There was a time when I’d sit my boys down and have the talk...
“We are going to the grocery store and we’re only buying what is on the list. Do not ask for anything else at the store, I’m not buying it. If you keep asking for more items, you won’t get a cookie in the bakery. Understand?”
“Yep, got it Mama.”
Okay, good to go.
Walking to the store, I’d take a deep breath. Please let this shopping trip go well. Please.
As we’re shopping they’d help me pick out fruit and veggies in the produce department, enjoying counting the number of apples they add to the bag, the different colors of bell peppers to choose from, and the funny names of the melons.
We’d continue going through each aisle and they continued to be my helpers.
This is going so well. Just one more stop. Yesssss.
Then we got to the toy aisle, which also holds paper towels, sandwich bags, and aluminum foil.
Why do stores do such a thing? I’ll never understand!
I take a deep breath and step in. Distraction! Yes, let’s distract.
“Hey boys, which paper towels would you like to buy?”
They look at me for a split second before eyeing all the toys.
We’ll, that didn’t work. Deep breaths.
My 3 year old sees his favorite super hero action figure and it begins. Both boys being their pleas for toys.
“Can I have Batman? I really, really want him Pleeeeaaasse!”
“I neeeed this car for my set!”
“What about bubbles? We finished our bubbles last week!”
“Why can’t I have the car? It’s just one car!”
I’m trying to pick out the right containers I need, and I can’t focus on my task because of the demands of my children.
I’m getting frazzled and frustrated.
“I told you not to ask for anything! This is not okay! We’re leaving right now and you’re not getting your cookie from the bakery!! LET’S GO!”
The toys are put away and as we’re walking out of the aisle, my 3-year-old loses his mind. He’s wailing so loudly that it’s causing other shoppers to stare.
Great. Now I’m that mom, in the grocery store with the screaming child. GREAT!
Now, I feel like screaming. With gritted teeth, I chunk our groceries onto the belt at the checkout.
My 6-year-old is standing there nervously quiet as my 3-year-old continues to wail. They know Mama is mad.
A few minutes later, after the car is loaded with groceries and kids, I sit in the driver’s seat and take a deep breath to calm myself.
I need a few more tools in my toolbelt for grocery shopping. I can’t keep doing this.
That was me just a few short months ago.
Since then, I’ve made a few changes to our grocery store routine, and things are looking better!
Before going into the store I tell my children exactly what I expect from them.
There are only a few things I expect when I’m shopping with my kids.
I expect that they:
- will stay nearby and not run through the store
- will try to be aware of other people and not get in their way
- will not throw a fit if they don’t get something
- will be helpful and participate in the process.
Before we step foot in the store, I remind them of my expectations.
Make A List
Yep, a list. Not a list for me, but for my kids.
We all go armed in the grocery store with clipboards, paper, and pencils, ready to check off each and everything on our lists.
My kids love their lists, especially my 6-year-old.
This is my oldest son’s list, but I also make a list using pictures for my 3-year-old.
Giving them a helpful task keeps them engaged in the shopping experience.
Make Kids Your Helper
The best thing I’ve done while shopping is continually engaging my children in the shopping process.
“Hey J, we need apples. Help me pick out the best ones.”
“Oh, bell peppers are on our list. Which ones are bell peppers?”
“Do you see our bread? We need two loafs, can you grab them for me?”
“Time to checkout, can you help me unload our groceries onto the belt?”
Not only does this keep them from getting bored and restless, it also teaches them how to grocery shop.
Bring a Small Toy
The grocery list does a great job at keeping my oldest occupied throughout our trip, but my 3-year-old is done with his about the time we reach the bread aisle. So I allow him to bring one small toy, usually a Hot Wheels Car.
Luckily, he’s still small enough to sit in the seat of the cart. So, I plop him up there and let him drive his car while I continue shopping and checking things off my list with his brother.
That car does a great job of keeping him engaged and happy.
Surviving the Toy Aisle
On the rare occasion we have to head down the dreaded aluminum foil, plastic container, oh-my-gosh my kids need every single toy aisle, I have to be armed and ready.
Before we even step into the aisle, I bring my kids over to me, kneel down to their level and remind them once again of the rules.
“Okay, we’re about to head into the toy aisle and we’re not going to buy anything. You guys already have toys with you, you don’t need anything new right now. If you see something that you must have, I’ll take a picture of it and we’ll add it to your Amazon Wishlist.
If I hear whining or complaining, then we leave right away.
Now, I’d love some help picking out supplies, but you can look at the toys, if you’d like.
Just remember that when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”
I have decided to give them time to look while I’m shopping. I’ve even been known to stand there and wait for them to be done looking, even after I’m done getting what I need.
When I give them time, it’s easier for them to leave because they don’t feel so jilted and frustrated that they weren’t able to look.
Mostly, they just want time to explore and see what’s new, so I give them that time.
If there’s something they are super excited about, I take a picture of it and then we add it to their wishlist when we get home.
By the way, having a running Amazon Wishlist for each kid is the best thing we’ve ever done! It helps so much in situations like this.
I give a 2 minute warning and prepare them for the transition away from the toys. I will even set a timer on my phone so that they know when the timer goes off, it’s time to go.
It’s amazing how much better things have gone since I’ve started giving them time to explore.
One last tip for surviving the toy aisle. Just don’t go down it.
But, sometimes that’s just not possible….and down the dreaded aisle we go.
Survive the Store
When we’re shopping, I have to remember to slow down, keep my cool, and set firm boundaries.
Since using these new tools, most of the time we actually enjoy our shopping trips together. It’s not always perfect and there are times when one of us is having a rough day and we fall apart, but I’d say we’re shooting an 80% success rate at the grocery store.
And that’s something I’m proud of.