Five Tips While Out Shopping with Your ToddlerYou have to run to the store and pick up groceries and you think to yourself: Please let all go smoothly with my toddler, please let there be no tantrums… Many times, you cross your fingers and hope for the best! An easy solution might be to give your child your phone/ iPad to keep him/her entertained, and trust me, there’s no shame in that. There are times that we all just need to do that, and that’s okay! However, exploring other options to keep your child entertained, content, and calm, is never a bad idea either. Not only does it keep everyone’s stress levels down, but it also provides opportunities for your child to expand on skills such as patience, self-regulation, vocabulary expansion, creativity, and more!
Below are Five Tips While Out Shopping with Your Toddler: *Pro Tip*: Although not always possible, when you can, try to have a list of what foods/objects to buy, before going to the store. This will help tremendously, so that you can better focus on your child.
1) “I spy”
Play “I spy” with your toddler! If you’re at the grocery store, an example may be saying “I spy a RED fruit…” and have your child scan the room for those red fruits! The more enthusiastic and entertained YOU are, the more your child will also want to participate. Not only does this game keep your child amused, but it also is a strategy to optimize overall language development via building vocabulary.
2) Create a Fun Story
Using your imagination to create a little story can do wonders in entertaining your child. For example, pretend you saw a little bunny rabbit run through the store. Cue your child to look for the little bunny rabbit with you (e.g., “Let’s go to the vegetable aisle, that’s where the bunny’s favorite foods are!”). Ask your child for his/her help, “what aisle do you think the bunny is hiding?”. Innocent “pretend” stories also are great in building creativity.
3) Give them Expectations / Set a Timer –
Many children become restless while out shopping, because they don’t know when they’re going to leave. In their minds, they’re worried they’ll be there forever! Giving some expectations (“First, we have to get all the fruits, THEN we are all done”) and/or using a visual timer (there are a variety of free visual timer mobile apps) can help reduce stress for the little ones. Children learn patience via waiting, which also is beneficial for self-regulation skills.
4) Give Them Little Jobs
Depending on your child’s developmental level, he/she may LOVE helping you. For example, when grocery shopping, instead of throwing food directly in the cart, hand it over to your child and ask, “Can you help me put this in the back? It’s so heavy!”. Your child will love throwing it in the back and feeling like he is helping you! Giving your child foods of different textures will also provide excellent sensory input, which is important in helping children feel balanced.
5) Talk to Your Child
Narrate the environment to your child (e.g., “Wow, look how BIG this place is…”). The more animated, the better. As mentioned previously, if YOU are entertained, your child will want to know what the hype is about. Not only does this help make shopping trips easier, but it also is a great strategy to optimize expressive and receptive language skills.
No matter if these tips worked perfectly or not, kudos to you for trying! It takes trial-and-error, patience, and time. Sometimes, our child is simply not feeling it that day, and that’s totally normal. Hopefully, however, these tips will work on some occasions and help pave the way for a positive shopping experience.
You did it!
-Andrea Scola, M.S., CCC-SLP, Exceptional Speech Therapy Blog Writer