6 Ways to Make Shopping with Kids Fun

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WHAT–shopping in a STORE with KIDS in 2020?! How dare I!

I know, I know. Moms never generally got excited about making grocery trips with young children–and since the virus-that-may-not-be-named, even quick stops into a store can cause serious anxiety for many people.

To make it easier for you, here are 6 ways (and a bonus COVID tip) to take the misery out of shopping with kids and actually turn it into a fun part of your day. 

COVID Tip: Try to Avoid Shopping In-Person

I don’t need to explain how incredible kids are at gathering and sharing germs in the blink of an eye. Right now, it is definitely better to avoid unnecessary trips to public places. This is the time to use grocery pick up, delivery, online shopping, curbside pickup, or just asking your spouse or friend to pick something up for you.

BUT, realistically, there will be times when it is unavoidable that you have to go inside a store with your kids. When that happens, you can try to make the experience as painless as possible. Since this happens so much less frequently than it used to, your kids might be more excited to go into a store–use that to your advantage!

1. Plan Shopping Around Your Kids’ Schedule

Don’t try to load everyone in the car at anyone’s nap time. When it’s possible, plan in advance for the time all of your kids will be the most awake and the least hungry.

2. Limit Stops

If you can avoid it, don’t make 3-4 stops with kids. Try to consolidate your shopping lists and spread your trips out. Going in and out of stores is where a lot of tantrums start.

3. Talk about the Shopping Trip in Advance

In my experience, even young kids like to know about plans just as much as adults. Tell them as early as possible that you’re going to a store, and then talk openly about the best ways to make shopping trips fun.

THIS is the time to tell them that they can’t jump in the cart or run away from you–and what the consequence will be. (They won’t be listening when they’re already doing those things in the middle of Walmart)

It’s a perfect time to talk to them calmly about ways you can work together to make the trip better (most kids would prefer not to have a screaming match in the store, too!), things you’ll see, and how excited you are to see them have a good attitude or make good choices.

4. Plan Your Route

Not your route to the store–your route IN the store. Decide in advance exactly what you need and think about where you need to go in the store to get those things.

If you’re like most of us, you’ll get caught up at some point looking at something unrelated and unnecessary–and that’s okay! In fact, it could even be a reward for your kids (or yourself). But keep yourself focused on your needs until you’ve gotten them all–then let yourself wander as long as the kids are happy.

4. Involve Your Kids with Lots of Choices

In my dream world, my kids would always sit/walk in one particular way in the store. But this isn’t my dream world, and kids have ideas of their own. I’d rather encourage that than fight over it.

But that doesn’t mean giving your kids free reign. Instead, give them choices over and over again during the entire shopping trip. Like:

  • Would you like to buckle/unbuckle yourself, or would you like me to help you?
  • Would you like to sit in the front or the back of the cart?
  • Do you think we should go down aisle 8 first, or aisle 9?

You can also involve the kids when they see something interesting or when you see something interesting. Since so many of us are homeschool moms these days, you can easily make this an educational experience. Work on reading things, pointing out colors, shapes, numbers, ingredients, etc. THIS is when the most fun stuff happens, in my opinion.

This makes your kids feel independent and involved in every part of the shopping trip. I wouldn’t enjoy being told exactly how to sit, how to talk, or which way to go–and neither do they. Make them your partners, not subjects.

5. Give Kids A LOT of Positive Reinforcement

What is the ideal behavior for kids in the store? It’s generally being calm and quiet–but it turns out that those are also the moments that are easiest to miss.

When you’re wheeling around a shopping cart in the middle of a pandemic (and maybe the middle of the Christmas rush), your mind is probably focused on your kids every single millisecond–and that’s OKAY. But it’s easy to miss your kids’ good behavior if you don’t intentionally look for it.

Make effort to acknowledge their good behavior when they’re still in the middle of it. If they start testing the boundaries before you catch them, try responding with something positive first. Make sure they know that you caught them being good. Try saying something like, “Wow, you were so quiet and calm for the last few minutes!” instead of, “BE QUIET WE’RE IN THE STORE!”

PS – Even if they’re loud and complaining for most of your trip, you can still give them positive reinforcement. Look for smaller ways you can compliment them–making eye contact with you, speaking clearly, saying please (even if the answer is still no), etc. You can always find something.

6. Everybody Gets a Reward

Getting a reward after a successful shopping trip does not–I repeat, DOES NOT–need to mean that you buy something from the store. It COULD mean this every now and then, but it’s really easy to get in that habit and then create more problems later (I speak from experience).

Their reward could be just walking down the toy aisle even if you’re not getting any toys–my kids love taking pictures with toys they like. It could be picking the music on the way home. It could be a certain TV show or snack once they do get home.

And don’t forget to reward yourself. Sit down, drink some coffee, eat chocolate, or hide in your closet for ten minutes. You deserve it.

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