Help! My child won’t sit in the grocery cart

Grocery shopping trips during Baby’s younger months may have seemed intimidating at first, but they probably seem like a breeze, looking back on them now, with Baby smiling up at you from their carrier or cart, or even falling asleep on those extra lucky days.

As toddlers near age 2, their need for adventure and independence begins to take over. As a result, you may find that Baby is beginning to “act out” in the store. This behavior can come in many forms, but the whining and tantruming isn’t Baby trying to be “bad.” It’s more likely that they want to be involved in what’s going on, and is becoming frustrated that they can’t when they're strapped into the seat of the grocery cart.

The grocery store is a place adults visit because they need to, not because it’s very much fun. To a toddler, though, it’s another setting for adventures that needs to be explored. Since food shopping isn’t exactly an errand that can be skipped, here are a few ways to try to make it a bit easier on those squirmy, fussy days.

  • Time it right: On top of basics like making sure Baby is fed and rested before heading out, try to pick a time when the store will be less crowded. While going after work or on weekends may be your only real option, if there’s more flexibility in your schedule, you can use it to your advantage. The fewer people there are in the store, the less hectic it will feel if Baby starts hollering because they want out.
  • Give out “jobs”: Another benefit of visiting the store when it’s less crowded is that you’ll have more room to maneuver, and more time to spend in the aisles. If you let Baby be your “helper” by handing you boxes or cans to put in the cart, it may result in a longer trip, but it will feel shorter for both you and your happy helper.
  • Reconsider your approach: Being a small person in a big store may make Baby feel overwhelmed, and when they are feeling unsure, there’s no one who can make them feel safer than you can. One way to achieve this is to revisit babywearing – even if it’s something you haven’t done since the early months. Many carriers are suited for holding toddlers, and Baby may surprise you by settling down and enjoying the closeness.

While shopping with an older toddler certainly presents more obstacles than early shopping trips might have, one positive about this age is that they are is getting a better understanding of what is being said, so implementing rules to follow is more realistic.

Let Baby know they can walk beside you in the store as long as they hold your hand, or else they will have to go back in the cart. This is a great opportunity to teach or remind Baby that actions have consequences, as they see you follow through with the rules you set forth. This doesn’t mean they will be happy about it, but remember, a red-faced toddler is as much a staple in a grocery store as milk and bread, so don’t stress too much about the days that Baby won’t calm down. You’ll gain the empathy of nearly every other parent in the store who has been there, too!

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