Shopping with small children can be a challenge. When they start to get antsy or upset it seems everyone in the store is staring at you with eyes that say, "What sort of parent are you if you can't even keep your kid happy in the store." Of course, what they are really thinking is, "I remember those days" and "Oh, thank heaven that's not me today." Every parent has been there. Here is a list of ideas to keep your kids happy and occupied while you shop:

Little helpers

Get your kids to help you. All but the tiniest children can understand the concept of helping and they generally want to help. Give them assignments like putting things (non-fragile things) in the basket for you. Older kids can push the shopping cart, manage the shopping list or go back for the things you forgot.

Teaching moments

The more you make the shopping experience about your kids, the better they'll behave. Make sure you talk to them about what you're doing to keep them engaged. You'll help them learn all along the way, too. With all of the labels with pictures and words it is a great place to encourage early reading skills. There is no better place than a grocery store to teach kids about different fruits and vegetables. With all of the bright colors around - in an endless palette - you can reinforce colors, too.

Games

You can play games with your kids, as well. Try these games you can play with your toddlers in the shopping cart as you walk or wait in line:

  • Peek-a-boo

  • Simon says

  • Where's my ? Where's your _?

Treats

If you are with your kids in the grocery store, it is easy enough to explain to a 6-year-old that you don't eat in the grocery store, only when you get home. Your toddler may not be able to understand. Be sure to have something handy if your toddler gets anxious for some food.

Your phone

All but the tiniest kids have figured out how to play games on your phone. You can download games specifically for your wee ones. Be sure to keep an eye on your phone so that it doesn't get abandoned next to the Cap'n Crunch. Your phone may be just the ticket to preserve your sanity and keep your toddler happy during a mad race through the grocery store.

Shop early and take breaks

Shopping with children will always be easier when they are fresh. Shopping with tired kids is a recipe for disaster. Young kids have a short attention span and aren't up for hours and hours of errands without breaks. A fast food place with a children's play area can help your little ones to release their energy after sitting in the car or shopping cart for hours.

You may feel silly playing Simon Says with your 2-year-old in the grocery store, but you won't feel nearly as anxious as you would with a screaming toddler. Have fun and don't worry about what everyone else is thinking.

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