There’s no avoiding it, families need food. Yet, braving the supermarket with your little one is enough to strike fear into the hearts of even the most organised parents.
With this in mind, we’ve put together five top tips to navigate the supermarket aisles as easily as possible with a toddler or young child in tow.
1. Don’t go shopping when they’re tired and hungry
A well rested and fed child is much more likely to be receptive to the busy environment of a supermarket. For little children in particular, the hustle and bustle of a hectic shop can over stimulate them and pave the way for tantrums.
It’s also a good idea to go when it’s less busy. If you’re a stay-at-home parent go during the day when people are at work. Otherwise, if you’re super organised, go first thing in the morning.
Timing is everything. The most important thing is to work around your child’s own energy levels. If they’re alert and happy, you’re likely to have a more enjoyable time together.
2. Get them involved
Use positive, real life examples of why you’re at the supermarket. “We’re going to buy some nice vegetables to make your favourite spaghetti bolognese!” Or, We’re going to have a lovely BBQ at the weekend, can you help me find all of the things we need?” Get them involved in planning the meals for the week, this will create excitement about what’s for dinner.
Take inspiration from positive parenting. Reinforce ‘why’ they’re doing what they’re doing, rather than the ‘what’. Also, be mindful of the way you say things. It’s very easy to fall into using negative language such as “we’re not getting…” or “don’t ask Mummy for..” We all do it from time to time!
You can also make shoping fun by playing ‘supermarket bingo’. Create, or print out, a simple sheet of every day foods for children to spot as you get your shopping done.
3. Create a shopping list for your child
Little one’s love to feel grown up and helpful. Cut out colourful pictures of food and let them create a shopping list. Encourage them to help you seek out the food you’re looking for. This is a great opportunity to talk about food groups, healthy eating and cooking.
Let your child add your items to the trolley and unload them when you get to the till. This way, they’ll be involved and feel like they’re giving Mummy or Daddy a helping hand. Make it a game by getting them to scan items as you whizz round or even bring pretend play coins with you.
When they do a good job, remember to tell them how great they’ve been!
4. Bring a healthy snack to keep them occupied
All parents will have, at some point, been faced with a child in the chocolate aisle. Giving into demands and tantrums only reinforces and rewards bad behaviour.
Try and avoid the conversation altogether by bringing their favourite, healthier snacks. Grapes and satsumas work well. Low sugar and salt popcorn, oat bars and cheese can seem just as tempting to a toddler as sweet treats.
The foods that work best are those that can be picked at, keeping children distracted for longer periods of time while you get your shopping done.
5. Reward good behaviour
Just as you should avoid rewarding bad behaviour, it’s just as important to reinforce the good. If your child has been an angel during your shopping trip, tell them as you’re shopping. Afterwards, show them that their good behaviour reaps rewards.
Create a reward chart. Every time you have a successful trip to the shops, give them a sticker ot a reward stamp and tell them exactly why they’ve earned it. Let them know that when they’ve collected a certain amount, you can do something special together. This could be a day trip, a meal out to their favourite restaurant, or a new toy.
The important thing is to make sure that they know why they’re being rewarded. Over time they’ll start to associate good behaviour with a positive outcome.
Every child is different. What works for one, won’t necessarily work for the next. Keep in mind that positivity, reinforcing good behaviour and distraction are power tools in your armory when it comes to navigating temper tantrums.
Let us know what works for you by tweeting us at @LRUK