Do you believe me when I say, I take a four year old, a three year old, a nearly two year old, and a 6 month old to the grocery store frequently? Well, I do, and 9 times out of 10 it goes pretty smooth. Do you want to know how? I think it is more than “I’m just lucky!”
Tip #1: Reasonable Expectations.
We’ve been in a store plenty of times when my kids and I were crying. They were tired and I was embarrassed, and everyone had streaks of sadness rolling down their cheeks. I analyzed the situation later. What went wrong? What time of day was it? What were we doing before we left for the store? When was the last time we ate?
We go in the morning generally before any sort of adventures or shenanigans. It is best to go on full bellies and preferably not when a nap is needed.
Bottom line, I stopped expecting my kids to be angels when they’re overly tired or hungry.
Tip #2: Give Them Tasks.
Since our little guy isn’t sitting up yet, I end up carrying him in the pumpkin seat (this is a carseat carrier for anyone who doesn’t speak my language). I tried carrying him on my chest or my back in the wrap/sling/carrier-things, and he honestly got in the way most of the time. I either couldn’t see what I was doing or I bonked his head because I forgot he was behind me. Sorry kid! Anyway, he takes up the whole basket and the two year old get the highly coveted seat in the cart.
That leaves me with two walkers. I’ll frequently ask someone to help me push the cart while the other rides standing up on the back. This usually keeps the two year old entertained as well. I let them help pick apples, bananas, potatoes, or whatever we are getting off our list. If I grab an item from up high, then I’ll hand it to someone to place in the basket.. around the baby. If your kiddos are old, send them on a short errand. Have them go grab the cereal from another aisle and come right back, or give them the pencil to mark items off the list.
Tip #3: Make it a Learning Experience.
Here’s what I found to be most helpful. I ask my knowledge hungry kids to find letters, or numbers throughout the store. This is great to help generalize the alphabet, because letters are everywhere, and it ultimately encourages reading. I can come up with all sorts of grocery store lessons actually. You can think of words that rhyme with the items on your list. Try doing simple math problems with the canned food. We usually get four cans of green beans, so I’ll ask my big kid to grab two cans, and then when she’s done, I’ll ask her to grab two more. Then I’ll say what is two and two? She’ll count and give me an answer. Depending on your child’s age, you could bring a calculator and have him try to total up some item’s prices. I know you’re creative, and you can figure out what fun learning games to play with your children.
Tip #4: You Can’t Be in a Hurry.
This is the most common mistake we parents make. Think about it this way: if I’m rushing, I probably look panicked or something similar. If I look panicked, then my kids are probably starting feel that same emotion because they’re getting their cues from me. Taking my time and staying calm through whatever awkward or weird thing that happens, will give my kids the cue to stay calm too. It doesn’t always work this way, I know, but every time I’m in a hurry, my kids act out. Every time. You’re better off slowing down. That’s also why I do tips #3 and #4. It forces me to engage my kids instead of trying to hurry up and get out of there before someone blows up.
This tip will also help you at the checkout. Don’t go any faster because there is a line behind you. The faster you go, the more mistakes you’ll make, or the kids will again begin to act out. Just smile as you calmly get your items on the belt or into your cart.
Tip #5: Stay Confident.
There are times when you will get a cranky person behind you, stay confident in your ability to handle the task at hand. There are times when you’ll wonder if you should be doing something differently, stay confident that you’re doing your best at the moment. You’ll have time after you’re home to analyze your shopping trip. When you hear some teenager say to her friends, “And that is why I’m never having kids.” (yep, I’ve heard it… and it honestly wasn’t even a bad moment in my opinion) just be confident that gal has no idea what kind of love she’ll be missing.
Being confident may be the hardest thing about grocery shopping with kids, but the more confident I became, the better behaved my children were. Which leads me to my last tip.
Tip #6: Practice makes perfect.
The more you go, the more your children will learn what to expect. This is how we teach our kids many things, like potty training, going to church, dinner table manners, etc. You allow your children room for errors, and yelling at them for doing something wrong in certain situations is counterproductive. This is the same for grocery shopping. They’ll learn in their own time. We feel very fortunate the oldest kid is so responsible. Our other kids are following her lead. She’s had the most practice though, because she’s been on earth longer. Bottom line, practice often and with the goal of success.
Do you have any other tips to add? Comment below if you do! We all have more to learn, especially me!