You didn't think you appreciated being able to grocery shop alone until you were packing up a toddler or two (aka: ticking time bombs) and rushing through the aisle once a week. With kids, your days of carefully contemplating what type of yogurt you'd like this week are over — or are they?
There's some things you can do to have a quiet trip to the store, even when your children want to come along. Before you leave, set some ground rules: You won't be taking kids who whine, you will not be purchasing things not on the list, and we will be eating lunch and napping before we leave. (Don't make your trip harder by toting around tired or hungry kiddos or being hungry or tired yourself.)
Once that's established, have these seven tricks up your sleeve in case the troops get restless in the cereal aisle.
Whip up a quick bingo chart with the names (or pictures for younger kids) of things you normally purchase at the store. As you shop, have your kids keep an eye out for items on the list, and let them cross it off when it's tossed in the cart. Throw in a couple curve balls on the chart to throw them offs o they'll pay strict attention.
2. Points for polenta
Before you leave, write each family member's name in a notebook, leaving a space underneath to put a few tally marks. While you shop, give your child this chart and explain that each time you put an item in your cart, they'll need to put a point next to whoever likes that food. See who in the family has the most points at the end of your trip.
3. Behavior bonus point
For mothers of multiples, test this tactic out. Enlist the help of your little darlings by asking them to get certain items off the shelves or read what's next on your list. Strangers will be delighted to see such helpful and well-behaved kids and will most likely say just that. Tell your kids that you are counting how many compliments they can get while at the store and see how well they'll want to act—any tantrums will deduct points from their scoreboard.
4. Color-coded coloring
You can bring a coloring book along for the trip, but try this tactic out to make coloring more interesting. Have your child only use the colors they see inside the grocery cart. Early on, they'll be restricted with yellow (for bananas or lemons), but their rainbow of choices will grow as you continue shopping. You could also do a rapid speed round where they can only color with yellow until another "food color" enters the cart.
Stop by the library right before you head over to the grocery store and have your kids pick out a new book to read. They can have a little read-a-thon in the grocery cart while you shop, keeping them quiet and you very happy. Put a blanket or towel at the bottom of the cart to keep things comfortable for your little bookworms.
6. Edible accessories
Even though you all had lunch before you left, snacks are still a good idea to pack when venturing out. Some stores will give your child a snack if you ask at the front desk, and some stores offer samples. For younger kids, string some Cheerios or Fruit Loops to create a tasty edible necklace. Your kid will be able to munch away (quietly) while you cross off items on your list.
Pipe cleaners are the way to go for portable fun. They are bendable, twistable, and mess free. As you shop, kids can make different shapes with their pipe cleaners or create an abstract masterpiece by weaving the pipe cleaners in and out of the cart's grid-like frame. (Just schedule in a minute or two into your schedule to unweave the creations before returning the cart).
And, if all else fails, a lollipop is a surefire way to keep kids quiet and happy while you browse the aisle.
Emily is putting her English and Humanities degree to use editing and writing all over the world. Trying to see all 7 world wonders (while visiting as many countries as she can in between), Emily loves wandering alleyways, beautifully photographed food, stumbling upon impromptu flea and food markets. She can usually be found camera in hand, munching on a street food and never has her headphones out of reach.