I have spent the last ten years in the trenches with toddlers and there were times I felt like I would literally rather die than take them to the grocery store. I remember feeling like every ounce of my energy was spent by the time I got back home from running a simple errand. I remember getting the stink eye from bystanders as my child was screaming like his leg was on fire in the checkout line because I had to hand his box of goldfish to the cashier to be scanned. It isn’t fun. It is really, really hard. My youngest just turned four and thankfully it is getting exponentially easier.
Now that I can say I’ve survived that stage of my life, I’m here to offer those of you still in the trenches a little bit of wisdom I’ve gathered along the way:
Always park next to the cart return when you shop! It will save you from lugging the baby carrier in the store or struggling to keep a toddler’s tiny hand securely held in the parking lot. When you’re finished you don’t have to worry about leaving your littles unattended while you put your cart back because you’re already right next to them.
Wear them! If you don’t have a toddler carrier, I definitely recommend giving one a try. There are many brands on the market and countless Buy, Sell, Trade groups that make carriers more affordable. My favorite was my Tula and it was safe for toddlers up to 60 pounds! This keeps them safe and secure while also giving yourself two free hands to complete your mission. You can also then consider your trip to Target a workout. Two birds, one stone.
Keep a special busy activity in the car just for outings. By keeping an activity in the car that isn’t available to play with all the time, the kiddos are less likely to be bored with them and it gives them something to look forward to. I love these Imagine Ink Activity Books. There’s no mess because the marker only works on these pages! I’m also a big fan of the classic Magnadoodle.
I cannot stress this enough: fruit snacks. If you think you packed enough snacks, think again. Throw about three more packs of fruit gummies in the bag. If the little one doesn’t need them, you will. Buy the organic kind if it makes you feel better, but nobody is judging you here.
Give your little one a job. It is so exhausting to constantly battle with keeping tiny hands from grabbing items from the shelves and handling the power struggle of who gets to push the buggy. Keep them busy by letting them carry something, mark items off the grocery list for you, or help you look for certain color boxes on the shelves. If you can keep them somewhat focused on their own special job, it will make your time in the store so much more enjoyable.
Shop early. I know, I know. You’re probably annoyed by this suggestion, but it really does help to get through your errands when you and your little ones aren’t ready for a nap or hangry. Grab yourselves breakfast and carpe diem! Plus, the lines are always shorter in the mornings and that is where most of our meltdowns happen. Speaking of the checkout…
Don’t let them bully you into buying things. I am actually preaching to the choir here, but whatever you do, do NOT give in to those demands while the cashier is ringing you up. I know it can be embarrassing to have them pitching a fit while you’re stuck waiting to pay for your items, but you’re actually reinforcing that bad behavior if you buy them that sucker after they have made a scene. I guarantee every parent in that store has had a child do the same exact thing, so don’t let the fear of judgment keep you in this cycle. You will be proud of yourself for sticking to your guns!
Have realistic expectations. I find myself getting frustrated more easily when I expect too much out of my little ones. It’s easy to forget how small they are and that they don’t have great impulse control or reasoning skills. Their imperfect behavior isn’t a reflection of who you are as a mom. Sometimes I have to remind myself of all the positive ways they behaved and praise them for those instead of feeling like the trip was a disaster because of moments where they acted their age. They can be good without being perfect, just like us.