17 Expert Tips For Cry-Free Shopping With Kids

by Mar 13, 2019Mom Life, Parenting, What Wednesday2 comments

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.


Are you trying to find ways to take your baby, toddler, preschooler or elementary aged kids shopping and still make it an enjoyable experience for you and your kids?

I have experienced some really difficult moments shopping with my 4 littles over the past 6+ years. It can be quite embarrassing at times.

Over the years I have figured out what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to shopping with children whether it being the grocery store or any store for that matter.

In this article you will learn 17 expert tips for accomplishing a cry-free shopping experience with the kids.

Shopping With Children Can Be Stressful


Shopping can be stressful at times, even without kids. The long lines, the crowds, the shelves being out of stock of the ONE item you really needed for dinner tonight.

Throw some little rascals into the mix and you have yourself a field day!

When taking kids shopping you want to be prepared and have a plan.

With anything you do with kids, you want to have a plan, right? Shopping is no exception.

Have A Plan And Explain That Plan To Your Kids

 Let’s go ahead and plan out our shopping trip with our kids and make sure we have everything we need before heading out the door (refer to the diaper backpack list below). There are necessary steps to take before heading out the door with the children. If you are determined to have a great shopping experience with the little ones, I highly recommend following these steps for success!

Steps For A Successful Shopping Experience With Children


1. Time Of The Day

 Pick a time to shop that is appropriate for your kid’s schedule. Completely avoid the time when your child typically naps or has lunch or dinner.

If your child is on a regular routine with a consistent sleep and eating schedule, pick a time in between. A great time for most families with little ones who nap is around 9 or 10 am. This gives you enough time to shop, get home for lunch and down for a nap.

2. Eat Beforehand

Make sure your child is well fed right before going shopping.

It’s important that your kids have energy to go shopping. Feed them a well balanced meal with protein to help them stay full longer. Eggs are a great choice for protein. This minimizes the possibility of your kids asking for snacks the entire time you are shopping. Your kids will also be less irritable with a full belly.

Related: How To Make Homemade Organic Baby Food: Batch Cooking | Video

3. Pack The Ultimate Diaper Bag:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Cart cover (I absolutely love this Claro Baby cart cover)
  • Wipes
  • Bib
  • Diapers
  • Change of clothes
  • Snacks, easy to eat, not messy, gold fish, pretzels, puffs,
  • Cup of water
  • Bottle
  • Tissues
  • Toys
  • Pen/Pencil Paper, doodle pad (pretend shopping list for the kids)
  • Avoid using electronics (screen time) during shopping experiences; otherwise, your kids will learn to expect it every time
  • Also, avoid bribing with candy or unhealthy food choices because this teaches them a bad habit of rewarding bad behavior with sweets

4. Go Potty Before Leaving Home

Make it a rule for your kids to always go potty before leaving the house 

5. Explain The Length Of The Car Ride To Get To The Store

Kids do better overall when they know what to expect so make sure you involve them in the day’s plans and how long the drive will take to get to the store.

6. Tell Your Kids How Long You Plan To Be At The Store And What You Need To Buy

Along the same lines as #5, make sure you explain to your kids how long you expect to be at the store so they have a better understanding of what is involved in the shopping trip. 

7. Set Rules

Teach your kids what is expected of their behavior and what is not allowed in the store. 

Set some ground rules. Some examples may include: avoid eating at the store, quiet voices, walking, respect, manners, be polite and calm.

“The store is not a playground, so we walk around the store and shop.”

Have your kids repeat the rules before going inside while driving to the store.

Make sure your rules are “the positives” and not “the negatives” (example: don’t say “stop running around the store” instead say “please walk in the store“.

8. Manners

Spend some time talking about manners with your kids beforehand.

Some examples of manners are: sit in the cart, quiet voices, keep hands to yourself, obey mommy, listen the first time, say please and thank you, say “yes maam or yes sir” when being spoken to and use respect.

Teach your children to respect the cashier or store employees along with any interactions with other customers in the store.

This is so important for children to learn, and this is a great opportunity since our children are exposed to so many new faces.

If your children can come out of the shopping experience with a learned new behavior centered around respecting adults, then I would say your shopping experience was a success.

Related: How To Shop With Kids Using These 5 Rules

Give them opportunities to say thank you to the cashier or say hello in a confident voice to the greeter, or thank you to the sales person who assisted you. This is just one way to help your children learn good behavior.

9. Explain The Purpose Of The Shopping Trip

Talk about who you are buying for and what you are buying.

Are you buying food for the family to eat for the rest of the week or are you buying a gift for a family friend? Your kids will enjoy knowing the purpose behind the shopping trip.

Related: How To Make Homemade Organic Baby Food: Quick & Easy Batch Cooking

Also, your kids will enjoy the shopping trip more if they are allowed to participate by helping pick out some items. 

But remember to tell them this when it comes to toys or other things that are not a necessity:

“If you see something you want that we don’t need, you can let me know, but I will not be buying it today, but maybe for your birthday or Christmas.”

10. Have Your Kids Take Their Money

You can also encourage your child to take a certain amount of money he earned in his piggy bank to buy something of their choice.

Talk about this ahead of time so your child has an idea of what he wants to buy.

Related: How To Save Money On Baby Food

11. Avoid shopping when your child is already sick or not feeling well.

Maybe your child woke up acting unlike his normal happy self, but instead is a bit cranky, irritable or possibly starting to get sick.

Well, that’s a time to stay home instead. The shopping can wait, what’s most important is that you attend to your kids’ needs.

12. An Organized Shopping List

Have it mapped out with food items written in the sections of the store (like a map). If the produce is the first section at the store, write that down on your list in that section on your paper. It’s quicker and easier to find your grocery items, and it helps eliminate the need to run back to a previous aisle if you forgot something. This organization will ultimately save you time during your shopping and get you out of the store faster before a meltdown might occur.

13. Time Frame For Shopping

Speaking of time and the possibility of meltdowns, you want to keep your shopping experience SHORT! Build up endurance in your kids. If shopping with your children is a new experience for your family, then you may want to start with a 30 minute shopping trip and that’s it.

Try shopping with them for about two weeks for this duration and gradually work up from there.

By week two you should be able to complete a 45 minute “cry-free” shopping trip and progress up to 60 minutes by week four.

14. Park Near The Shopping Cart Drop Off

This is a must! For two reasons…

A. Safety: I feel it eliminates the risk of your children running around the parking lot when your cart is positioned right next to your car. It’s a quick transition from the car to the cart without anything in between. Your “mom eyes” can quickly scan back and forth between the car and the cart drop off station when transfering kids back and forth. This also eliminated the need for children to be walking all over the parking lot. Once you get to your car, load the kids in, shut the door and then go back to drop off the cart in the designated spot.

B. Convenience: Whenever you, as a mom, can find a way to make something more convenient, then do it. Saving time is so important for moms, parking next to the shopping cart drop off saves time and is the most convenient place for you to park. Once you load your car, it’s a quick swing around to put the cart away.

15. Give Your Children Choices As You Shop

Giving your kids choices helps them to feel more special.

Designate one choice per child so they feel a sense of responsibility.

“What vegetable do you want for dinner tonight?”

“What snack do you want for your school lunch tomorrow?”

Your kids will instantly feel proud in helping to make the choice for something the entire family will enjoy.

16. Take Note Of Other Well Behaved Kids

Point out to your children how other well-behaved children are acting in the store, and tell your kids this is the behavior that they should be modeling.

Say this in an encouraging and uplifting way, not a degrading way. For example you could say “see that boy over there sitting nicely in the shopping cart with his mommy? That is the safe way to sit in the shopping cart.

Be direct and straightforward, not comparing and putting your child down.

17. Reward Your Children

Remember to reward the kids with praise throughout the shopping experience and especially when the shopping experience is completed.

When all is said-and-done, praise your children over and over again for any good behavior you witnessed. Your kids are not perfect; they will make mistakes, and they will have difficult moments. But whatever you do, make sure you emphasize the good behavior instead of the bad behavior.

Every time you see your kid doing something right such as following the rules and obeying, make sure you praise him immediately. This is rewarding to your child, and he will want to continue to elicit good behavior. I like to say “You are doing such a great job shopping right beside me. I can’t wait to take you out again next week and do the same thing again.”

Applaud them, hug them and kiss them for what a great job they are doing.

Related: 33 Ideas for Quality One-On-One Time With Your Child

If they need room for improvement, you might have to give them a consequence such as, “We will not be able to shop longer next time. We will have to leave early and won’t be able to walk through the toy section.”

Your child will understand if he elicits good behavior, he will have more time to walk through the toy aisle. But if he demonstrates bad behavior, his shopping time will be cut short, and he will not get the privilege of walking through the fun toy aisle.

Now Give It A Try – Time To Shop!

Now that you have these helpful tips and tools for your mommy tool-belt, take a stab at it and give it a go!

Like I mentioned earlier, start off with a short trip to the store. I would love to hear about how your shopping trips have been going with your children. Have you seen an improvement?

You can comment below and let me know which one of my tips is the most helpful for you and your kids.

Keep Smiling,

Dr. Jena Bradley, DPT

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

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  1. Grancy

    Great blog! Do u highly reccomend a cart seat cover. Might have to get one.

    • Jena Bradley

      Grancy, I would recommend a cart seat cover for those moms (or in your case, Grandmas) who plan to spend a lot of time shopping with their little kids. I really like it for babies 6+ months and all the way up to the toddler stage (past that, kids just don’t fit well in the front of the shopping cart any more).



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Hi there, friend! I’m Jena, a mom of 4 and a Physical Therapist with a passion to motivate moms! I want to inspire you to be your best self by sharing my experiences and trusted advice on motherhood, health and fitness.

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