Toddler sitting in shopping cart

Taking your toddler shopping can be a very stressful time for you and your little person.

Taking your toddler shopping and keeping them happy at the same time is not easy. Parents up and down the country face the same terrifying dread when it comes time to venture out to the shops with your cute little bundle of joy. The thought of having to try and safely navigate the sweet aisle, check out treats, seeing toys in the distance in those larger supermarkets – it brings grown adults out in hot sweats just thinking about it.

To help you avoid tantrums and screaming fits when taking your toddler shopping, we have compiled a list of helpful tips that will help keep your child happy right through to the checkout.

Preparing to leave the house

Anticipate the terrain

Before you go anywhere, have a good long think about how tricky the setting will be for your toddler.

Will there be lots of sensory distractions, such as heavy lighting or lots of noise? Is the environment known to your child or will there be levels of anxiety of visiting a new place for the first time?

Tantrums normally occur when a chain of events leading up to an event happen. This chain of events gives you lots of opportunities to prevent them escalating.

Aim to anticipate what triggers may spark the build-up of a tantrum for your child and try to provide lots of reassurance for them.

For example, if you know that your child doesn’t like the dark, but there is going to be an underground car park, this is a good spot to tell your child about what is coming. You can even make a game out of the event (let’s find a Gruffalo in the dark car park!) to help your toddler be expecting the event to happen.

Rewards are great, bribes are not

Don’t confuse a reward with a bribe.

Telling your little angel that they will be deserving of a reward at the end of the shopping trip if they behave themselves is absolutely fine. However, waiting for your child to blow up in the supermarket and then bribing them with a treat or a toy to stop them crying is not ok.

Taking your toddler shopping at the right time

Don’t try and fit in an hour-long trip to the supermarket with your toddler late afternoon, when you are approaching the witching hours of dinner, bath and bed.

Try to plan the trip when your child is fully awake and has good energy levels. The best time to take your toddler shopping is in the morning right after breakfast. You want to remove tiredness and hunger from the equation before you set off to minimise these things triggering tantrums.

Do your shop online

Never ever feel guilty about doing a weekly shop online if you can.

As parents, we are extremely time-sensitive and the facts are that your child can be doing a hundred more exciting things than trailing around the supermarket with you so if you can feasibly shop online for all your shopping essential needs then we recommend that you do so.

When you get to the supermarket

Involve your child

When you are getting out of the car and heading into the supermarket start to involve your toddler in the whole process of shopping.

Smiling toddler in supermarket shopping

Talk to them about all the lovely things you are going to buy to eat and ask them if they can help you put things in the trolly. Always aim to get a trolly that allows your child to sit in it.

These work wonders because you can pass the items to your little one and have them help place them into the trolly. The chances are they will be too small to place items in themselves.

Engaging your child in the shopping trip throughout the event is the best way to keep those tantrums to an absolutely minimum.

Lay down the challenge

Children, especially pre-school kids, love a challenge. We have all done the ‘I bet you can’t…’ reverse psychology trick on an unbeknown child.  

Use this weakness to your advantage and make sure you set your toddler some challenges whilst you are in the supermarket. ‘I bet you can’t sit in your chair and help Daddy put the things in the trolly!’ Boom! – success.

Start giving out orders

Closely linked to laying down those challenges is the more direct approach of actually issuing tasks.

You might find that by asking your child to ‘pass me those items please’ helps your toddler remain focused on the task at hand and can turn a supermarket trip into a real adventure for your child. Giving them purpose in-store can really help turn the trip into a huge adventure.

Be careful of the items you ask them to collect for you (no eggs!).

Create two lists

It is a good idea to always create two lists when taking your toddler shopping.

One list is the ‘we absolutely need to buy these items to keep living’ list, and the second list is the ‘nice to have; items. The reason we suggest this approach is because there will be times when you simply cannot control a tantrum.

Leaving your child for 30 minutes crying uncontrollably in a supermarket might feel like you are giving them an important life lesson but the reality is very different. There is no benefit for you, your child or anyone else that happens to be around you to let your child have a prolonged tantrum because you simply have to get items XY and Z.

Get those key items in the trolly as quickly as possible in case you need to ‘check-out’ sooner than planned.

The trip home

Praise, praise and more praise

Remember to tell your little person just how helpful and brilliant they were.

Give yourself a pat on the back too if the shopping trip went to plan.

If the shopping trip turned into a tantrum nightmare and you had to activate the emergency exit button, don’t worry. Keep persevering because these trips will get better.

Dish out those rewards! 

If your child held their end of the bargain then it’s time to give them their fully deserved rewards (and a big kiss!).

Happy family shopping with their toddler
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