I’ll admit that grocery shopping is one of my absolute LEAST favorite tasks in the world. And, if I have to bring my kids with me, they certainly do not enjoy it. Before you know it, the entire experience is stressful and you just want to go home.
You aren’t alone. There are some things you can do to make shopping with kids easier and less stressful. And, who knows, your kids may even have fun!
HOW TO MAKE SHOPPING WITH KIDS FUN
Give your kids a grocery list
Kids love to be helpful and a simple way to do this is to give them a shopping list they can use. Create a list with pictures of the items they should find and can add to the cart for you. It gets them involved and having fun. Here are some fun printable lists you can use when shopping with your kids:
Plan your trip
Before you even think about going to the store plan ahead. Take the time to create a meal plan and shopping list. That way, when you get to the store, you know exactly what you need so you can get it into the cart as quickly as possible.
One simple way to spend less time in the store is to list your items by department. You may know the layout of your store and can order items in the way you will find them as you shop. You can also use a divided into categories to help list out the items you need.
Get a free treat
Many grocery stores offer a free piece of fruit or baked good for kids ages 12 and under. Stop by this part of your store first so your kids can munch on something while you shop.
Have a chat before you leave home
Make sure your kids know what will happen before you get into the store. We have kids’ shopping carts with cars on them for kids at our store. I did NOT always get these for my kids. First off, they were always gross (even if I wiped them down) and secondly, by the time you add in 2 kids and a cart full of food — those buggers were hard to push!
I made sure the kids knew that they would be walking and that we would not be getting any candy. If it was a quick trip, I would tell them we have 3 things to buy.
Keeping your kids involved in what is going on helps them to feel more comfortable and confident and can actually make your trip much, much better.
Don’t use coupons
Sometimes, you just have to do what you need to in order to get your shopping done. If that means you can’t use coupons when you shop – then don’t. Maybe it means you start trying to shop at another store instead (such as Aldi).
You might find that it saves your sanity to pick up the toilet paper at the grocery store – even though it may cost a little bit more. Your sanity may not allow you to try to visit more than one store. It’s OK.
Give them a special job
Younger kids can hold items like the cereal. Older kids who are walking can help by getting the item you mention. They not only feel good about helping, it keeps them focused on the task at hand (and the eyes tend to wander less).
Make sure you allow enough time
If you have only 20 minutes to try to fit in a trip to the store, that may not be enough time if you have kids with you. By giving yourself enough time (and even building in additional time) to shop, you will feel less stress and so will your kids.
Know how to handle your meltdowns
Let’s face it. Kids will cry and maybe even have a tantrum when we least expect it. I still remember the time my oldest was only 3 and started having one in Target. I left my items in the cart, pulled her and my bag out of it and left the store. I told her we were done shopping and when she behaved we would go back.
About 20 minutes after we left, she said she was ready to go back and so we returned (and our cart was there waiting for us). She learned that was serious and that I would follow through with my threat. She never had another meltdown like that again.
Some things you can try if your kids get upset is to redirect them. Start to talk about different things in the store. Or, share the recipe you are going to make for dinner and how they will be a big kid by helping to set the table. Of course, you know your kids and know what will work. Just try this the next time they start to act up and you might squelch the breakdown before it really gets started.
Now, the other element is the sibling fighting. Trust me, with three kids, I know about this more than I would ever want. If they were fighting over who got to sit and who had to walk – they would both walk. If it was over getting the same item from the shelf, they would both give up the job. We would then talk about taking turns and they learned that if they fought it would not help, as NO ONE would get the job.
Promise a fun task after you shop
My kids did not enjoy shopping with me. It is not a fun place. I would always tell them that when we got home and had the food put away, we would do something fun. It might mean puzzles or games — or even a movie with popcorn. The caveat I always told them, was that if they did something I wanted to do, I would do the same for them.
This worked well and gave them another reason to just behave and get through our shopping trip. They knew that something fun was waiting for them at home.
Our local store actually helps us with this. They have a small picture of a chicken named Clifford that the kids look for while we shop. This helps them just really focus on something. When they find him, they get to tell customer service and are rewarded with one small free grocery item.
If you don’t have this at your store, ask your child to find letters, colors or prices or other things in the store. This gives them a job to do and something on which to focus while you get the shopping done.
Make it a chance to learn some math
As my kids have gotten older, I have allowed them to learn to compare prices. I make it easy as we compare like size products. They have to look at the prices on the shelf to determine which costs less. This is just another way for them to think they are having some fun in another way to learn.
Know when to shop
Never shop at your kids’ “bad time” of the day. If it is close to nap time or if they are just worn out after school, those may not be the right times to visit the store. Sure, they may be the time that works best for you, but if you can try to change your schedule to make sure that your kids are going to be in a better mood, it will be a much better experience.