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4 Moms, 35 Kids – Shopping With Only Littles

 

This week all 4 Moms of Many are discussing shopping with only little ones.  Be sure to check out what the other moms have to say about it.

As for me, and I’m going to be honest here, I’d rather amputate my own leg with a rusty fork than go shopping with only little people in tow.  There. I said it.  Hate me if you want to. Love me if you can.

But as I tell my children when it comes to doing hard things, “It doesn’t have to be fun, it just has to be done.”

In light of that, I’m going to give you my best tips for making the task manageable. I’m not promising it will be any fun, just that it can be done.

  • One of these 3 seater buggies is a HUGE help, if you can snag one. When our new baby is born, I will have the choice of putting her carrier in the main seating area and letting the 5 year old walk OR wearing her in a sling and keeping these three kiddos where they are. Anytime I can keep littles from running loose, I am all for it!

 

  • If you do not have these buggies available to you, practice at home having the children follow you while holding onto an invisible buggy. Make stops at the fridge and the pantry and have them practice waiting patiently while you look over canned goods and fruit. Make sure you clearly explain your expectations. If you want them to always keep a hand on the buggy, let them know. If asking for toys/candy/cereal is not allowed, tell them so. (Yes, we have actually done this!) If you don’t expect your children to obey you at home, don’t be surprised when they disobey or act up in public.
  • Make sure you go when no one is hungry or tired. Hungry and tired? A recipe for Mommy’s Next Nervous Breakdown. Just sayin’.
  • Providing a small bag of snacks to each child will help if you must go when the children will be hungry.
  • Give the children something to do. Have them “help” you count how many circles, or red squares, or capital letters you can find.  They may be able to get cans from the shelf or choose the biggest apples. I have even given each one a quarter to hold. If they act naughty or drop it, I will take the quarter away.  When we get ready to leave the store, whoever still has her quarter gets a gumball. Their concern for the quarter keeps them quite occupied!
  • For Pete’s sake, DON’T DAWDLE! Shop, woman, SHOP! No matter how much you have practiced at home and how well rested and fed the children are, there is only a certain window of time their little attention spans can tolerate following you quietly along.
  • Don’t expect it to be easy. There are times when I have reached the check out line and have not been all smiles and sunshine. In fact, I’m pretty sure there was probably smoke coming from my ears. Just this week, I had to address a discipline issue with a certain 4 year old in the check out line who stomped her chubby feet and cried loudly because she “didn’t get anything”. I narrowed my eyes and whispered to her that if she didn’t straighten up, she would be “getting something” on the hind end when we got out to the van. She unwisely chose to continue her tantrum, so I fulfilled my promise and spanked her when we got everything loaded up.  [Note: I'm not telling you that YOU should spank or WHAT you should spank for. I'm simply relaying to you that we have clearly explained our expectations to our children and we are aware what they are capable of understanding and doing.]
  • Look ahead! One day, not too far in the future, your children will be older and wiser. They will be able to push a cart or hold the hand of a little one.  You will be able to send them one aisle over to pick out peaches while you choose chocolate chips. Things will get easier IF you have been diligent in your teaching of what is appropriate and acceptable in the grocery store.

These are the tips that have served me well when shopping with only littles. Do you have tips of your own to add?

*Be sure to see my other posts in the 4 Moms, 35 Kids series.

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Comments

  1. We don’t have a lot of kids, right now we have a 3 year old and a 1 year old, but by the end of the summer we’ll have our 2 year old daughter home with us as well. Even though I can “do” two in the store I really try NOT to. For us, it works better to shop when Daddy can stay home with one child (and soon to be two children) and then I take whichever child is in a better mood out in public. :) It’s actually turned into a FUN time for me to have one on one time with a child even if we’re shopping. We talk, sing, tickle, and play while we get groceries. Dare I say I even LIKE it? :)

  2. Thanks for this post. Thanks for advice for us moms of many littles. We need all the help we can get. I am a baby wearing momma and we use our wrap fpr every shopping list. I have also found that if I go shopping without a list I wander around like a lost puppy. We have also found that keeping a Thermos, expensive as they were initially, has saved us time and money! I think I will go write a post about it :)

  3. I don’t know if you have Bi-Lo where you live, but I was thrilled one day to discover that they have carts that hold 4 (or 5) children!!! There’s a little race car in the front that my 3 and 2-year olds can ride in. Each side is supposed to have a steering wheel, but I guess that’s what imagination is for since they’re all ripped off. The younger 2-year old and the 1-year old can sit in the regular “basket” type seat. (It’s a double seat with double buckles.) I can put the baby in his carseat across the top of the big basket in the middle. (or, if I don’t have to get much, I put his seat in the basket.) I don’t like “wearing” my babies at this point in my life because I have so many littles that I need my front free to be able to grab and hold or cuddle or discipline. (However, the baby just got big enough to go in the Ergo on my back, and I think I love it!) Overall, though, my husband or I usually grocery shop late at night or early in the morning. If we have to all go out, we often elect to have one person stay in the car and wait with the kiddos.

  4. Connie, you are too funny! And I love the quarters idea. I’ll have to remember that in the future.

    I do have one question for all of you: all four of you say not to go shopping when anyone is tired. Have all your children magically managed to nap at the same time each day?? Because Pearl likes to change up her nap schedule every few weeks, despite my best efforts to keep her on a set schedule. I can’t imagine trying to coordinate even 2 different nap schedules, much less 4 or 5!

    • Smockity Frocks says:

      @Harmony, Once my little ones get over a year old, they only need one nap per day. At that time, I try to keep them awake and active until shortly after noon. That’s when I have everyone do “naptime”. It takes some management, but it is worth it to have everyone rested at the same time.

      • @Smockity Frocks, So IOW, when she gets older we’ll be able to plan naps better? I’m fine with that. I can go out when she needs to nap now because she’ll nap in the car seat or in the moby wrap, although not quite as well as she naps at home (She always takes an extra nap when she takes a nap away from home.). Right now she’s anywhere between 1 and 4 naps a day (although that could be due to her reflux? we’re going to see a GI dr in a couple weeks, hopefully to fix it for good!), and the thought of dealing with that kind of uncertainty with more than one child was very overwhelming. ;-)

  5. I like the post, good advice there. Personally I try and get to the store on my own as much as possible. Thankfully I live close enough to be able to do that.

    • @Dawn,
      Just to add to my post we only have trolleys in our supermarket to hold ONE CHILD!! We’re in Scotland, and obviously not meant to have more than 1 preschool child at a time!

  6. Hey, we did the ‘you may not ask/beg/wheedle for treats’ rule, too!

  7. I have been meaning to stop and tell you how much I lOVE your series with the other ladies! It’s awesome ;) Keep up the great work !

  8. Amen, sista! lol Luckily, I always take my man along for the all-kids shopping trips. And since we usually fill two carts, we split the kids up between us and make a game out of “racing” to see who can get the next few items first.

  9. Linda P. says:

    Thank you for the story. I LOVE the idea of the quarters. I only have 2 children, one is 16 already, and one is only 3 — so the 16 year old is pretty much on his own now. I have a very hard time with my 3 year old in the store. I only go once a week, but it has to be on Wednesday for double coupon day. My store only takes 5 double coupons per $25 order, so it takes me a lot of time because I divide my order up into several $25 orders to maximize my coupon savings. This takes a lot of effort and concentration to make sure I am getting my best deals. As soon as I walk in the door my daughter starts acting naughty. If she is sitting in the cart she wants out, and will try to grab things off of the shelf, including the yellow tags that stick out of the shelf, spits on the floor, etc. If I let her out of the cart (which she wants), she will run around the aisles, lay on the floor, lay on the bottom of the cart, etc. I am always yelling, and I think everyone in the store knows her name by the time I leave. It is very maddening. I can spank her and she doesn’t care. She doesn’t care about timeouts either, or taking away toys. It is very hard to discipline her because I feel nothing works. I usually try to get my parents to watch her, if they can, to make things better. Though, even they have a hard time since they are getting older. Next time I take her I will try the quarter idea. I think she would like that.

    • Smockity Frocks says:

      @Linda P., It sounds like that is a challenge. Have you tried the practicing at home? I know it sounds silly and it will feel even sillier, but it has been an effective tool in showing my children what I expect. Some kids need more concrete examples than others of what is acceptable.

  10. LOL I loved where you said don’t go when they are hungry and tired. Is there ever a time? LOL

    Right now I have 4 children. The little one goes in the front of the buggy and the 3 yr old in the back. The 5 and 7 yr old walk beside me. The 5 yr old is the one who will stray from mommy, and he knows the rules. This is what I do when I have to go to the store here in town. I live in a little town so we go to the “city” to do out big shopping. When I go there, I take help! :) I can’t so all of my bulk shopping while pushing 2 carts.

    Thank your for sharing!

  11. Thanks for sharing, it is so encouraging to hear from moms who “have gone before”!
    I must say though that I can’t stand those 3-kid buggies! (although we call them “carts” hehe) All the ones I have tried are horrible to steer! I just make my oldest (almost 3.5yrs) walk while my 2yr & 10mo. old ride in the seat and basket (they sit either place depending on if baby is in her car seat). I also sometimes use two carts which to me is easier than the “big ones” (which I liken to driving a semi-truck!) :)

  12. Thanks for these great tips!

  13. Very good tips:) My Little One went through a terror phase of not wanting to stay in her seat and she terrorized all the people in the store by darting in front of their carts as I chased after. We started practicing at home (I remembered you telling me this years ago:)) and even thought we almost starved before we got to the store again we made it! Little One now likes to sit in her seat and “help” by scanning all the bar codes as she places them in the cart for me. The practice time was well worth it!

  14. Prior to becoming pregnant with #3 last month, I use to get up very early Saturday morning and do my grocery shopping. I know it sound crazy, but I would get up at 5 and be at the grocery store at 6 when they opened, it was so quiet! I had a nice drive there and back too, listening to whatever I wanted on the radio or just listening to the silence in the car:) Oh and I would grab a special coffee treat for Mom on the way in, it was nice:)
    Once I got home the kids and husband would be awake and ready for breakfast plus a special treat from town- donuts!
    Worked very well for me. I hope to return to that once my first trimester is over, even if its just until the baby comes.

  15. I have a 3 1/2 year old girl and a 1 1/2 year old boy. I put my daughter in the basket and my son in the seat. As long as I don’t take too long or stand still too long they are very good in the store. [Usually. We have moments when Mama is threatening to sell them to the gypsies. ;) ] I alternate kids, handing them the groceries to examine. They check out the new item while I push to the next aisle, and then put it down in the cart in anticipation of a new item to hold. My son hands his behind him to Sissy to put down for him. Of course I don’t give my son anything that would break or mush if he squeezed it too hard – I give those to my daughter who takes pride in being gentle to the bread and eggs and fruit.
    I love the quarter idea! I would do the little carousel thing at the door instead of candy though. My kids on sugar are little maniacs.

  16. Great job on the follow through spank when you got to the car!

    I try not to be the “threatening parent” but I admit the grocery check out has pushed me to the limit and then when I get to the car I just want to get home. That, and the video of the mom beating (not spanking) her child in the backseat that was caught on video a few years ago comes to mind.

  17. I just recently did a post called Couponing with Kids in Tow that lists my tips for shopping with kids.

    http://www.thecouponhigh.net/2010/03/thursday-tutorial-couponing-with-kids.html

  18. I have a 6 yr old and a 2 yrs old (and #3 on the way). When they both come with me, the best thing I’ve found is letting them do most of the fetching and carrying. I tell them what to get, and then let them pick the particular box/vegetable/package and put it in the cart. The older one, who is learning how it read, is encouraged to sound out her words to pick the right product, while the younger one is more closely directed. Also, the heavier the stuff the better ;-) They love to show how strong they are hoisting the heavy packages up over the top of the cart, plus it takes the energy edge off :D

  19. This is why I usually end up going to Wal Mart at 10 pm…by myself!

  20. Wow…that sounds tiring! I was thinking about our conversation and looked this up for you:
    http://www.babynamesetc.com/listletterN.htm

    Go to the website and scroll down to the last list. It is a list of all baby names that end in the letter “N” boys and girls (I couldn’t find it seperated)….yes, yes, I know,,,,I am awesome…I can’t help it. Have fun searching! Love, Cami

    • Smockity Frocks says:

      @cami, Wow, Cami! Thanks! That list ROCKS! I’ll definitely be pouring over those names.

      (We already have a Cami/Cameron. You’re right. It IS an awesome name!)

  21. P.S. I like Camden and you can call her Cami….its an awesome name

  22. Great, great, great. I agree with the rusty fork statement 100%! :) Now that I have seven (my oldest is 12) I can’t even remember what it must have been like to take them shopping – especially when the oldest 4 were all little.

    We certainly teach our kids to obey too – but there’s something, ah, shall we say, more “labor intensive” with all little ones??!

  23. This is slightly off-topic, not specific to big families, but specific to shopping with kids: what do you do about the scandalous magazine covers in the check-out lanes? My oldest can read, and the next-oldest is old enough to understand the pictures; the littlest is still pretty oblivious. Right now I have to back up to the lane, so they are facing away from the magazine rack (and hope they don’t peer around), then whip the cart around as soon as there is a vacancy, and then shove the cart way in so the kiddos are past the racks. (We use the carts with the plastic “car” attached to the front, and that is where the two oldest sit.) Any other suggestions?

    • Smockity Frocks says:

      @marisa, My children know the scripture, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.” (Psalm 101:3) We encourage them to look away from “worthless things” and you are right, there are PLENTY of them in the check out line! Ugh!

  24. Scandalous magazine covers? Such as? In my grocery store, it’s mostly cooking magazines. Maybe you could look upon “scandalous” photos as a teaching opportunity that there are many ways to live life.

    • Smockity Frocks says:

      @Lauren, I see LOTS of scandalous magazine covers in check out lines. Everything from nearly naked women (and men) to advice on intimate behavior is on display.

      Just last week I saw “100 Things to do to Your Lover While Naked” or some such thing. This was at WalMart, a FAMILY friendly store.

      • @Smockity Frocks,
        Ah. I’m missing out! Our usual store doesn’t have much of a magazine selection, and the ones by the checkout are mostly cooking-related, with a People thrown in for variety.
        I would almost say that the whole spin maneuver (apart from being difficult) might be making it a Big Deal unnecessarily. Kids know when you don’t want them to see something. Maybe just ignore the magazines entirely, and play a “Let’s Find,” or “Let’s Count” game with items on the conveyor?

        • @Lauren, Thanks for your suggestions. However, I don’t draw any attention to the magazines, I don’t think; I don’t even mention them. The kids don’t know I am trying to avoid them seeing anything; they don’t know that everyone doesn’t approach the cashier backwards, or at least they’ve never asked me why I do :) I don’t think I am making a big deal out of nothing, though. In my opinion (some may disagree), no 5-year-old girl should be subjected to images of air-brushed models covering their bare breasts with their hands and flirting with the camera. A child stores up images and information to piece together an understanding of the world. They have no context for understanding (even if I tried to explain it) that real women don’t look like that (not even that model, who was airbrushed) and that no healthy man worth marrying expects women to look like that either. No mother should have to hear her preschooler ask what an orgasm is (this hasn’t happened to me, yet). My daughter reads well beyond her age; my reasoning is, if I wouldn’t feel comfortable reading it to her, I don’t want her reading it to herself. I certainly wouldn’t read the covers of these magazines to my little girl. Once information or images get into a child’s head, they are there to stay. I don’t want my children burdened by this trash, and feel very powerless and saddened by how much is around us. I have thought about speaking with the store manager about creating a family-friendly asile, with nothing but cooking magazines, etc., and even toys (I’d rather tell my kids they can’t have the toys than have to explain the cover of Cosmo.) If anyone here has seen something like this, or gotten it established at your store, I’d love to hear about it.

  25. This is very helpful!
    The not to distant memories of shopping with 2 under 2, all the crying on the ride home (the kids cried sometimes too) can hopefully be just memories now, after implementing these great tips I’m hopeful shopping will be much smoother.
    But, please hold my hand for a moment, how did you make it out of the house for these outings?
    It seems to take for ever to get out of the house. I’m only just now, slowly, figuring little things out, like, everyone under 6 gets velcro only shoes.
    It still takes a loooong time to get ready. Could you mention some ways to streamline getting ready to go?
    Thanks =)
    Carey

    • Smockity Frocks says:

      @Carey, This is a great idea for a whole “4 Moms” post! It really can be a challenge getting a group of little ones out the door and buckled in. Just backing out of the driveway can be exhausting!

      I’ll suggest this topic to the other moms. Thanks!

  26. I dont really have anything to add because you just about covered it all. Oh yeah and I agreed with all of it. I just dont have any experience with that many kids. LOL

    Sorry I have been abscent for a while. Had to spend a bit more time with the family and less time on the computer. Should be picking it back up now though.

    Love and Prayers,

    Tim

  27. I love the whispering in her ear. I have done that many times to squash a tantrum! Great ideas all around!

  28. Dear Linda P.,
    I also love the quarter idea. I have a suggestion regarding it. It seems like you have a young, challenging little person on your hands. I am not at all an expert (mine are still littles) but I know that if the quarter was lost at the first part of the trip ( and it will be), then they have nothing to lose. While training for good behavior, we used 5 pennies to earn a reward. At first, they just have to have at least 1 left. Then you can decrease the # of pennies when she is doing well. This builds in a warning. I realize some people will not like that idea because it goes against first time obedience but it works for me because I struggle with being too harsh. It helps me extend grace. Just an idea.

    Connie, love these posts!!!

  29. Hi Connie, love your blog.
    We have 10 children & live an hour from town, so when we go we are in there for the day.
    Just like ‘ Dawn from Scotland’ here in Australia we have trolleys for only one child also, some shops have twin trolleys but they are rare to come by. So I have always pushed 2 trolleys together…1 facing forward, one in reverse so the handles are together…I put a quilt in the front forward one where the kids have a couple of books to look at & can sleep when they need to (some how kids manage to sleep in odd positions all tangled up together) & eat when hungry… I couldn’t of gotten by without a sling/baby carrier & a few quick prayers either.
    Oh & for those dreadful magazines, if they are really bad…I turn the front ones of each pile on the stands around & just hope & pray the back covers not as bad…lol…

  30. I can’t speak to shopping with young uns, as my only child is only 14 months old right now. But I do know that I hate crowds, and am much happier and more efficient in my shopping if I go in the morning, during the work week, so the grocery store is an emptier place. I’m guessing that fewer people and less noise means less distraction for children too. In any case, it’s a stressor for me that does not need to be present.

  31. Sara Jane says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for this post!
    I took my children grocery shopping last night and used the quarter idea. It worked better than I would have ever imagined! You saved my sanity, at least for one day.

  32. Hi, Connie. We parents of autistic kids are particularly fond of using Social Stories by Carol Gray when planning a departure from the ordinary. In the case of shopping, it would say exactly the steps in the process, the expectation that they can trust that Mom or Dad knows if it’s a good idea to purchase something that appeals to the child, etcetera. We also employ other “tricks of the trade” like “divide and conquer”. If my autistic 6 year old doesn’t fight with the neighbor’s OCD boy, then let’s pair them up and trade out one other kid with whom the autistic 6 year old may have a confrontation. Or have Dad take half the kids, and Mom take half. Stopping at the bank for the free lollipop helps too, as their hands and mouths are both busy in the store. :)

  33. Also, what works with one autistic child will not work with another, as it’s unknown as yet what the difference in chemical imbalance is.

  34. It doesn’t go against first-time obedience. It takes into account the child’s capabilities. :) If they don’t obey first-time, they are losing a penny. So still encourages first time obedience, while teaching them to value what they have.

  35. happyheartshelpinghands says:

    Thanks for a great laugh and the great tips! I read your post after returning from a morning shopping trip, which went reasonably well, behavior-wise, but we made only two stops (the longest ones) before it was time for lunch and naps. I’m hoping to go ‘solo’ tonight to do four other errands after my three littles are in bed for the night and Daddy’s home to keep an ear on them! My kids like when I pay them for spotting someone we know… I offer a quarter to anyone who can be the first to see a neighbor or church friend, etc. I don’t do this every trip, but when I do, it helps them stay focused. I almost always let my kids snack while we shop… on something that isn’t messy or easily spillable… though we’ve had the misfortunate of spilling an entire container of Puffs down through the cart and all over the floor at least once. ;-( Going to the potty BEFORE we leave home and taking sippy cups along greatly reduces time spent heading for the store restroom or water fountain!

  36. Walmart at midnight is a very peaceful place…..just sayin! :-)

  37. I didn’t mean to suggest you were making a Big Deal out of nothing, per se, just maybe that the spin maneuver was alerting their little perception alarms that here might be something you didn’t want them to see. Or not, sometimes kids really are not in tune with the same things that we are. I do take your point about subconsciously assimilating images, though.

  38. I am shopping with two little ones, 19m and almost4, and it has been going well. (number 3 is on the way so we will see how 3 goes!!)We have carts at out little store with just one seat and my son does not do well in the basket. He is very active and manages to crush everything. :P I keep him busy getting things for me and about 98% of the time he does well. We did have two incidents with him and the store personnel know who he is! (one involved the carts and a strange woman who climbed over all the carts to get him for me and the other other involved the ball bin) He knows not to ask for things or on the rare occasion he does takes “no” very well, because I make it a point to NEVER buy him anything at the grocery store. Sometimes I get him something when we go rummage saling, though, to keep him busy. :)
    As for the magazines these bother I would really suggest a talk to someone about a magazine/candy free checkout. I love it when stores have these! If enough people ask they will do it! Right now my son doesn’t even notice them. He is too busy looking at the candy- but he never asks for any. ;) He also loves to help put thing on the counter. My daughter has started wanting to help with this from the cart seat, too. They are good at the local store but not much fun somewhere new. (testing boundaries maybe)

  39. With my littles, I found that the best thing to do is go over the rules on the way to the store and then have them repeat the rules to me right before getting out of the car. Our rules:
    1. don’t touch anything unless told to
    2. no asking for anything
    3. hold hand w/person you’re in charge of
    And the most helpful rule for me is….
    4. no talking….if it is absolutely necessary, then they can quietly whisper. So far, this rule has been so helpful because I find that if they talk, then they are more likely to whine and beg and also volume gets out of hand, so if I say no talking at all, it eliminates all the other problems. I quietly encourage my children all along the way…”ya’ll are doing so well” or “thankyou for using your manners and obeying”. Sometimes they are rewarded, but not always. Remember to be consistent at home, and there will be minimal problems in public!

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