Steph vs. Joy | Shopping with Children (Part I – Joy)


Most of you (including Steph), may think that I’m insane, and perhaps I am in some ways.  But, one of my very favorite things to do on a quiet afternoon when not much else is going on is to go shopping as a family.  Just yesterday me, the hubs and babes loaded up the car to head to Whole Foods to grab some items and I found myself thrilled at the prospect of me and the kids wandering around the store selecting our goodies to bring home.

One of the ways I make shopping fun (especially the weekly grocery errand), is to find ways to involve Reagan in every part of the shopping experience.  Where, if I’m shopping alone I will throw things in my basket as I select them, when I have my two-year-old with me, I find that I can get a lot more done without her screaming to be held/get down/stand up/turn around etc if I find a way to get her to “help” me.

Helping can take on a number of forms.  Here are 5 things I do to help me maintain my sanity and have fun with my toddler as well.

1. Enlist a Helper

Reagan can place apples or pears into the bag. (It’s tricky, but I select the apples and hold the bag and allow her to place (or throw) them into the baggie.)  I also like to find things that won’t break if she throws them into our basket (most veggies, boxed cereals/grains/pasta, some frozen items etc.)  I hand her the item off the shelf and let her toss it into the basket.  Sometimes she gently places it behind herself in the basket, but I don’t count on it.

2. Use the environment to entertain

Sometimes we look for animals, shapes and colors on the merchadise labels.  (An idea I borrowed from a veteran Scottsdale Mom.)  She just about ALWAYS points out cows, dogs, cats, octupus’ etc that she sees scattered about the stores on products and in-store signage.  I just go with it and I try to find the next one.  I’m looking forward to when she knows her colors and shapes because it just means more we’ll have to “talk” about.

3. Schedule more than enough time

I love to dilly-dally, smell the roses, take my sweet time… I can’t always, but when I am able to do so, I cut down my anxiety about how Reagan will behave.  I have plenty of time to correct her and let her try again. If we both have enough time then she can see, touch, feel everything and I can get the groceries home without forgetting anything AND without getting frustrated at her for acting her age.

4. Make a List

So this one might have the “duh” factor, but if I don’t have a list, then I get too focused on all the cows we find in the milk section and forget that we also need yogurt.

5. Be prepared to abandon ship

Just before Elliot was born, Reagan was at the worst age for grocery store trips.  She drove me nuts.  Right around 18 months old, she wouldn’t sit still, screamed to be held, on and on and on.  I took a “time out” from taking her shopping for a little bit.  I just needed to gather up the mental strength to correct her during her shopping trips.  Yes, I needed the strength.

Check back this afternoon for Steph’s perspective on shopping with the kiddos.  (Hint, we have VERY different takes.)


What about you? What do you do to make necessary shopping trips work?


  1. Most days, I do enjoy shopping with my kiddos. Strap the 6 month old in a carrier and let my two year old be my helper (much like you explained above). Shopping is “easy” now…it will be interesting to see how things change as the baby gets older and wants to be more apart of the shopping trip. Any suggestions? Also, what do you do if the baby gets hunger when you are out, do you stop and feed them or switch gears and through things in the cart?

    • Thanks Sarah – re: what do you do if baby gets hungry… I try to leave the house DIRECTLY after feeding (since I’m nursing and don’t particularly enjoy nursing in public places). That buys me about an hour of awake time… OR if it’s nap time, I wear him in the carrier and hope he sleeps. If this works, then I’m good to go, but like I mentioned in the post, I’m ready to leave or check out early if things get out of hand or too crazy. I just come back after the hubs gets home or hit up a drive-thru.

  2. Joy, I love to hear about your fun times with Reagan! I have sweet memories shopping with my kids. I also have some stressful memories, just to be honest! One thing I did with my kids was to review simple expectations right before we went into the store. “Remember, we stay close enough to touch mommy. We use kind, inside voices.” My kids are 4, 6, and 8 now, but when they were babies, I would usually nurse a hungry baby (discreetly) in a front pack or sling while we walked around the store unless I new I was almost finished shopping. It was just really stressful to deal with a crying baby, a toddler or two, and a shopping list. Now my kids are old enough be truly helpful!

    • Thanks Erin… You are the “veteran mom” I was actually referring to…

      Yes, I agree that it can certainly be stressful – but if I’m in the right frame of mind for it, I enjoy the chaos! I love your thoughtful tips too about setting expectations. That certainly works better as toddler’s gain great vocabulary and understanding. Love your thought, as always!!

      • Thanks, Joy! 🙂 It makes me laugh to be considered a “veteran mom,” but I guess somewhere along the line it happened! When all of mine are in school next year, I’ll have to borrow someone else’s kid (maybe just one, though, haha!) to take shopping with me just because I’m so used to the chatter of little ones that I talk to myself when I’m alone in the store! 🙂


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