Shopping with Toddlers!

Shopping with small children seems to get a range of reactions when I talk to other moms. Some hate it. Some love it. Some do it multiple times a week. Some have a single shopping day.


I used to dread shopping with my kids – especially when my most challenging child was in the terrible twos. (And legitimately some kids are simply hard!!)

However, now it’s become A LOT easier to shop with my kids. Here are some tips that have helped.



  1. Make a list according to the lay-out in your grocery store.






Green Pepper


Frozen Juice

Frozen Vegetables

Chocolate Chips



2. Shop at their happiest time

My kids are morning people. Melt-downs are diminished by 95% if we can get to the store by 9:30 AM and home by 12:00 PM.

I feel really bad for moms who have no choice but to take their kids after work when everyone is tired and grouchy. If I lived closer, I’d completely watch your kids for you!

3. Avoid tough places (ie: toy aisle)

We do go to the toy aisle if we need to get a present for someone. We did today actually), but if we don’t have to, I push the cart by there fast – wouldn’t you if you had a cart full of toddlers??

4. Have a plan in place for if they want a toy.

That said: here is how we deal with toy-wantiness.

A. I tell them to put it back with its friends, and they are required to obey.

Most of the time, it is a non-issue. However, if there is a melt-down, I’ve come to realize that we all have had those moments.

No one should be judging me because everyone has either had kids or is clueless about the reality of what kids are like.

Therefore this meltdown is NOT about our audience. It is about my child.

Therefore it is:

- an opportunity to help my child work through a character issue by kneeling down at his or her level and talking it through with them until they can gain victory over their covetetousness.


-A time to push the cart away fast, get over my embarrassment and deal with the child later – once they’ve cooled down and the temptation is not right in front of their face.

B. If it is an item that I’m okay with them getting, I will give them an option to buy it themselves.

  1. They have to come back with their own money. (Which they earn doing jobs for me). This often means they need to save too. Since most toys cost $8-15, this means it will take a couple months to earn that much. Two times now, my four year old son has put in the work to earn some special toys, the rest of the time, he forgets about it.
  2. They have to remind me later. (and 95% of the time they forget.)
  3. They have to get rid of a SPECIAL toy at home. My kids are down to just 10 toys each besides stored play sets. They carefully selected these out of the mass of toys to keep while the others were toted away. When it comes to some enamoring object in the store or one of their beloved favorites, they rarely abandon their favorites.



5. Punishments in Public

Shopping with me is a privilege and with every shopping trip comes privileges that can be lost.

1. Buckled: If they are in the auto cart, I let the older two stay unbuckled so they can jump down and grab items for me, but if they are not listening, they lose the privilege.

2. Auto-cart: They LOVE the carts with the cool seats! However, we only use them two thirds of the time. If they don’t obey well, the next week, I get two carts and push one and drag one.

3. No reward

I do almost always get them a food item as a reward for being good. Bribery? Kind of. But I think if a small child is good for a tempting shopping trip, they deserve some tangible form of positive feedback.

Usually this is a $1 cheeseburger or a fun (EASY) lunch item so they are fed and ready for a nap when we get home.

If they misbehave – no reward.

4. Discipline at home

Sometimes (like hopping out of the cart and jumping around in the paper towel rolls or racing away while Mama yells to come back or a tantrum from an older child),  there is some form of punishment at home – after I’ve cooled off and where we can deal with the issue face to face.

6. Bring a snack for the check-out

Check-out is when everyone is most grouchy and where the rotten stores have put toys and candy right at kid-level.

If there is one place to have a snack – this is it!

6. Have any coupons ready ahead of time!

If I have an infant, they are usually DONE and ready to eat about check-out so it’s either balance baby and rip out coupons or have them pre-ripped.

That’s it! I can’t say our shopping time is painless, but at least I don’t dread it!

I hope these tips help!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Anti-Spam Quiz:

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>