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How to grocery shop with a toddler



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How to grocery shop with a toddler

We’ve had our fair share of tantrums at the supermarket. The easy solution would be to shop online but our three-year-old Luciana enjoys grocery shopping and it’s important family time we were reluctant to give up. This is how we manage to shop with a small, strong-willed child.


Set the scene

Tell them in advance that you’re going to the supermarket. Remind them that grocery shopping is fun. If you’re upbeat and positive there’s a good chance they’ll be too.


Don’t shop hungry

Sounds obvious but often it’s not until you arrive at the supermarket that you realise how hungry you are. Some people swear by packing snacks personally I feel uncomfortable taking food into the supermarket and instead encourage Luciana to eat before we go. If we’re caught short, I get a single bread roll from the bakery and give her small portions of it making sure, of course, to pay for it at the till. Our local supermarket offers a free piece of fruit for junior shoppers and even just holding it and smelling it can serve as a useful distraction and learning activity (see below).


mother and daughter shopping in supermarket


Turn it into a game

Play ‘I Spy’ and ask them what they can see. With younger children explain what you are buying and why. With fresh produce, let them touch and smell it and tell them where and how it was farmed. Even with a baby this is a worthwhile exercise as they respond to the sound of your voice.


Give them jobs

Luciana is now old enough to pick out mushrooms, apples etc. for us. Even when she was smaller I would point to something on the shelf and ask her to get it. If my husband’s with us I send them off with a short list of items to gather giving me a few minutes to shop unimpeded.


Child with grocery shopping list


Ask them what they want

Show your child a range of items and let them choose which one to buy. Praise their choice and explain to them how it will benefit the household.


Pick the quieter times

We switched from Sunday evenings to a weeknight. Going after work tired from a day at the office and daycare didn’t strike me as appealing at first until we found that we got to experience an emptier supermarket with produce that hadn’t been picked over.


Recognise good behavior

Comment on how helpful they are and even on difficult days acknowledge the small things they do well.


Child grocery shopping


Don’t get upset by tantrums

The supermarket staff have seen it all and in my experience have been incredibly kind when I’ve been juggling a buggy, a basket of shopping, and a screaming toddler lying on the ground. One option is to leave although that’s not helpful if you urgently need something for dinner. If you can’t leave give your toddler time and space to calm down, reassure them that everything is ok. Try not to get embarrassed; it’s not your fault that your small person is frustrated and struggling to express themself. Most people have been in your shoes and will sympathise. Recently a fellow passenger helped me get a screaming Luciana off the bus and said ‘For what it’s worth I think you’re amazing.’ I thanked him and cried all the way home. Pat yourself on the back, you’re doing a great job.


Written by Trina Saffioti