Escape Artist - Grocery Shopping with a Toddler

Updated on January 30, 2012
L.A. asks from Kew Gardens, NY
16 answers

Mamas & Papas -

I took my DS grocery shopping on Saturday, and had a harrowing experience to say the least. The cart didn't have a belt. He squirmed his way out of the seat twice and was standing with one leg on the top of the cart, and another on a huge display of rice. I opened a box of animal crackers and started feeding him in the market with hopes that would quiet him and help keep him in the cart. No such luck. He tried to escape again. With fear that he might fall out, I took him out of the cart, and put him on the ground, and encouraged him to push the cart, while holding my hand. That wouldn't do for our little one. No, he wanted to be carried so he could push the cart from the handle, like mommy does. Next thing you know, he's made off to the canned goods aisle, and pulling stuff off the shelf. Then he squirmed his way through the legs of customers at the cashier and made for the automated exit. Were it not for a watchful cashier he would have been into traffic for sure. The cashier was good enough to help me strap him into the stroller, which he squirmed and faught mightily. He made for and out the automatic doors again, before we safely restrained him.

Any tips on what to do, apart from go shopping without him?
We've got a kiddie harness, but hadn't introduced it as yet. Any tips on how to go about that?

More about us, and our local markets. We live in NYC (queens). Real estate here is at a premium, so supermarkets are small, and congested. Carts are hard to come by, and a little shabby at best. Seat belts have all broken off long ago. The "fun carts" aren't available either. Because the city is so congested, people wear blinders on most of the time, and retreat into themselves, and don't notice other adults, much less little ones. Its a crazy place.

Thanks a bunch,
Fanged Bunny

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answers from Chicago on

I probably look like a crazy woman when I am shopping--I wear my baby (9 mos) in an Ergo carrier, and my 2 yr old, who is also a Houdini and can open the cart seatbelt buckles, is on a kiddie harness (which I then clip to my cart using that "Mommy Clip" thing.) Yes, I probably look like I one of the families from the "Exodus" scene of "The Ten Commandments," but, it works for us.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Iowa City on

My daughter escapes from the belt and likes to go back and forth between the basket part of the cart and the child seat part. We have found that strapping her in and giving her a lollipop is the only thing that keeps her still. We are working on walking with mum or dad instead of running away but we only try it if it isn't crowded. I'm not about to let her annoy all the other customers by running into them and ripping things off the shelves (ETA: Not trying to be mean...I just know that that annoys people and my child is wild when running free). I've never used a harness (because my husband remembers his mom using one with him and he hated it) so no pointers on that. The lollipop is the only thing I have to offer. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

wow, time to get control of your child! if your child is that out of hand, give up your shopping trip and go back later! pack a leather belt with you, use it to buckle your child to the cart if the store you regularly shop at doesn't have belts. beyond that, you maintain a hold on your child - you hold his hand, arm, something... furthermore, you explain that he WILlL sit down in the buggy, end of story. what you described is beyond unacceptable, not to mention unsafe and a nuisance to others. you don't mention his age, but i'd assume somewhere between 1 and 3, get control NOW or you're in for a bumpy ride! good luck!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

This is why I always keep duct tape in my purse. :p

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Richmond on

I HAVE to find a cart with a belt. I have actually asked people to swap carts with me before! Don't feel embarrassed if you have to do that, most people are more than happy to switch.

Our grocery store also has the shopping carts with the 'car' on the front. Do you have those? They're ridiculous and hard to maneuver, BUT, they have a chest harness too :)

If push comes to shove and you're really, really stuck, tie his shoe laces to below the seat line on the cart, he won't go ANYWHERE ;)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Make sure you get a cart with a belt? (I don't mean that to be condescending, it's the only answer I could come up with!!)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

My 2 year old is terrible in the store. I second what Rachel D. says about finding a store that has the shopping cart with the car in front or finding a cart that has the bench like seat in front. Those types of carts usually have belts long enough to belt in a toddler. You mentioned that you have a kiddie harness. Is it one of those that is like an animal and rests like a backpack on the child? Those are awesome because you can fill up the backpack with treats and secure the leash on your wrist. Maybe take him to a small store like a drugstore to try out the harness and see how he does. Personally, I don't find those harnesses all that helpful because with my son, he'll play the old dead weight game and I end up getting frustrated and keep yanking him. But, every kid is different.

What I also do is limit the trips to the store. Plan out your meals for the week if you can, take your list, and go to the store when it is the least crowded like a Monday or Tuesday morning. It also is easier after a nap. If you go during the least busiest times, the less people in the store, the less of an audience he will have to entertain.

It also helps if you can find a neighbor or friend who can watch him for an hour or two just so you can shop!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

This was my son to a T. The only thing that worked was doing an intensive "shopping practice weekend" -- basically all I did all weekend was take him to stores and tell him we would leave immediately if he climbed out of the cart, ran, screamed for a toy, knocked things off the shelves in purpose, etc. I didn't do any actual shopping, and I did a LOT of talking! I just walked around the store with him in the cart, praising him when he was seated and talking him through the rules over and over. I followed through on the leaving part every single time (even if there was something I really wanted to buy). The first couple times, he flipped out in the car (after screaming the whole way out of the store with my carrying him in a bear hug so he couldn't flail!) so I had to wait for him to get it all out before I could get him in his car seat to go home. But by the fourth or fifth trip, he seemed to "get it."

I think he was a bit older though -- probably 2 and a half. Before that it was just an awful experience to go shopping with him. But now he is fairly good. We will have an occasional meltdown (and leave) but for the most part he can handle brief shopping trips like a champ.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Lakeland on

Does your store have the fun carts? The ones that look like a car or have a little car attached to the front?
These helped me so much when my daughter was little. Here in Florida all the Publix (our supermarket) have them and the child sits up where you push the cart. In PA they had the kind with a little car in the front, which was nice at check out because she couldn't climb out in the cashier isle.

Bring a belt with you from home and put it snugly around his waist, be sure to buckle it behind him and not in the front where he can open it and get out. Other than that bring the kiddie harness.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Please investigate where love and logic parenting classes are being taught in your area. They have this exact example over and over in their teachings.

My personal advice to you:

#1, start going to the store when hubby is home and you can leave little one at home.

#2. Be the grown up, tell him before going in that he is expected to sit in the cart on his hiney. That if he doesn't you will be leaving. Then follow through. He needs to learn to mind.

#3. Choose a different cart next time

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

When my kids were little I did my grocery shopping in the evening and left them home with daddy. That turned out to be some of my best "me" time, is that an option?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Buy a harness and strap him in! Google "baby stroller harness."

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Bring your own belt.... you can use just about any kind of waist belt, and buckle it in the BACK of the seat so he can't reach it as easily.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

If you won't get a sitter to stay home with him while you shop, maybe you could have groceries delivered?
He's a danger to himself if he acts like that when you're in a store.
It's safer to avoid the whole situation till he can be patient while you shop.



answers from Dallas on

My son is / was JUST LIKE THAT. He is now 3 1/2 and has never had any fear. He doesnt care if he loses sight of me in a public place - there are things he wants to do and he is determined to do them.

Here are some ideas:
1)My daughter is two, and I keep her on my back in an Ergo baby carrier and keep my son in the cart. Depending on how old/big your son is, I recommend using a baby carrier until he gets older and less impulsive.
2) Before going to the store, tell him exactly what will happen and what he needs to do - "sit in the cart" - and what he can help with "hold groceries" "look for groceries" tell him what will happen if he does not stay in the cart "We will leave."
Make trips to the grocery store where you dont HAVE to get anything. The FIRST TIME he tries to get out of the cart, leave. Go outside and go home. No matter what. After you have left a couple of times, he will start to behave better. Whenever he starts to fall back into his old ways, go back to the same drill.

Also - dont be too discouraged or stressed. When my son was 1-2, I worried all the time that he was growing up to be an out of control wild animal. As he has gotten older (and he is now just 3-1/2) and gotten more self control, he has gotten so much better. I think its really hard with an active 1-2 year old, because even if they know its wrong, they sometimes cant help themselves.

Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

Buy a cart cover. They usually have a belt included. Or I'm sure that someone out there sells belts for the carts. Alternately, use the harness. I'd put it on him around the house so he gets used to it and you find out if you need to add duct tape to the buckles or something. You can also work on him at home to come to you, stay with you, and not run when you are out of the house. When he stops, you praise him. When he runs off, you go after him, stop him and tell him to stay with you.

It has happened to most parents. My DD ran out of Staples when she was a little under 2 and was on the sidewalk before I caught her. If she can't stay with me, she goes in the stroller or in the cart.

You can also try PeaPod or your local equivalent. PeaPod is fairly cheap for the delivery.

You also have a manny, right? Does the manny have trouble wrangling him. If not, what does he do differently? Does your son run as much for anyone else or just you? You might need to take notes from others.

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