Gentle Parenting Ideas: Toddlers and Shopping Trips

June 16th, 2010 by Dionna | 14 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Children, Eclectic Learning, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting, Preschoolers, Respond with Sensitivity, Toddlers

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This post is the fourth in a series about gentle parenting through potential power struggles with your toddler. Each post will give you ideas and examples for using love and logic to work through some fairly common parent/toddler areas of concern: brushing teeth, getting into the car seat, meals/eating, shopping, diaper changes, and picking up toys. I welcome your gentle/respectful parenting ideas and feedback; thank you to everyone who has already contributed ideas.
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Ideas to Make Shopping a Positive Experience

Give Your Toddler Input: involve your toddler when you are creating your shopping list. Talk about the fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. you will need to make meals for the next few days. Let them decide what vegetables (or whatever) they want to eat. Use it as an opportunity to talk about healthy foods. If you don’t have time (or your toddler doesn’t have the desire) to plan ahead, let them make a few healthy choices at the store (or take them to a farmer’s market, where almost everything is healthy!).

Try Stickers: if your little one is dexterous enough to peel  stickers off of a sheet, set them up with room to peel and stick onto a grocery store ad. You could make it similar to a game of BINGO – put a sticker on every item from the ad that you pass.

Scavenger Hunts and Treasure Maps: cut out pictures from the ad and hand them out – see who can help you find their items. If you really want to get fancy, you could make a map of your regular grocery store and laminate it. Then you could use a dry erase marker to write the items you need on the map for each shopping trip. Your toddler can help you find them using her “treasure map.”

Play the Quiet/Tiptoe Game: make a game out of who can use sign language/pantomime to communicate, who can whisper the longest, or who can walk on their tiptoes the longest.

Don’t Buy That!: one time when Kieran was in perpetual whiny “I want” mode, I started joking with him by saying “I do NOT want to buy that!” “Ew, let’s not buy that!” Soon he was giggling and playing along, pointing at different items and saying “don’t buy that mama!” We’ve played this game almost every shopping visit since then. I’d like to incorporate something about healthy choices into the game: “don’t buy chips, they aren’t healthy!”

Let Them Help: trust your toddler with certain responsibilities: putting items in the cart (model for them how to do it gently, but remember they probably will never be quite as gentle as you are), finding and putting fruit/vegetables in bags, holding the shopping list (use the opportunity to talk about letters if you’d like), etc.

Play I Spy: take turns “spying” different colors (“I spy something blue”), different materials (“I spy something made out of paper”), items for different rooms of the house (“I spy something that belongs in the bathroom”), and more.

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Take Snacks: have you ever noticed that toddlers want whatever they see? Going into a grocery store without something to snack on can be a disaster waiting to happen. I try not to use food as a hush tactic or bribe, but in a grocery store it is almost necessary (for Kieran, anyway). A bag of trail mix or dried fruit can occupy little fingers for quite awhile.

Set Them Up for Success: what’s better – a rested toddler with food in her tummy at a relatively calm grocery store, or a tired and hungry toddler bewildered by the chaos during a store’s rush hour? When possible, set your toddler up for a successful shopping trip by going when your toddler and the store are at their best. For Kieran, that means I don’t shop when he’s tired (whining rapidly transitions into crying); and we always try to hit Costco when they have samples out (ha).

Play “What Doesn’t Belong”: if you have a short shopping list, talk to your child in advance about what you will be getting. Then grab one extra item that is not on your list. Help your toddler figure out which item does not belong in the cart before you put it on the counter.

Make It an Adventure: take your kids on a tropical (or safari or deep space) adventure. This works especially well when it’s time to leave the store and the toddler is resisting. For example, Kieran sometimes wants to hide under clothing racks when it’s time to go. Several times he has willingly (eagerly even) come with me when I say in an excited voice “Kieran, let’s go on a journey together! We have a long way to walk to the car, and I need your help chasing away the lions!”

Wear a Carrier: If you are able to wear your toddler, bring a carrier to the store with you. Lots of kiddos are content on a parent’s back where they wouldn’t be content in a shopping cart (I know! Kieran is one of them). If you thought babywearing was just for infants, think again! We love our ABC Carrier and our Ergo – at 31 lbs Kieran is still comfortable in a front or back carry, and he loves to go for a ride.

Shop Fast: when all else fails, don’t prolong the agony for yourself or your kids. Get in, get out, and get on with your day.

What ideas do you have to help make shopping a good experience? Please share them in the comments.

14 Responses to:
"Gentle Parenting Ideas: Toddlers and Shopping Trips"

  1. TheFeministBreeder   feministbreeder

    My first son was always so awesome in stores. I chalked it up to my “awesome parenting” that we never had any serious meltdowns or tantrums. How hard can it be to keep a kid happy, right?

    Then, I had a second child. This child is 1000% different than his older brother in every way possible. Julesy screams bloody murder from the minute we enter a store to the minute we leave. Why? Because he wants to run through the aisles, and when I try to keep him in the cart (or on my back, or ANYWHERE ANYWHERE that I think might calm him down) he does nothing but scream. And when I say he screams, I mean that people stop what they’re doing and come over to our part of the store to find out who is ripping the toddler limb from limb – that’s how bad it is.

    But – we still have to go to the store, so I’ve learned to breathe and breathe and breathe until I’m so lightheaded I can’t hear the sound of the whaling. That’s all that keeps me from checking myself into an institution.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      You’ve just confirmed my fear – if we ever have number two, it will be all meltdowns, all the time. Kieran is generally pretty good (he might whine, but we’ve never had a knock-down drag-out), so I figure I’m due ;)

  2. Sara

    Hey Hobo Momma I have a question for you. My SIL is having issues with her oldest son (her step-son to be exact) being “out of control”. I’m personally what I consider an AP parent although my LO is only 6 months now so I’m not very comfortable giving her parenting advice even though she talks to me about when her son acts out. Anyway, I was wondering what the best way to approach the situation of suggesting or giving her books to read to maybe change her mind to more gentle parenting ideas rather than her current approach. They (both her husband and herself) are very quick to yell, give time outs and use their “power” over their kids and it’s obviously backfiring. I don’t want to come off as I’m telling her how to raise her kids or anything but she’s taking care of our LO 3 days a week while I work so her parenting techniques are really starting to bother me. I’m really starting to see now that it won’t be a good fit once my daughter gets older if something doesn’t change because we’re just on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to discipline and parenting ideals. She is great about AP now with her being a baby because she even tried baby wearing and she understand the value in the baby’s cry, holds her when she needs/wants it, doesn’t let her CIO, is nutritive, etc. But, her kids are 8, 12 & the oldest is her step-son at 13. Her kids are always talking back with sassy attitudes so she dishes the sassiness right back without blinking an eye, they all whine to get their way which makes their parents yell at them and threaten time outs… her son is grounded every day it seems like! Then they always tell me “well, you should see him without his meds…” because he has ADD. I believe whole heartedly in mutual respect, gentle parenting and learning along the way but they’re so in the mind set that they are authority figures not to be questioned and listened to. How would you approach this situation to offer guidance and your opinion without coming across as an inexperienced opinionated twit?

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      You said Hobo Mama, but I take it you mean me ;) (Hobo Mama is also a wonderful AP mama, so maybe she’ll chime in if she sees this, but her site is http://www.hobomama.com)
      To your question: Yikes! Time outs for a 13 year old? And while being snarky back to your kid might feel good in the moment, how could you ever expect them to change if you are modeling the behavior? Something to keep in mind for when Kieran gets older! Hmm, I’m really no expert on older kids, but I can recommend Kohn’s “Unconditional Parenting” and Aldort’s “Raising Our Children Raising Ourselves.” Both address a wide age range, they are not limited to little kids. I will also put the question out on my FB page – if you haven’t “liked” it yet, come on over and let’s see what responses we get!

  3. Melodie   bfmom

    What great ideas! Usually I don’t have a lot of fuss when taking my girls shopping but just in the interest of having fun together I love these!!

  4. Marilyn   ALotofLoves

    SHOP FAST! I was thinking that reading the post. I’m glad to see you put that in there. It’s honestly the thing that helps me the most. I decide what I’m getting before I get to the store and then we pick it up as fast as we can.

  5. Jen   diplomom08

    We generally only shop Whole Foods (and farmers markets) and our old WF in CA had a kids club (a free mostly healthy snack). We would get that at the beginning of the trip. I also watch the time of day…early morning is best for us, we are both rested and no chance of a hunger/nap meltdown. When he is antsy, I let him get down and gently “push” the cart (the bar at the bottom).

    He also helps put things in the cart, and if seated, can help me unload. We do use the Ergo at times, but generally he likes to help too much and knows that can only be done in the cart/walking. Worst case scenario, if it is the wrong time, we cut it short…no use in either one of us being unhappy…generally, though a pretty good experience (oh, and he is #3, and very easy-going).

  6. Sheryl @ Little Snowflakes   sheryljesin

    You have some great ideas! I have to admit though that I rarely take my two year old son shopping with me, unless I have someone to help me. I find it stressful containing him in the shopping cart and concentrating on buying what I need – I usually forget things that I set out to buy, and buy unnecessarily stuff that he wants! If I have a helper one of us can watch him run around while the other person does the shopping.

  7. Amber   AmberStrocel

    Grocery shopping is my worst thing. My absolute worst. My second is currently 22 months, and I remember finding this 18-24 month old stretch really hard the first time around. Now I have two kids to wrangle, and that complicates it further.

    My best tips are (1) bring back-up if you can and (2) be prepared for shopping to take 37 years. I have done the shop FAST thing, but it hasn’t worked as well for me as taking things at toddler pace. If we have to stop to look at the lobsters for 10 minutes, then we do, and everyone is happier that way. And I also get the free kids’ cookies from the bakery. I am not above giving them a treat to keep them occupied in certain situations.

  8. Daisy   TooTooDaisy

    Sara — it is a losing battle to try to change a close friend or family member’s parenting style. The only thing that seems respectful of the other mother and her choices would be to “lead by example” without discussing it. Really, preserving familial relationships might trump this one. BUT you say that she’s watching your child for extended periods of time. There, I think the best answer is to look for alternate arrangements. You won’t get far changing her style — you are too close — and if you insist on certain practices with your daughter that she doesn’t use with the other kids, things can backfire and the kids’ relationship could sour. I don’t envy your position.

    On the topic of the post: I saw the title and thought “two great things that go to crap together!” Feeding before shopping and making a game out of saying no are two tips I can take away from this and put to use.

  9. AFWifey

    LOVE LOVE LOVE the “I do NOT want that” game. My son likes to pick out completely absurd things and then giggle like a maniac.

    Great tips, i will definitely be using them!

  10. Enjoyed reading your ideas. I like my daughters best because I get to play with my grandsons while she shops, she leaves the two boys with Grandma. :)

  11. Jennifer   LadyJKL

    THANK YOU for this post. my dd has been a beast at the grocery store lately, and these suggestions will help. :)

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