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Before I got pregnant, I remember seeing kids in stores having a crazy meltdown. And I remember feeling so bad for the parents. Now I find myself in this potential situation at least once a week for grocery shopping.
I wasn’t as scared when my children were younger than four months old, but I definitely try to plan for any potential tantrums with my now two-year-old. The worst meltdown I had to deal with was when I didn’t have my husband to help me.
I was picking up some pants for both my kids since we finally hit the winter season in Las Vegas (it was a lot later compared to other parts of the country). Unfortunately for me, the baby/toddler clothes are near some toys. Charlie saw a toy that he wanted to play with and he got upset that I would not take them out of the box. Eventually, he got so bad that I had to put him in time out in the store.
It was a little embarrassing. I could feel the stares of the other shoppers looking at me and while they were probably feeling more sympathetic, it also felt like they were judging me. My son and I eventually worked through his tantrum and we were able to finish his shopping (minus a new toy).
So to help you avoid having to deal with these meltdowns I have prepared some great tips and tricks.
What are the most common reasons your child will throw a tantrum while you are shopping?
You can identify tantrums as being an uncontrolled outburst of anger and/or frustration. This mostly associates with toddlers, but a lot of the reasons for tantrums can be associated with the needs of children under one-year-old. As experienced parents know there are a variety of causes that trigger tantrums. Here are the most common you might encounter while shopping:
- Hunger: these are the worst when grocery shopping because your child is literally looking at the reason for their tantrum.
- Tired/Over-tired: who doesn’t get frustrated when all they want to do is sleep but they are in a situation that does not allow them to.
- Being told “no”: not many people I know like being told “no” and I believe toddlers hate it the most. These tantrums include being denied a toy or an object or an activity that they want.
- Unable to communicate: this is when the child gets extremely frustrated that they are unable to tell you what they want.
There you have it. These are the most basic reasons a child will have a tantrum. So now that we know what the triggers are, the goal is to try to avoid them.
What can you do before you leave the house?
There are some simple but effective things you can do before you decide to leave the house with little kids. Planning before a shopping trip can save you from having to deal with tantrums.
Here is what you need to bring:
Pack snacks that you know they will want to eat while grocery shopping. Remember your kid is going to be seeing all kinds of food that they will probably want to eat (ex: my two-year-old is always asking for cupcakes when we walk by the bakery).
Same concept as food, pack a drink that you know they will want. We always to diluted apple and grape juice.
Keep these limited to one, maybe two toys. Too many toys and you may lose track of them.
This one can be a hit or miss. It all depends on how much your kid is into books at the time. I mostly use books when traveling to and from the store. My son loves to read this truck book no matter where we are going.
Having these items does not guarantee that you can stop a tantrum, but they can either postpone one (hopefully until you are leaving) or they can divert the kid’s attention long enough to get away from a trigger (like cupcakes for my son).
Don’t forget to create a grocery list before leaving the house!
This is so important. By having a list you know exactly what aisles you will need to visit, instead of just wandering around the store. A grocery list allows you to maximize your time, so you can get in and get out as quick as possible.
Bonus Tip: While creating your shopping list at home, I recommend following these steps to help you only purchase what you need.
- Write down the meals you want to make for the week.
- Check your fridge/freezer/pantry to see what ingredients you currently have.
- Now write what you need to make the meals for the week.
Another thing to do before going to the grocery store is an activity that will burn some or a lot of your kid’s energy.
This is just a standard in our household, but every Sunday (that is our grocery shopping day) we make sure to take the kids to the park. We will spend about an hour or so just having a great time. I can tell you that the grocery shopping days we did not take the kids to the park have been a whole lot more stressful than the days we did.
So figure out an activity that will work with your schedule and burn through some of that amazing energy kids seem to have.
Now, what can you do while you are at the grocery store?
We have finally arrived at the main event…grocery shopping with your little kids. Remember you got this. You did your pre-task planning and prepared ways to distract your kids. The first thing you should do with your little kids is to find those awesome grocery carts designed for kids. Our grocery store has the ones where the grocery carts look like cars and we are very lucky that ours has a huge selection to choose from.
From there I recommend starting from one end of the store and working your way over to the other side. The tips below will help you move through the store as quickly and efficiently as possible:
- Don’t go down any aisles that you don’t need to. I know you think this seems like common sense, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone down an aisle because I saw something. And it wasn’t even something I needed. The longer you are at the grocery store, the more likely your kid will see something that sets off a tantrum.
- Have your food ready or easily accessible.
- If your kid really wants to eat something that is in your cart either let them and save the bar code or go purchase the item before they eat it.
- Here is an example: My son loves grapes and any time we buy grapes he will do everything in his power to eat them. I initially tried to stop him, but it was a pointless battle. It turned out to be a great tool because he would eat the grapes and I got through the grocery shopping with no tantrums. Plus he didn’t eat enough to affect the price.
What if you are shopping with a child under one-year-old?
This can depend on how active your baby is. If they are under four-months-old, then I recommend grocery shopping when they are ready to take a nap. Either use your baby carrier or car seat for grocery shopping. Here is the baby carrier that my husband loves to use. If they can sit up and are more active, then I recommend the same practices as stated above. Make sure they do a fun activity, like going to the park, before shopping.
On a side note: don’t be afraid to take your baby to the park. You can set out a blanket for them to play on in the grass or if they are able to, have them play on the little kids’ jungle gym. We pretty much always go to the park with both of our kids.
What about using a shopping cart cover or hammock for the baby?
Personally, I did not have much luck with the shopping cart cover. It ended up being a waste of money. But I have seen so many parents who do use it. So if this turns out to be a great option, then go get one.
The hammocks always looked awesome to me, but by the time I found out about them, I decided it wouldn’t be worth it to spend the money. My second son had just figured out how to roll over and so it didn’t look like a good option.
Click HERE if you want to check out the baby shopping cart seat covers (this one has a great extra cushion for baby’s who need help sitting up) and click HERE if you want to check out a baby shopping cart hammocks. Please remember to review the associated booklet that has the safety features and use the products appropriately.
Can you put your car seat in a shopping cart?
I hate to tell you this but the only recommended way to have a car seat in a grocery car is for it to be in the cart itself, but as we all know that takes up a lot of prime real estate space. The reason you don’t want to have your cart seat on the top portion of the shopping cart is that it can easily tip over.
If possible, try to go grocery shopping when your significant other is home. Make it a weekly family activity after playing at the park. This way if your baby is in the car seat you can hopefully attach it to your stroller and have a helping hand. If you don’t have a stroller that goes with the car seat, then you have your significant other to push one of the carts.
When is my baby able to sit in a grocery cart?
The answer is once your baby has mastered the ability to sit up by themselves, I would then say that is the best time for them to sit in a shopping cart. Be prepared that their balance isn’t the best in the beginning and that they might tip to the side a lot because of the cart movement. Have your car seat or baby carrier on hand in case your baby does not like the new experience.
Finally, don’t forget to mentally prepare yourself for grocery shopping with your little kids.
It can and usually is exhausting taking little kids grocery shopping. There usually isn’t much for them to do during that time. So either before you leave the house or go into the store, take a quick moment to mentally prepare yourself in case there is a meltdown. Sometimes you can try to plan for everything and it doesn’t work out. Have a plan with how you want to handle the situation.
Some parents will take their child out of the store completely, others will deal with it right there. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way. For us, it tends to depend on if both my husband and I are together or if it is just one of us. If both of us are there, then one of us will take my tantrum-throwing child out of the grocery store. If it is just me and I don’t have the ability to leave, then I will find a spot that doesn’t have many people and work through the tantrum. I usually put him in time out and then try some breathing exercises to get him to calm.
Don’t let the fear of tantrums avoid shopping with your children.
I know you could easily set it up to have someone watch the kids for you, and if that is your only alone time then do it. But I have found it to be such a wonderful and simple way for me to spend time with my kids. As a working mom, every moment I get to spend with them is precious. So even if it is just a trip to the grocery store, those moments mean a lot to me.
Did you try any of these tips and tricks to survive grocery shopping with your little kids? If so, how did they work? Are there any tricks you do that work wonders? Tell me about it in the comments below!
Happy Days ~