Suggestions for Grocery Store Visits with My 1-Year Old.

Updated on January 23, 2009
S.R. asks from Denver, CO
6 answers

My 19 month old son used to be an angel at the store, but those days seem to have passed. He now loudly objects to being in the grocery cart, but has no self-control when allowed to walk (everything on the shelves is SO INTERESTING!) He wants me to hold him, but that's not practical. He loves to grab the plastic bags of produce and try to eat through them or cry because the fruit is a "ball" that I won't let him play with. I give him toys and snacks and talk to him about everything we see, but these tactics only temporarily pacify him. Basically he doesn't want to be there and lets the entire store know it. My husband and I often shop together, so there are two of us. I've thought of taking him out to the car, but I think he'd consider that a victory/award. When he is at home and once again learning the lesson about not having everything he wants, I ignore his whinning and he eventually realizes I'm not giving in and stops. I've tried this at the store, a little, but he gets really upset and a short amount of complaining isn't going to fix it. I can't let him scream in public for an extended amount of time, can I? I get kind "oh, I remember the days" type looks from older women, but non-parent types give the "Why aren't you doing anything about that crying baby?" look. Besides it breaks my heart to let him get so upset. I want to handle this so that he learns how to behave at the store. Afterall, we have many, many years of grocery dates comming and new little sister on the way that will complicate things more. Thanks in advance for any advice you may have!

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answers from Salt Lake City on

i had the same problem with my son I posted it on this website I got the greatest advice. Leave, pick him up put him the car and leave, leave the cart leave the store. Drive home send him to time out no talking no fighting no warning just walk out of the store. I also thought this would be a reward but it actually worked.



answers from Boise on

Take snacks and a sippie cup of favorite drink. Try to go to places that have the fun car carts. Use bribery. Get something he really wants first and each time he acts up, you say you will not get it if he deosn't stop. Take him out to car and sit there until he can be good again.


answers from Casper on

my son did that as well, you just have to leave the store. Try just taking him out of the basket and give a little swat and then take him to the car and put him in the seat and buckle and just let him get his frustration out in the car seat. that way you are not at home and he learns that when he settle down he can go see the other parent at the store. and if he acts up again take him out. be stern and it should only take him a couple times. but beware he will try it again at a latter date.



answers from Denver on

To be honest, if he screams, let him and ignore him. When you aren't worried about it and it isn't getting him what he wants he will get it. I used to always do the car carts at our store, if yours have it, my kids LOVED those. They are both big now so they have to walk.

I hate to say it but it shouldn't break your heart, he is a toddler now and it is very normal behavior. I quit worrying about what others thought and it lessened my stress and then my children calmed down. I mean I would remove my children if it was a movie, dinner out, but at the store, I just go about my business. When they got older and acted up, I literally did time outs at the store!!! I made it clear time outs can happen no matter where we are! Kids protest when they don't get their way, it will happen about a million more times and you have to just ignore him.

It isn't safe at his age to let him out of the cart anyway. He could pull something heavy on himself, trash a display and so forth. Buckle him in and do your shopping. It sounds hard core but if you have to shop you have to.

Try finding a store with the cool cars so he can "drive" through the store. One thing that worked when my daughter was young was letting her take her Little Tikes shopping cart along and her baby doll. She filled it with easy and safe products and went through the check out with me. I also go to the cookie aisle in the bakery section last, the reward was a cookie if they were good while shopping. May sound like bribery but I look at it as a reward for being patient. Our store gives one free cookie. So check into that. Make sure he goes when he is well rested and not hungry either as I know that makes behaviors esculate.

Even at 4 and 7, my kids hate the store, but some days I have to take them with me. For the most part I just try and do it when they are in school though.
Good luck, part of toddlerhood and he will get it, it is a phase and protesting is very normal. Hang in there!

I would if it is that awful, go without him, leave him with your husband and you go alone.
When he is a little older and starting counting, have him help, like put five apples in the bag. My kids love the twisty ties in the produce dept and I challenge them to make things while we are walking through the store.
When your new baby comes, he can still ride in the car carts and you can put the carrier on the top.



answers from Denver on

oh, this brings back memories of my second child - including the day I carried her out like a football (something she has detested from day one) while pulling the cart with the other hand and she was screaming loud enough to be heard at least a mile away - that was the day she didn't get the horsey ride because she hadn't been good enough!
anyway - with her it would also have meant she won if I left the store and she tested us many times...
some strategies beyond the obvious of avoiding when he's hungry and tired:
1)take a cheerio necklace for the snack. although a pain to make, its more interesting (and a treat if its only at the grocery store) than a snack in a bag or tupperware.
2)put him in a backpack - that way he's being held but can't run wild and you still can function
3)go over the rules before leaving the car and spell out the consequences (I still do this on occassion and mine are now 5 and 7). for us, consequences were "naughty square" and we have done it right inside the store. we have also done it outside the store at 35 degrees w/out a coat (for a short time obviously) - but it made an impression and took care of misbehaving for quite a while.
if needed, do a time out in the car (let a clerk know - they'll even put your cart back in the dairy portion of the warehouse to keep things cold) and then go back in. We put the child in the car seat, fully buckled, explained what the time out was for, and then closed the door. we stood right outside the car but where she couldn't see us for the amount of time (1 min per yr of age). when time was up, we'd talk about needing to calm down and not go in until everyone was calm. for us, going home was NOT an option. our second child would have then pitched a fit the minute we walked in the door of any store!
4)look at it as your "special" time. for my oldest, I told stories and sang songs (quietly, of course - I can't carry a tune at all!). So, he thought the grocery store was the most wonderful place because he got mommy one-on-one w/some of his favorite activities. I think one day I recited the "Little Red Caboose" - his favorite book - at least 10 times in a row to get through an exceptionally long grocery trip.
5)the carts that look like race cars, police cars, etc are wonderful for keeping them occupied, even if they are the most masochistic thing ever evented for the adult pushing them. And have fun w/them. my kids "drove" while I made comments like "watch out for the pole" and then swerved around it. or "put on the brakes!" and come to a sudden stop. and "I need some gas" when I was ready to move on.
6)plan your visit through the store strategically. start w/canned/pantry goods and then move to perishables. this can usually be done by going through the inside aisles and then doing a walk around the perimeter. it means you won't have perishables if you have a discipline issue and since fruit is apparently an issue - it makes it last on the list.
7)a horsey ride (ain't King Soopers great - keeping them a penny!) at the end if he's good - a couple of times of that and it won't take much reminding throughout the store. bribery is not always a bad thing!
8) lastly, two 30-minute trips a week is probably better than one trip that's an hour. a hassle for you, I know, but more than 30-40 minutes is tough on a 19-mo old.



answers from Denver on

I found positive reinforcement did the trick. When my kids were good, I raved to them about how well behaved they were and told anyone who would listen how well they did at the store. They wanted to please me so they always tried to be good.
Of course, we do have meltdowns now and then. I don't know if you've tried going at different times of day, but that might help. Or running off some energy first if you have a high energy kid. When we do have meltdowns, we leave (inconvenient as it may be). If it is you and your husband, one of you could leave and get in the car or sit on a bench outside until the other is done or your son calms down enough. It will be a punishment not to be shopping.
Good luck!

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