Grocery Shopping…with Kids

Grocery shopping…but with kids. It’s practically an Olympic sport. Hoisting your suddenly impossibly heavy child into the cart with the squat and ab twist combo. Wrangling their little alligator bodies to buckle them in safely. Hoisting them out of the cart two minutes later. Repeating that motion several more times. Chasing them through the aisles while simultaneously dodging other shoppers. Stopping them from licking or taking a bite out of whatever delicious food is in their eyesight. The worst part? My fitness tracker never logs any of my grocery store steps because I’m pushing the cart instead of swinging my arms back and forth (insert eye roll). I’d like to propose that from now on, one step in the grocery store is the equivalent of two steps in the outside world.

The sport of grocery shopping with kids is not only physically exerting; grocery shopping with kids is treacherous. The tiny arms and legs that flail nonstop as you buckle them in. The mask pulling. Zipping around the sharp turns of stock pilers. Sprinting down the aisle to stop your toddler who got ahead of you and is now eyeing and reaching for a glass jelly jar. Come to I think of it, I have accrued most of my recent injuries at the grocery store. From picking up a 40 pound kid and twisting my body improperly and hurting my back to my ankles getting nailed by one of those miniature carts, the grocery store just may be the most dangerous place I go. I’m still cool and edgy though.

Despite the difficulties of grocery shopping with children, I still love the grocery store. I always have loved the grocery store. The colors. The endless options. The new products. Laughing to myself at the marketing strategies and gleefully making impulse purchases when I think they did a good job. I don’t know, maybe it’s a personality flaw. Either way, I hope that I can inspire you with some ways to make you and your kids enjoy it too. And even learn something. I’m going to focus on positive behaviors today and in a later post I’ll get into the educational aspect.

Still happy after a trip with Mommy and Jackson!

The Dos

Do: pre correct behaviors. Set boundaries with your child on what is and is not acceptable behavior at the grocery store. Keep in mind that your child was born with zero knowledge of socially acceptable behavior. In fact, you have spent the majority of your life learning unspoken rules about how to act at the store and you may have noticed that those societal expectations vary from place to place. Consider:

  • Appropriate pace to move (walking vs running, speed of movement)
  • When it is and is not ok to touch items
  • Voice volume
  • Looking both ways when at end of aisle
  • Passing others
  • Safety/how close or far you are comfortable with your child being from you

Once you have a general idea of the behaviors you need to teach, teach them using positive language. Instead of, “Don’t run in the store”, say, “We walk in the store.” Or “Don’t touch anything,” say, “Please keep your hands at your sides/in your pockets/one on the cart.. (you know your child’s inklings, keep them in mind here). When you need to correct a behavior at the store (yes, I said when), you will use this same positive statement.

Do: time it for success. If you are able, leave for the store an optimal time for good behavior. Consider what time of day that your child is at his or her best. I’ve found that mornings are often a period in which many children are in good spirits, but you know your child and no two are alike. You want your child to be well rested as opposed to due for a nap shortly. Also, I find it helpful to visit the store on a full stomach as opposed to hungry (this helps out the wallet and waistline for me too)! So in the morning after breakfast is my family’s personal time for success.

Jack’s (4 years old) grocery list

Do: involve your child in making or reviewing the list. The more ownership your child has in this trip, the more engaged he or she will be. Engaged, open children listen to and follow directions. Jack sits down with me every week and “writes” his own grocery list as I write mine. Not only does this help his behavior at the grocery store, it is a valuable writing experience for him. I’ll get more on the education next time though.

Do: consider you own shopping behavior. Do you touch items as you look at them but not buy them? I bet you do! Consider the produce department where you pick out that just right avocado for your guacamole. You probably picked up a few and set them back before deciding on the perfect one. Btw, hopefully you got a good one cause avocados are fickle creatures and guac is phenomenal. And yeah, we know it’s extra. Chef’s kiss*

Take some time to reflect on your own actions while shopping. Every time you reached out and picked something up or touched it at the store, a tiny human watched you and now considers it what we do when shopping. Think of a way to explain to your child when it is and is not appropriate to touch something. It is also helpful to ask them to touch things before they try.

Mommy’s little helper

Do: pack a cart cover (Linked here/non affiliate) if you are bringing baby. It will help calm your nerves when your baby is licking the cart cover that you know is clean from your home as opposed to the grocery cart handle that may or may not have been properly sanitized.

The Don’ts

Don’t: expect a quick trip. Allow plenty of time to keep everyone’s stress levels low. You’ll be able to be more patient if you’re not in a hurry, and when you’re more patient and calm, your child is more likely to be responsive.

Don’t: introduce the miniature cartuntil you are mentally prepared to always use the miniature cart. Once your child gets a taste of that freedom, your chances of shopping without getting it are out the door! Ha!

Don’t: walk in front of the miniature cart. Or let anyone else in the store anywhere near that thing. Seriously. It is dangerous. Ohhhh the agony of getting nailed in the Achilles by an exuberant toddler. Too late? Boom. Another grocery store injury. If your child happens to run into another shopper, RUN. Abandon all hope and never show your face there again. Kidding. Kind of.

Don’t: nail them in the ankle with your cart. I don’t know, maybe it’s me? I see a theme developing here. Perhaps there’s some kind of “cart safety” program I should be enrolled in?

Try out these tips and enjoy your next trip! Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on how to make your trip to the grocery store an educational experience. Until then, watch out for those carts.

You got this

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I’m a stay at home mom of two little boys, Jackson and Sawyer. I have a degree in Early Childhood Education and a masters degree in the education field as well. I have experience teaching a variety of ages from birth through grade 12! I’m passionate about child development, gentle parenting, and learning through play. I’ve spent the last few months developing a preschool curriculum for my 4 year old son and would love for you to follow along for inspiration in your own home!

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