One of those funny little quirks of having a family is that they expect to be fed. Not only do they demand three meals a day but snack, too. If that wasn’t enough, the next thing you know you need toilet paper, dish detergent and chocolate. Those are not listed necessarily in order of importance. Ahem.
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Now I enjoy days of having some older helping hands, but I still remember those days of having three or four little ones (5 and under) and having to tackle grocery shopping. Could I have waited and gone in the evenings alone? Sure. That is a valid option for some; but I really had no desire to go out at night shopping. After a day of playdough and diapers, I just wanted to rest.
Guess what? I enjoyed grocery shopping with my little ones and I came home with my sanity (and chocolate). The key? Realistic expectations, consistency and a snack. Here are ten tips for tackling grocery shopping with little ones:
1- Clean Kiddos – While they are not dressed for church, I always make sure my children look nice and neat when we go to the store. It makes for a good impression and gives the children a visual that they are on an important outing.
2- Plan Ahead – If you are going to hit more than one store (perhaps shopping for sales) plan your route. No point in wasting time and gas and increasing the risk of hitting Little Johnny’s naptime. I try to hit my most important stops first so if I have to cut it short we have the necessities.
3- Rule Reminder – Teach your children some basic rules for your outings and remind them before you get out of the car. Rules will vary depending on age and your personal expectations, of course. Keep them simple and easy to remember. The more you go out and allow for practice, the easier for them to remember. Maybe on the way home from story time, swing into a store (when you don’t need anything) and just practice for 15 or 20 minutes.
4- Baby Carrier – I have never liked the infant car seat carriers. Oh, how I love my Moby Wrap. If you have a baby and toddler it makes shopping so nice. Baby in the wrap and toddler in the cart. If you have a preschooler, teach her to hold on to the cart with one hand. That keeps the preschooler close to you and where you can see her all the time. (Pockets are great, too. That preschooler who holds the cart likes to grab things on the shelf? Make sure they wear something with pockets so that free hand has somewhere to “sit”. )
5- Pack A Snack – If the shopping trip is a long one packing a sippy cup and snack might be smart. I always keep a small container of Cheerios or some type of cracker for a simple, not so messy snack.
6- Potty Break – It never fails; as soon as I get as far away as possible from the bathroom, my preschooler will have to go potty. Then we go flying through the store to the nearest bathroom. With little ones, especially newly potty trained, go to the bathroom first. As soon as you get there.. Go. to. the. bathroom.
7- Big Helper – If you have a preschooler let them be your big helper. Sarah, 5, is great at grabbing things for me and it puts those hands to work. We have common items that we use so she can easily recognize them. Not only does it keep her hands busy but she is learning as well. Counting, building reading skills and how to be a diligent worker. Perhaps making your preschooler her own “grocery list” using pictures and letting her check them off would be fun.
8- Conversation – Talk to your children! Talk about what they are seeing. Last week, Sam, 3, was so excited to see a toolbox display. He pointed out everything. Great! I play peek a boo with the baby, sing silly songs and talk about what we are buying. Enjoy the time with your children!
9- Woo Hoo! – When you are all done and in the van on the way home, let them know they did a great job. Encourage that good behavior! Don’t stop there. Let them help you at home, too. Let them carry in the item that fell out of a bag, hold the door for you or carry in the package of toilet paper. My 17th month old helps put certain items away in the kitchen. Encourage their desire to help.
10- Bye Bye – Be willing to leave and know when to leave. Baby is fussy and just won’t settle? Toddler decides to keep testing out his vocal chords? Little Susie decides that aisle 5 looks good for a tantrum? Miss Molly won’t stay by the cart but decides to play Peek-a-Boo on a different aisle? Grab what you need, get in the van and go home for nap time.
I no longer have to take all of my children shopping. I was reminded the other day that some of my current little ones have limited experience in the store and I really need to make that training a priority. Whether required or not, I am going to get my younger ones caught up on grocery shopping skills. And keep my sanity in the process!
What are your favorite tips for shopping with little ones?