How to Go Grocery Shopping With Two Small Children

By Shelley Frost
A secure spot in the cart keeps the kids from running away.
A secure spot in the cart keeps the kids from running away.

A poorly planned grocery shopping trip with young kids can end up with tears, temper tantrums and missed items on your list. You want to get in and out with your food in tow, but your young shopping companions are often drawn in by all of the colorful packages on the shelves. Young children often lose interest quickly and want to grab everything in sight. Everything from the timing of the trip to how well you prepare for the excursion affects the outcome.

Write your shopping list before you head to the store. Organize the list based on the location of the items in the supermarket so you don't miss food and have to backtrack.

Time your grocery shopping trip based around your kids' natural schedules. Dragging them to the grocery store close to nap time or at other times when they are tired and cranky likely means they won't listen well. Head to the store when you have plenty of time so you don't feel rushed.

Pack a bag of distractions to keep your tots entertained. Include non-messy snacks they can feed themselves, such as dry cereal or pretzels. Pack a few small toys that aren't valuable in case they fall out of the cart. Bring a notepad and a few crayons for each child.

Talk to your kids about how you want them to act at the grocery store. Say, "I need to buy food for our meals and snacks. Your job is to sit in the cart so you stay safe. We'll bring some toys for you to play with so I can get the shopping done quickly. Then we'll go to the park."

Grab a cart and move out of the main pathway near the front door. Give yourself time to settle your kids and your bags in the cart before you try to shop. If possible, choose a larger cart with seats for two children so you can secure both kids in the cart. Fasten the safety belts to reduce wiggling or standing in the cart.

Offer a snack, toy or notepad to engage your kids right away. Give your kids one item at a time, offering something new when they get bored.

Play games in the store if the kids lose interest in the items you packed. "I Spy" is a simple grocery store game for kids of all ages. Name colors, letters or food items that your kids have to spy in the aisles.

Steer the cart toward the middle of the aisle if the store isn't busy. This keeps little hands too far from the shelves to knock off products or add extras to the shopping cart.

Ask your kids to help out at the store. Even a toddler can grab a product from the shelf when directed. If your kids are secured in the cart, steer it near the shelf so they can reach without getting out.

Redirect behaviors that aren't acceptable at the store. Let the kids know right away which behaviors aren't acceptable. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension suggests using a positive limit setting message instead of a negative. For example, say, "Hold the jar tightly with both of your hands," instead of, "Give me that glass jar. You're going to drop it!"


Grocery shop with your partner if possible so you aren't outnumbered. You'll get through the store faster and have a backup to distract the kids when they get restless.

Don't worry about what other people think of your kids or you. If you have to sing and dance down the aisles to keep them smiling, the stares from other shoppers are worth it. Keep a calm and positive attitude to help your kids stay the same way.

About the Author

Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience come from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.