Shopping with kids can be tricky. When I was shopping a few months back, my 2 year old son decided to have a full blown jellyfish meltdown, kicking his baby brother sitting in the cart beside him. I then had two screaming little boys in the middle of the store, while my 9 year old daughter repeated “this is so embarrassing” again and again.
I threw in the towel, aborted my mission, emptied my cart, and headed for the door. An elderly woman was watching me (as was half the store, I’m sure) and approached me as I was leaving. I was shocked she would have the nerve to speak to me at a time such as that – and worried about what on earth she would say.
She simply touched my arm and said with a gentle smile, “I’ve been there, Mama”. It was enough to make me cry.
I spend a lot of time at the store, and therefore, so do my kids. Along the way I’ve picked up a few tricks to make shopping with kids much easier. Here are 8 tricks and tips for shopping with kids, while maintaining your sanity in the process.
1. Shop with time
My experience shopping with children has taught me that when I’m in a rush to “pop in to grab one thing”, it usually ends badly. Most kids don’t like being rushed. You may be in a hurry, but it’s likely your child would much prefer a leisurely pace to explore and browse.
Try to shop when you have lots of time. No one likes to be rushed.
2. Shop at the right time
Have you ever taken your kids shopping at lunch time? Or when a nap was overdo? Geesh – some things are just not worth it! Taking tired or hungry kids on a shopping adventure, no matter how innocently, will almost always end in tears (and it just may be Mama’s).
3. Use a cart
If your children are even remotely young enough to sit in the cart, utilize this wonderful child restraint system! Keeping your kids safely in your sight, and being able to have control over what they touch will make your shopping trip much more enjoyable. It will be easier for you to browse and move as quickly or slowly as you choose.
There are many activities you can do to keep your kids entertained while in the cart. Busy kids are happy kids!
4. Bring a list
It’s always a good idea to shop with a list. This can help you buy only the things you truly wanted in the first place. Taking a few extra minutes to sketch a little picture beside your items can allow your child to take part in the shopping trip.
If you don’t have a written list, you can give your child an item or two (or three, depending on age) to remember and search for.
5. Bring a scavenger hunt
Giving my little ones a piece of paper with items drawn and a crayon has been a life saver again and again. I have actually prepared such sheets in parking lots last minute, when I knew my kids were going to have a tough time with my shop.
These hunts can be as simple or complex as your child needs. They can be as simple as colours (a dot of blue means find something blue) or as complex as rhymes or riddles (find something that flies or something that rhymes with hot).
6. Play eye spy
If you don’t have time or the materials to prepare a list, a spontaneous game of eye spy can be a great distraction to all of the toys and treats your child may be wanting. Focusing a child’s attention on a game is a great way to help your little one calm down and provide distraction.
7. Bring food
Keeping snacks in your diaper bag, purse, or car is always a great idea. It’s almost always my back up plan when the shopping games are no longer working. Anything will usually work, but I try to add a little treat that my kids don’t usually get. I often have containers with dry cereal, raisins, and mini marshmallows or chocolate chips.
Granola bars, and baby cookies are also great to have on hand.
8. Bribe reward
I don’t regularly buy toys or treats for my kids. We are blessed with a lot of friends and relatives who regularly spoil them. We save treats for birthdays and special occasions.
But once in awhile, when my little ones have had an excellent shop, or an excellent day before I shop, I will let them choose a special toy.
Shopping with kids can be a challenge, but with a little planning and timing it can be achieved rather painlessly. This is not to say that temper tantrums will never happen, or the “I really need it!” won’t ever be said. It’s all part of the learning that happens when we’re little.
Although it can be embarrassing and frustrating, know that every single parent has been in your shoes.
Some days I just wish for a shopping trip alone. But I know I will look back fondly on shopping with my kids. Even the ones that end with jellyfish meltdowns.