Sunday, April 11, 2010

Grocery Shopping with a Toddler

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?


  1. *Carrier/wrap/sling=shopping essential!
    *I also stole a tip from a friend: put one of those rubber Livestrong-style bracelets around a sippy and attach it to the cart with plastic baby toy links or a fabric D-ring belt. If/WHEN child throws the cup, it doesn't hit the nasty floor! I do it w/the stroller, too so I'm not constantly running over the sippy.
    *I save the junk mail "credit cards" and keep a couple in my wallet for Norman to play with at the checkout. Most of the checkout card swiper things can handle some button pushing and beeping if it's done by a toddler before you swipe the real card :) The worst that can happen is changing the whole screen to Spanish!

  2. Ha - these are great, Gretch! I especially like the junk mail idea. Anna has always stolen the list and coupon keeper from me and I bet junk mail credit cards would keep her occupied!

  3. When I'm feeling particularly run down or James is being difficult, I cheat and order my groceries online. They're delivered to your door, it takes five minutes to bring them inside, and all the fuss at the shops is missed.

    As for actual grocery shopping, it does get easier, although I have been extraordinarily lucky with my little man.

    We count the aisles now, James can count by sight up to twenty, so he loves counting from aisle to aisle (although, this means if I want something in aisle twelve, we usually have to count all the aisles and then go back). Letting him walk and choose items (ones that we need anyway) is also good. He loves to be useful. It's also tricky if he decides he wants something he's not supposed to have that's placed at convenient child eye level.

    We do a lot of alphabet recital, number counting, etc at the checkout. It started out as animal noises and colour reinforcement when he was younger.

    Snacks are good. Singing and dancing to the music over the speakers is also fun (if you're not shy).