Since having Anna, going out in public has sometimes been a challenge for me. First because I was a little wigged out by how many people felt the need to touch my new baby and now because Anna wigs out at the slightest bit of boredom. Here are a few things at each age so far that have helped ease if not eliminate grocery store our freak-outs (hers AND mine).
1. (Infant - about 1 year) Use a sling or front carrier. This almost eliminated the number of people rushing up to touch Anna when I would keep her in her car seat in the cart (in the big basket - PLEASE don't set it on the seat like you've probably seen lots of other people do! The seats and carts are not designed to this and I've heard horror stories of carts toppling over with helpless infants on top). Also, Anna was a child who detested her car seat, so keeping her strapped to me kept her happier for longer as well. As she got older, I faced her forward in the front carrier so she could watch the people. Beautiful solution!
2. (6+ months) Cheerios! Cheerios, animal crackers, raisins, any small, non-messy snack will do the trick. My husband affectionately refers to these as my "pocket cookies," as I always keep a big pocket full of animal crackers when we take Anna out shopping with us. I may eat one or two myself. She needn't know about that.
3. (18+ months) Little Tikes Cart. Our grocery stores have shopping carts with those Little Tikes cars on the front. Anna LOVES them. I hate them because they make the cart really heavy and hard to steer. However, there is an additional perk to using these: When the aisle gets crowded and I, as a grown up, have to act polite about how slowly someone is moving or is taking up the entire aisle with their cart, Anna thinks it's terrific fun to yell "BEEP BEEP" when we stop moving for too long. The other shoppers think it's cute because she's little and I think it's cute because that's EXACTLY what I was thinking!
4. (18+ months) Let her help. This is a tricky one because if not done exactly right, giant meltdowns ensue at checkout. Sometimes I'll let Anna pick out an item or two (that we need) and hold it while we ride up to check out. If I don't either (a) take TWO of that item, one to be scanned and returned, the other to be clutched tightly and continuously by chubby baby fingers, or (b) make sure there's something else interesting I can give to Anna at checkout time to swap for said item, I have to wrestle the item away from her to be scanned. The ensuing screams are loud, quick and difficult to calm, usually lasting for the rest of the time away from the house.
That's all I've got. There's a lot of "where are Anna's eyes" and "what sound does a lion make" going on these days. It's also all about timing. If I try to cram in a shopping trip right before nap time, I'm just asking for it. If I don't give her a little time to wake up and play, then she's too antsy to sit in a shopping cart for an hour.
What are your shopping survival tips?