a very one sided conversation if your toddler isn’t very verbal. Though it can feel silly, just narrating while you shop can be enough and is good for their language development.
Toddlers will enjoy having your attention and hearing you speak.
Games like I-spy, guess/make the animal sound, find the body part, and Simon says are all great ideas for entertainment when grocery shopping with a toddler. They take no prep and kids love them!
It may be helpful to let your kids have a snack when grocery shopping with a toddler to put them in a better mood and pass the time.
Don’t have one on hand? Well it may be controversial but I’ve been known to take one off the shelves to let them munch. Of course it goes without saying that you should hold onto the completed snack and pay for it when you’re checking out.
Let Them “Help”
Kids love to help… even though they often fall far short of actually being helpful. That being said, there are a few ways they can “help” with your grocery shopping.
You can let your toddler hold the very important shopping list! Just have a back-up copy or picture on your phone in case they drop it.
Another option is to have them help look for the next item on the list. You can say something like, “now we need apples – can you help me find them?” Then have them help by counting out the specific quantity you need.
Point Out Landmarks
There are so many neat decorations in grocery stores that I never paid attention to before having kids. Take a little time to explore the decor and point it out while grocery shopping with a toddler.
For instance my grocery store has a giant ice cream cone display on top of the freezer aisle, a farm mural above the dairy section, and balloons floating in the produce section. Even though my oldest is almost 7, he still loves to point out these decorations to me.
Handling Impromptu Requests
Inevitably your child will see a food or toy that they want and request it. Here are a few ideas for how to gently say ‘no’ without causing a tantrum.
Just Say No
Honesty is generally the best policy. Calmly tell your child “no” and a brief explanation of why. For example, “no we cannot buy cookies today, those treats are only for special occasions”.
Not on the List
The most basic answer is to simply tell your child that their requested item is “not on the list”.
However, it’s important to point out that parents themselves need to stick to the list if they decide to use this line. Even if you see an item that is not on the list, pretend it is so your excuse will hold.
Take A Picture
But sometimes saying that “it’s not on the list” isn’t enough to stop a tantrum in its tracks.
In these circumstances I’ll have my child hold up the desired item and I’ll “take a picture so we remember it for next time”.
Nine times out of ten, they’ll completely forget about it. However a few times they’ve remembered and held me to my promise – so be warned.