Shopping without the kids in tow is easier when school's in session. Now that summer's here, that means no more power shopping sans kids till September. Sigh!
MK Facebook friend Laura P., mom to four boys, ages 4 through 11, admits, “I avoid taking them shopping if I can, just because they will request items not on my list.” That’s a common kid-shopping annoyance. Family trips to the grocery or shopping mall have also been known to incite Veruca Salt–sized “I-want-it-now” tantrums, past-my-naptime meltdowns, where’d-they-go disappearances, shopping-cart pinches, “Gimme-that” sibling battles, even the occasional pilfering of items that need to be returned to the shelves with a stealing-is-wrong lecture. With a little planning and advice from our age-by-age guide, though, shopping with kids in tow can be an exercise in family bonding rather than, well, a real chore.
General store advice for shipping with kids
- Timing is everything — shop when stores are least crowded.
- Make sure little ones are well rested and fed.
- Park near the cart lot for easy drop-off when done.
- Never leave your child unattended.
- For safety’s sake, never place a child of any age in the cart basket.
- Encourage healthy eating habits; let kids choose veggies and fruit for the week.
Shopping with infants/toddlers
- Pack essentials — don’t get caught without diapers, wipes, an extra pacifier to replace the one that fell in the sticky cart. Speaking of . . .
- Do not place infant carriers in carts. Search for a cart with an attached infant seat. If there isn’t one, use a sling or backpack carrier.
- If using a cart seat, make sure your child sits upright and is buckled tightly.
- Point out words and letters on store signs for some early teaching.
- Strollers are perfect for mall trips. Baby naps while mommy shops.
Shopping with preschoolers
- Set behavior expectations, offer incentives. Laura P. lets her sons visit the lobster tank in the fish department if they keep it together.
- Pack snacks and a book or toy to prevent boredom.
- Put only one child in a single seat.
- Do not allow children to stand inside the cart or hitch a ride on the back edge. Yes, it is fun, but it’s not safe.
- If your child is old enough and won’t wander off, let him walk holding carefully to the side of the cart.
- Ask your child to pick out colors, letters and words on signage and products.
- Find preschool shopping printouts at Fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.
Shopping with grade-schoolers
- Shop with a list (either written out or on a phone app), so when they ask, "Can we get Double Stuf Oreos?” you can respond with, “Is it on the list?”
- Let them find and cross off list items. Make it a game, like MK FB friend Laura M. “My daughters like challenging each other to see who finds the items first.”
- Show them how to use math to compare product costs and read labels to choose healthy items.
Shopping with tweens/teens
- Put them in charge of both list and coupons.
- Let them push the cart.
- Have them help load, unload and put items away at home.
- Spend one-on-one time shopping for clothes or personal items. Enjoy the alone time with your young adult.
Janet Tumelty is a freelance writer and mom from South Jersey.