I have had my fair share of horrific shopping experience with young children, as a nanny and especially as a mom. Run-away toddlers, whining preschoolers and embarrassing tantrums that felt like they would never end. I have been in shopping-hell many times but by trial and error I have become wiser. And even though it still isn’t my favorite hobby to go shopping with my daughters, more often than not we now have a great time. Here are a few of my favorite strategies for avoiding shopping-hell!
Avoid busy hours
My oldest daughter is a sensitive child. Noise, lights and crowds can make her go bananas. And even though some children don’t have this problem, avoiding busy hours is usually a good idea; better parking spots, shorter lines and just more breathing space. So, if you can, avoid the crowds and go early in the morning or on a weekday. The only jam you’ll experience will be from elderly people adoring your children or elaborating about the weather of the last few days.
Make sure your toddler knows what’s expected of them
Setting expectations is important for children. This way they know how to act in a particular environment, like a store, as most toddlers seem fairly clueless when it comes to shopping etiquette. Make sure that your toddler knows where you are going and what’s going to happen next. This makes shopping a less of an anxious activity and a better experience for everyone.
Make a shopping list (not on your phone!)
Always make a list when you take your toddler to the store, because you want to focus on your child as much as you can. When your toddler is older, make a small list for thems well and tell him that it’s very important to keep the list safe and to get the items on the list. This way, your toddler feels included and important. Don’t make the list on your phone, because your toddler might associate your phone with video-phoning grandma, watching YouTube or playing a fun game. Next thing you know, he has confiscated your phone, ‘singing’ along with Frozen songs at full volume.
Keep it short and sweet
Try to keep the shopping experience as short as possible. Toddlers have a short attention span and will be fed up with shopping quickly, so try not to torture them with long shopping sessions. If you can and need to, go again tomorrow. Usually, short shopping sessions are better than one long one.
Make sure you have your trip planned around your kid’s schedule. Dutch people love their schedule! Having a schedule for your toddler will make things predictable and more manageable for everyone in the family. So, go to the grocery store between meal and napping-times. This way your toddler is less likely to become tired. I find that straight after breakfast is the best time for my girls to visit a shop
Let them help
Giving your toddler a mission helps a lot. Getting them to grab the apples or holding on to a bag of rice (make sure it’s a solid quality bag!) for you will give them a great sense of importance and make them more willing to cooperate.
Never go on an empty stomach and bring snacks
Always make sure that your toddler is well fed and hydrated when you bring them to a store. And even though they have just consumed a full loaf of bread, bring healthy snacks to the store as well, just in case. Being ‘hangry’ is a real thing, especially when you are a toddler.
Toddlers want to do everything themselves, so make sure you don’t have to rush when they help you load in the groceries or pick out the best oranges. Doing things yourself takes a loooong time when you are two-years-old.
Talk to your child and involve them
Try to focus on your child as much as you can while doing the shopping. Tell them what you are doing, ask them questions and just give them attention. They love attention and, in the long run, will love grocery shopping a bit more because they get quality time with you.
Skip certain supermarket spots
I always try to avoid the candy aisle, the toy store and the playing area when shopping. These things are like fuel to the flames (and pure evil!).
If getting your toddler to the store is the biggest problem, a bribe can help. I only buy ‘hagelslag’ (typical Dutch chocolate sprinkles the Dutch put on their sandwiches) when my daughter goes with me to the store. If she doesn’t want to cooperate, I tell her I will only buy peanut butter to put on her sandwich.
Put them in the cart or bring a stroller
Walking makes those short toddler legs tired, and a tired toddler is a temper tantrum waiting to happen. Strapping them in safely also avoids getting unnecessary stuff from the shelves, touching everything and running away. So, if your toddler is not a great listener or is still small, the best way to go is to strap them in.
If you can, go alone or order your groceries online
With some kids, grocery shopping is like a military operation. The time, the setting, the preparations; everything needs to be right. If you have the luxury of ordering your groceries online or going by yourself, just do it! Toddlers don’t need to learn how to shop weekly at this young age so why go through the hassle? When they are older it will become easier so, if you can avoid taking them, why not?
I hope these tips will help you to avoid breakdowns and other shop horrors! If you have another shopping tip, please leave it in the comments below.