There is nothing that can make my blood pressure go up like a shopping trip with two small children. I’ve had my share of embarrassment, frustration, tears, and then, I’ve also had joy, success, laughter, and relief!
If you were my best friend, and you were needing some help in the grocery shopping department, this is what I could tell you from my life.
Malachi’s very first time sitting in the cart.
1. Time and Day Matter.
Choose a day during the week where your children are rested and best behaved, and choose a time during the day that will allow for maximum success. For me, that means Monday morning at 8:45 we depart the house for our week’s worth of groceries. Thursday and Friday, my kids would be too tired from the week.
Early afternoon shopping would mean we’d go instead of a nap so DANGER awaits that mama. Too close to lunch time, is too risky, and same with dinner. So think about your grocery “sweet spot”. If you can keep it the same every week, your children will appreciate that routine-and you will too!
New babies are pretty flexible as far as grocery runs go, but the nursing schedule might not be. I would either nurse right before I left home, or I’d nurse in the car before we went into the store when I had my babies.
2. Set Up For Success.
Get ready for a successful shopping trip. Get your game plan ready. Write out your grocery list and put it in categories, less eye scanning for you means a quicker trip for the kids. Have you checked out our meal plan template yet? or an app that helps with the grocery list?
Chose grocery stores wisely, do you have to drive 30 minutes to get there? That’s 30 minutes of their patience and behavior you’re playing with. Consider a closer grocery store. What about the huge grocery stores? They take much longer to get through, consider a smaller store.
3. Mom/Dad time before car time.
Eric reading to Eva before we start a task.
Before you get in the car, spend 20-30 minute of un-divided attention with your kids. Read books, play tickle time, build a train track, nurse, pretend tea party, anything to give them some mommy time before mommy needs some think time at the store. This simple act will go a LONG way. This is preventative for the super needy grocery store kid meltdown.
4. The Survival Stash.
In my diaper bag or small kid backpack I keep the Grocery Store Survival Stash. Depending on kids ages the stash has; 2-3 snacks/child, pacifier, stickers, a pen, 1 small toy/child (matchbox car, play cell phone, baby rattle, flashlight…).
I like to choose a snack that will take the MOST time to be eaten. Cheerios and raisins go with me to EVERY grocery store. These take forever to eat 🙂 You’re going to need one of those nifty non-spilling snack containers for wee ones or you will be stepping on Cheerios ALL THROUGH THE STORE. #cheeriodust.
Another snack we love is a whole apple. My kids started eating whole apples when they were 14 months and they are another LONG snack. Little ones drop them a lot so sometimes I have them sit in the big part of the cart for the first part of the store when they eat the apples.
Our kids rarely get candy, but sometimes a sucker can be a good emergency if everything else has run out.
Stickers! After every successful aisle or area of the store give them a sticker for good behavior. I wouldn’t entice them, (If you are good you’ll get a sticker) or warn them, (If you are bad you won’t get a sticker). That will motivate behavior in a different way. Just get to the end of the aisle and say, “Wow, great job with the ketchup aisle, here’s a sticker!”.
I’m showing them the little smiley face on my finger that got added after an aisle of great behavior.
Smileys. A friend told me about smilies. The same theory as stickers, but when an aisle or area is up draw a smiley on your finger or their finger. My kids think these are SO funny.
5. Parking Places.
Now, you’re going to need to park strategically too. So, park next to the cart return, ok? This will help you get kids into the carts on your way IN to the grocery store, and help you safely load kids/groceries and return the cart after you’re done at the grocery store.
6. Set Limits.
Ok. So you have your categorized list, your Survival Stash and you’re ready to head out the door. In the car ride continue your mom time by singing to a silly cd, telling them a story in the car, or pointing out the things you see on the drive.
Malachi looks TERRIFIED but it’s really just his super smiley face.
Before you get out of the car it’s time to have a team meeting. I learned to “Set the Limits” as a children’s leader at BSF, but I use it multiple times a day as a real life mom.
So, I turn around and say with cheerfulness and not fake, “It’s time to go in the grocery store. We get to get our food for the week. We will sit in the cart and eat yummy snacks, we will see if we can find some fruit, we will see the workers there. We will not fuss and we will obey Mama if she gives us an instruction. Ready?”
And then, depending on how the day has been going I stop and pray. I am not even kidding. I pray out-loud so my kids can hear. I pray for my patience, I pray for their endurance, I pray for cheerful attitudes and I pray for quick resolution to issues.
Out of the car we come
7. Carting around infants and small kids.
Oh, you sweet little fresh babies. What do we do with you at the grocery store? We get shunned if we put the car seat up in the top, we have no room for our groceries if we put you in the big basket, it’s so much work to put you in the wrap. What can we do?
The wrap was nice. The Ergo was nicer.
The baby carrier was the easiest for me to do at the grocery store. While we were still in the parking lot I put them in their carrier. I’ve tried 3 of those ridiculously long pieces of fabric that you mummify yourself with and then plop a baby into and I AIN’T GOT TIME FOR THAT. I’ve tried several carriers and my absolute favorite is the Ergo. You’ll need that little insert for infants, but I can get it on and off without feeling like I’m going to drop my baby, head is TOTALLY supported and it doesn’t kill my back or push down all my post baby tummy squish.
When you get your shopping cart, IF you want your kids to sit in a certain spot, stand in a certain spot, whatever, do not give them a choice. If toddler cannot handle himself unless he’s in the cart you do not say to him, “would you like to walk or sit up here”. NONONO. You say, “today you get to sit up high on a diving board and let your legs dangle down into the swimming pool”. Or something really ridiculously fun like that.
This sticker shows where Eva needs to keep her hand when the cart is moving.
If a child gets to walk beside the cart you can put a sticker where they should stand, or where they should hold on to the cart. Maybe they can walk through the produce section and that’s all they can handle for the day. Let them know before hand, “Today you get to help me get fruit and vegetables and then you can eat your snack in the cart!”
If big sister gets to walk, and toddler doesn’t get to. Fine. Toddler might not be old or responsible enough to walk and you can say, “When you are older Mama will help you learn how to walk in the grocery store, right now Mama is teaching sister how to do it.”
I sing to my kids when the going gets tough. “I’m bringing home my baby bumble bee” #classic
There is a 10 second rule for grocery shopping. If you stop in one place for longer than 10 seconds it might start to get crazy. Make sure you have that store mapped out, grocery list categorized, (third time I’ve said that), and keep it moving. My kids are no bueno when we have to stop at the meat counter and get meat. I pull out all the stops there. We do every finger play I know to get us through that 4 minutes. Ie: twinkle twinkle, pat a cake, eensey weensey spider…
8. Correct when needed.
If you kid. When your kid starts to act like an alien at the grocery store, it’s ok. They will scream, they will fall on the floor, they will pretend like you have never done one day of child rearing in your life, and you cannot let yourself be defeated about this.
Quickly get down on their level and talk very softly sportscasting their action. “Oh, you are mad, you are mad mad mad” You are lying down on the floor and kicking and you are mad”. Once they see and hear that you know how they are feeling then you can start to talk to them about their behavior. “You are tired of being in that cart huh? Well, Mama will sing three little monkey’s jumping on the bed while we go through this aisle, here we go…”
Now sometimes kids are tired, and bored, and that encourages negative behavior issues. All the things we talked about above will help prevent that, not always, but they will help.
Other times they are plain defiant. From the time my kids were 2-2.75 the grocery store was a dread for me. I prayed every week I would make it through in one piece, I posted on Facebook when we got through without meltdowns, it was not a pretty site.
We would park our shopping cart all over the store while I carried a SCREAMING child into the bathroom and we served a time out, I soothingly sang to them until they settled, and we would talk about what they did wrong, what they should do, and we’d try it again. I believe my current record is 6 times to the bathroom for correction in one morning.
When you enter into this phase, know that it will pass, it is a right of passage for a mom and that you will make it out and one day this writhing child on the floor will walk across a stage and get their diploma.
9. Check out, Success.
Ok! You’ve given out the snacks, the stickers, you’ve been singing and gabbing all through the store, and now it’s time to check out.
We pull our cart over once more before getting in line and set the limits again. “While we’re in this line, we will talk about the colors we see, play I-spy, and stay in the cart.” By this time, you want to get out of there as FAST as you can, you’ve almost made it, or your beet red with embarrassment and want to go cry in your steering wheel.
A friend of mine with 3 kids had a great suggestion. If the line is long ask the clerk, or go find someone to open up another lane. Explain that your kids are losing patience and you would really appreciate being able to get them through the last part of the grocery store quickly. Love that idea during those tough days.
10. Practice makes Patience.
Just because you try the things I suggested, just because you work hard at parenting, just because you pray that you can make it through the grocery store doesn’t mean things will go well for you.
Our challenging times as parents can break us, they can defeat us, they can demoralize us. But, we can seek to understand that when we practice being parents a little more of us understands what our heavenly Father experiences in us.
We are His challenging children, we know His love, we know His best, we know how to get along well with Him, but yet we test Him, we choose our own way, and we frustrate the relationship with Him.
My friend, as you parent your little ones, may you allow yourself to be parented by God the Father, and seek first His path for your parenting.
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