Supermarkets and Toddlers

Surviving the Supermarket

with your Toddler 

As parents, we’ve all been there! Walking through the aisle at the supermarket attempting to simultaneously fill your grocery cart up with everything on your list and keep your toddler entertained and calm…you’ve been doing really well…That is until you reach the checkout lane. That’s when it happens. Melt.Down. Central.. (And why not?! Every type of colorful, delicious looking candy is right at their eye level and their patience and attention span is running paper thin!) Of course, there will undoubtedly be that one person who is giving you THAT look….you know the one…the “My child would NEVER act that way” look!

In a futile attempt to tame the monster that has overtaken your lovely child you decide to give in “just this once” and give them a piece of that candy to quiet them. STOP! DON’T DO IT!

Why, you ask? Because your child is likely very intelligent and will quickly catch on that if they throw a fit, you will give in and they get what they want. Then, the next time you are in the line and you are determined to not give in, they will just ramp up that tantrum even more because they know they may eventually wear you down and they’ll get their way! It’s a vicious cycle!

So here are a few tips to surviving the supermarket with your toddler

  • Before you get there tell your child where you are going, and how you expect him to act. We’re going to Target. I want you to sit in the cart patiently while I get the groceries.”
  • Bring along small toys or snacks such as raisins or fruit snacks that will keep little hands occupied.
  • Include your child in the shopping with a “grocery list” of their own with pictures of some items you are getting. (Or you can be very creative and laminate a page with pictures of common grocery items. Give them a dry erase crayon and challenge them to find all of the pictures on the list, ending with the cash register) 
  • Praise your child: Far too often we point out when our child is doing something wrong, but forget to point out all the good choices they are making! “I like how you stayed seated in the cart while I paid for the groceries, thank you! A trip to the park, special song played in the car or snack would be some great rewards.
  • Be sure your child has recently eaten and is well rested before hand.
  • Read and discuss Llama Llama, Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney to prepare your child.

If your child does enter melt down mode be sure to empathize and validate their feelings. “Johnny, I know it’s been very hardto be patient and you just want to go home and play! I want that too! Let’s see if we can work together to get this shopping done, then we can have a snack when we get in the car.” Try to redirect your child into a helper activity loading items in the cart or counting all the groceries you have gotten.  Finally, breathe! It won’t be like this for long!logo

Katerie Breuer, MSW, LCSW, LISW-CP

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