Shopping with Infants and Toddlers

When getting the groceries with little ones, it doesn’t take much to trigger a meltdown (and all those stares from strangers!). Fortunately, there are a few strategies we can employ to reduce the chances of our child disintegrating in the confectionary aisle, or worse still, in the checkout lane.

Firstly, we can’t expect a young child to know how to behave in a supermarket environment: it’s up to us to teach them. We need to set simple rules and consistently enforce them. Very young children also don’t have the maturity or the attention span for extended shopping trips, so we should start with quick trips and build from there.

Some children may become over-stimulated by the noise, visual stimuli, lights, people and confusion all around them. By keeping trips short initially, and shopping at times when there are less people about (mornings, early afternoons, evenings) we can reduce the impact. Babies may be comforted by being carried in a sling or carrier.

Secondly, we should pick times that are optimal for the children. Shopping with tired children will just compound our problems. Similarly, if our child is hungry. Our goal is to make sure we leave for the supermarket with everyone well fed (that includes us so we don’t buy all those extras!), well rested and feeling well. Taking along a healthy treat as a backstop is a good idea too.

There will ultimately come a point where our child has had enough. They will want activity, exercise or attention from you. Having something on hand to occupy their attention is a clever strategy, but keep that toy or book hidden until it’s needed.

We can try including our children in the shopping itself: “How many bananas do you think we should get?” or “which flavour do you think we should get?” If they want to examine an attractive item, help them hold it safely or let them know it can only be looked at.

Finally, if we reach the limit of our energy and patience we can leave our trolley and head outside for a break with the children. The trolley will still be there when we come back (who likes putting items back on shelves?).

And, if all else fails, abandon the trip and come back later (on your own).