Less Stress and Tears: Tips for Shopping with Young Kids

Most parents have endured the sheer panic and embarrassment of having a child cry and scream in the middle of the supermarket. The good news is that shopping centre meltdowns can be prevented with a little pre-planning. Follow these tips for a more peaceful shopping experience.

Tip #1: Choose the time of day wisely

Consistent routines support young children to adapt to the rhythm of the day. Hungry or tired children are more likely to struggle with simple tasks. Avoid going to the shops during your child’s regular meal or rest times. If necessary, bring a packed snack to satisfy hungry tummies.

Tip #2: Enrichment, enrichment, enrichment!

Young children are little learning machines always curious to explore. Keep children busy at the shops by giving your child a simple shopping list, having your child pick and count items and/or pack bags at the counter.

Tip #3: Have simple ground rules

Before leaving for the day, give your child 1-3 simple ground rules phrased in the positive. For example, “we’re going to the shops this morning. You need to stay next to Mum/Dad the whole time and walk, not run.” Have your child repeat the rules back to you to check understanding. Afterwards, review the rules together to discuss what went well and what could improve future shopping trips.

Tip #4: Effectively use rewards

Parents fall into three traps when it comes to rewards: Too expensive, too far in the future and too vague. Young children live in the moment and will only connect behaviour to a reward when its immediate. Rewards don’t always cost money; often the best reward we can offer children is our time and attention. In explaining rewards to children, avoid vagaries like “be good”. You must outline which specific behaviours that will attract rewards. For example, “if you stay next to Mum/Dad for the whole shop, we will play at the park afterwards.”

Any young child can turn from a hindrance to a helper when given guidance, age-appropriate responsibilities, and effective rewards for cooperation.

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