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Tips to shop peacefully with young children

Shopping with kids can be oh-so-stressful, but these easy tips will make your next trip a lot more enjoyable.

Mom and toddler shopping

Timing is everything

Plan shopping trips to occur when your children (and you!) are well rested, says Candi Wingate of Nannies4Hire. If possible, avoid stores during weekends and peak shopping times. Big crowds and long lines make everyone restless and cranky.

Jennifer Marshall, mom of a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old, takes the kids to do something fun and active in the morning, returns home for a nap and heads out when they wake up. “They feel a lot better about being strapped into a stroller when they have already had a fun day,” says Marshall. “They can sit back and people watch for a couple of hours before getting antsy again.”

The potty

Make sure everyone visits the bathroom at home before you leave for the store, says Stephanie Vozza, author of The Five-Minute Mom’s Club: 105 Tips to Make a Mom’s Life Easier, and ask your children again when you get to the store if they need to go to the restroom before you start your shopping.

Carry PottyCover in your purse or pocket to stave off nasty public restroom germs >>


Make sure your child eats before you leave the house, suggests Vozza, and bring along a favorite healthy snack he or she can eat while you shop.

Cait DeStefano agrees snacks are important but prefers something sweeter. When her 4-year-old and 18-month-old sons start getting tired, DeStefano prevents a meltdown with lollipops. “Lollipops keep their hands busy so they can’t touch stuff and their mouths busy so that can’t nag,” says DeStefano who can then enjoy at least 15 more minutes of shopping time.” (Remember to bring wipes for those sticky fingers.)

Check out OnTray to keep snacks contained and your hands free >>

Set ground rules

Explain to your children what you expect before you enter the store, advises Vozza. Your child should know exactly where to be — holding your hand, sitting in the cart or stroller — while you shop. Let your child know how many stores you’ll be visiting and make the last stop the most rewarding for him. Kids behave best when they know what to expect.

Consider SafetyTat… just in case >>

Promise rewards for good behavior, suggests Wingate. “If you behave while we shop, you may each have a pudding cup when we get back home.” If your children do not behave constructively throughout the shopping trip, then they do not get pudding cups afterward.

“If you expect your children to be calm while shopping, then you yourself must remain calm,” says Wingate, “even if you are surrounded by chaos.”

Keep kids safe in a crowd >>

Make it fun

“Turn the shopping experience into a game and a fun educational field trip,” suggests Wingate. “Interaction will help keep the children engaged while you do productive shopping.”

Vozza has plenty of fun ideas:

  • play scavenger hunt games with coupons or with a list you make up at home
  • play I Spy while waiting in long lines
  • pick a color before you leave the house and call it out each time you see it

Be patient with your little ones… they do grow up!

More shopping tips for moms

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