Enjoying a Trip to the Grocery Store with a Toddler

Enjoying a Trip to the Grocery Store with a ToddlerThe baby is screaming, the toddler is running from one item to another leaving behind a path of littered goods, and you are just trying to bust through the aisles as fast as possible to make it out and have something to eat tonight. Does the situation sound familiar to you? Shopping with young children in tow can feel like running an Ironman, but with a little (or a lot) of preparation you can make it enjoyable for everyone (most of the time).

Here are five tips for surviving the grocery store with your toddler.

  1. Be Prepared. As much as possible, try to have a list of exactly what you need to pick up.  If you haven’t already, try meal planning on the weekend. Start off by planning 4 dinners a week, and it usually comes out perfect with a night or two of leftovers and one night out. You can adjust this to your own family patterns. One big grocery shopping trip is easier than lugging the kids into the store several times a week.  Also try some of the meal planning services that give you a menu and itemized grocery lists broken down by department.
  2. Timing Matters. Try not to wait until the end of the day to rush to the grocery store.  Everyone is tired and has little focus in the afternoon. Instead, try to do your grocery shopping first thing in the morning. Get up, have breakfast, and off to the store. Everyone is happier in the morning, including the store employees and customers. They will be more receptive and welcoming to your children and add a pleasant vibe to completing your trip.
  3. Involve your child. Make sure that even though you are getting your work done, you focus on your children. Involve them in the trip. The grocery store is full of great teaching opportunities and your child will soak it up. In the produce section, talk about names, colors and shapes of the things you buy. Have your child find items you know they can recognize.  Have them help you put food in the bag or in the cart. Pay attention to the signs and pictures around the store–talk to them about the sign or have them find it. Play I-Spy games describing what you see, and encouraging them when they can identify the item. If your child is getting antsy, pretend you just got on a train and make the cart stop/go at various “stations” where the train is loaded. Teach your child to say hello, thank you, and goodbye to the workers your encounter, take time to let your child talk to them if they wish.
  4. Know your store. Make sure you know your store. Know where the bathrooms are, know where the trashcans are, and know where free handouts (cookies in the bakery, rice cakes at the sushi stand) are. This is a huge help when a crisis strikes.
  5. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground or leave. Even the most planned mom cannot plan how her child will behave. If your child is having a particularly difficult time, they need to feel the strength and direction of their caretaker. Do not be afraid to tough out the last few minutes or to leave the store and come back later to finish some or all of your shopping.

Casey Mix-McNulty, RN, BSN is a full-time mom to an imaginative little boy and a feisty little girl. She is also a pediatric nurse aspiring towards becoming an IBCLC.

Tags: coping, grocery store, strategies, toddler

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