Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, February 4, 2011

How to Survive Shopping With Children

It occurred to me recently that perhaps I have some advice to offer on how to survive a shopping trip with children.  I’ve been pleased with the frequent compliments I receive about my kids’ behavior in the grocery store and resist the urge to tell these kind strangers, “You should see them at home!”

Reasons to Shop With Your Children
I know it may be tempting to always leave them at home with your spouse, but you may be missing out on some teaching opportunities. 
  1. Budgeting:  We examine the prices together and what gives you more for your money.  My kids know I’m not going to buy certain items unless they are on sale or under a certain amount.  I’m not going to buy $4 cereal or a small bottle of chocolate milk for a dollar when I can make a gallon of chocolate milk for a little over $2.  They have learned to respect my purchasing decisions and are learning how little things add up.
  2. Learning about food:  They love to explore the produce and discover foods they have never tried.  Our favorite store offers samples in the produce section and will slice up some fruit if we request it.  Who knew that persimmons are not rotten tomatoes even though they look like it?
  3. Manners:  If you don’t take your kids to the store, it will be hard for them to learn how to behave in the store.  Don’t give up if you have one lousy trip.  I feel that if I refuse to bring them with me, I am sending them the message that I am incapable of handling them.

How to Shop With Your Children

  1. Do not bring them hungry.  You probably don’t shop well hungry and neither do they.  They will beg for everything that looks delicious.
  2. Lay out your expectations.  Ask them before leaving the car if they understand how they are to behave and what the consequences will be if they don’t.
  3. Make them a part of the experience.  I turn it into a fun game, asking them if they can help me find the roma tomatoes.  They love putting the produce in bags for me and showing off their strength by putting jugs of milk in our cart.  They also enjoy putting the groceries on the belt when it’s time to check out.
  4. Toddler strategies: With my toddlers, I will let them walk beside me as long as they stay nearby.  If they don’t, they know in advance that I will put them right back in the cart.  I will give them another chance a while later and repeat.  It doesn’t take long before I have children who don’t attempt to wander away from me.  It also helps to visit the bakery section of the store because they often give out free cookies to children.  This can keep a toddler happy for a good while.
  5. Kid friendly carts.  Definitely take advantage of the carts with steering wheels if your store has them.  Yes, they are difficult to steer, but they have added greatly to my sanity.
  6. Older children strategies:  They get to take turns either pushing younger siblings in strollers or the privilege of pushing a small cart if they behave.  If they start rough housing in the store, they have to place a hand on the side of my cart while we continue to shop.  I call it my store version of time-out.
  7. Make a list.  Children are good at distracting you from what you came to purchase.  Make the list with your kids.  We will typically get one luxury item and then I expect them to stop begging me for everything in order to think better.
  8. Consider shopping in the morning if possible.  It is less crowded and everyone’s coping skills are better than at the end of the day.

I hope these tips will help you have a better shopping experience.  What are your strategies for shopping with children?
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