Picture this: you’re at the store and you notice a toddler having a full-body meltdown right there in the middle of the aisle. You lock eyes with the parent and share a sympathetic look - you’ve been there, done that. If you’ve got a baby or toddler, chances are high that you were, at one point in time, that parent.
As a mom of four, I’ve been there plenty of times myself and I’ve learned ways to cope - if not completely prevent the situation from arising entirely. In this blog, I’m going to share my tips for shopping with baby and/or toddler in tow and how to make it a successful endeavor.
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How Do You Go to the Store With a Baby?
1. Make a list ahead of time.
The goal here is to get in and get out with what you need, and a list can help you do that. If your baby or toddler is still in a good mood after you’ve got all the necessities, then you can browse. Don’t forget to use your resources, too! If you need inspiration and ideas, take time to browse Pinterest while you’re at home making your list - then go shopping once your list is finalized.
2. Don’t try to hit too many stores in one day.
You might feel ambitious before leaving the house but know your limits when shopping with baby. It’s best to keep it at one to two stores per outing.
3. Set behavior expectations ahead of time.
If you have a toddler, set behavior expectations before entering the store and use a reward system. For example, you can offer to get them a prize. Stick to the dollar section at Target or something small. I find this always motivates my own toddlers to follow directions. However, you shouldn’t do this every time you go shopping or you’re setting them up to expect it. I reserve this for special circumstances.
It’s also important to be mindful of the type of prize you offer. For example, telling them that you’ll go to the playground after shopping usually doesn’t work as well. This is because there’s too much time between the behavior and the reward. Their developing brains can’t quite wait that long, so a more immediate reward is better.
4. Shop online where possible.
Make your life easier by bringing the store to your home.
5. Bring Snacks.
Shopping with baby is always easiest when they’re happy, which means a full belly! Make sure they’ve eaten before you leave, bring snacks, and prepare to nurse if necessary while you are out. Even adults get cantankerous with low blood sugar.
6. Bring a baby carrier and stroller.
I personally had a love-hate relationship with the stroller. I liked bringing it to the mall to hang my bags on but always had a difficult time navigating it between shopping aisles. In a standalone store, like Walmart, Target, or the grocery store, I never bothered with a stroller.
You might also consider putting the car seat inside the cart (NOT where the seat is) but then it takes up most of the room you need for your items. Another option is to sit the baby in the seat of the cart if they’re sitting up. I didn’t love this option, either, because my children always tried to climb out or lick the bars of the cart. That’s not so sanitary! Instead of dealing with all that unpleasantness, I preferred to use a baby carrier.
7. Pack your diaper bag.
Come prepared for shopping with baby by packing your diaper bag or carrier with diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, small hand-held toys, and a pacifier with an attachment so it doesn’t fall to the floor.
8. Get toddlers involved.
If you’ve got a toddler, get them involved by asking them to help put items in the cart. You can also gamify shopping while in search of items by playing I Spy. For example, say, “I spy with my little eye cookies…can you find the cookies?”
9. Avoid the crowds.
This might be tough depending on your work schedule but avoid going shopping when it’s busiest. An easy example of this is Black Friday. We all know that is certainly not the ideal time to take a baby or small children out shopping.
Good luck out there, mamas! Remember to be flexible when shopping with baby. In the long run, the way we make our children feel and the values that we teach them are more important than how successful a single shopping outing was.