The dreaded grocery store.  It is always such a precarious balance between getting the job done and keeping your young child or children occupied.  As children grow older, their needs (and demands) change, too.  Tips that worked wonders with little ones don’t seem to be quite as effective as children hit preschool age.  Here are a few tips to making grocery shopping with a preschooler a little easier (and fun!):

  • Timing is everything.  If you can avoid peak hours at the store, by all means do so!  Also consider times when your child is especially cranky.  Needing a nap and hunger can hinder a shopping trip, so make sure your child is well-rested and fed.
  • Make a plan.  Going into the grocery store without a list will most likely lead to missing items and things you weren’t planning on purchasing.  Write down everything you need to get.  Your child can watch you check items off the list, giving them a good indicator of “are we done yet?”
  • Safety first.  Those lap belts are on the cart for a reason – use them!  If you have a cart seat or cushion with additional straps, by all means use it.  Never leave your cart with your child in it out of arm’s reach.  Children should stay seated in the seat portion of the cart at all times unless they are going to walk beside you.  Riding on the sides or front of the cart, sitting in the main basket and even helping push the cart can all be dangerous to little ones.
  • Play a game!  Make shopping a fun adventure for your child.  Sing favorite songs, and make up your own songs based on things you find in the store.  Play “I Spy” along the aisles.  Look for familiar letters and numbers.  If your child wants to “help”, give them a coupon and have them locate the item on a shelf.  Most coupons have pictures of the item on them, and children can match the picture to the items on the shelves.
  • Consider bringing a goody bag.  A small stuffed animal, a treat or drink are all great things to put into a grocery goody bag.  Allowing children to snack on items in the cart before they are purchased is not acceptable.  Children need to be taught to purchase items before using them.  Put a book in the goody bag – it will be a great distraction while you wait at the checkout lane!
  • Make it a general rule to not buy “extras”, such as candy and toys.  Buy not doing it at all, the temptation is not fed and it is not an expectation the child has at the store.
  • If your child isn’t able to behave or control themselves, leave the store.  It is far better to come back when your child is in a better mood, and it teaches the child that unacceptable behavior is just that – unacceptable.  Harsh punishment or words is not necessary – your child will get the message when you walk out the door.

Not every trip will be a walk through the park, but by practicing these tips, many issues that arise with preschoolers at the store can be minimized and even eliminated.  Happy shopping!