Shopping at Toddler Pace

by Amber Strocel on May 5, 2010

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The grocery store is my parenting nemesis. Most, if not all, of my most stressful moments with my children have happened while shopping. From the parking lot, which makes me fear for my children’s safety, to the aisles filled with sugar-filled treats in colorful boxes at kid eye-level, to the disapproving glances of strangers, there is ample fodder for me to melt down while I attempt to buy food.

I have tried various tactics to ease shopping, like bringing along another adult as backup, taking advantage of the free cookies in the bakery and shopping while my older child was in preschool so that I only had one little one to care for. I babywear, I let my preschooler push a tiny cart of her own and I use the kid-friendly carts with the giant plastic car attached to the front. I time my trips to make sure that no one is hungry or tired and the store won’t be too busy. Some of these tactics worked better than others, but I have found no magic bullet, no miracle cure to my shopping with kid woes.

My daughter Hannah, pushing her own shopping cart

My daughter Hannah, pushing her own shopping cart

My solution to my shopping woes was to be as quick as possible. I thought that the faster I got in and out, the easier it would be. The less bored and hungry my kids would feel and the less chance they would see foods I didn’t want them to have. I zoomed my cart through the aisles like a Nascar driver bent on winning, in an effort to minimize the trauma. I would decide that I didn’t need raisins so much after all, because someone else was busy at the raisin bin and I didn’t want to wait. I kept my head down and my eyes on the prize.

The problem is my children don’t share my shopping goal. They aren’t dedicated to getting out of that store as quickly as possible. Instead, they want to explore. They want to smell the oranges and see the boxes and help me scoop the raisins. They want to take the time to watch the crabs in their tanks in the seafood section. They want to see every kind of yogurt before they make their decision. I often viewed their dawdling as a thorn in my side, an impediment to my speedy shopping goal.

Then one day I decided to slow down and follow my children’s lead. We took 5 minutes out of the trip so that they could look through the birthday cake book. I let them watch the crabs and get out of the cart to dance to the music in an otherwise-empty aisle. I reminded myself that I really didn’t have anyplace else that I needed to be this morning, and that if my shopping trip took an extra 15 minutes it would be OK.

To my surprise, my changed perspective made all the difference. Taking life at toddler pace can feel tedious sometimes, no doubt about it. But it can also be a great reminder to us to slow down ourselves. To look around and really see things for the first time in a long time. For me, it’s also a great way to reduce grocery store angst. Sometimes, anyway. 😉

Have you taken the time to slow down and follow your children’s leads? Has it helped you in your parenting? Please share!

You can catch up with Amber’s adventures in shopping on her blog at

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Amber Strocel (31 Posts)

Amber is a hippie mama to two, a writer, a dreamer, a student, an erstwhile engineer and a lover of chocolate. She lives in suburban Vancouver with her family and one very cranky tabby cat. Keep up with her on her blog at

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephanie banguilan May 5, 2010 at 9:04 am

For us,grocery shopping is an adventure. With a 4 yo and a 6mo,things can get crazy. I’m not nearly as organized to plan my day according to nap ‘schedules’ so when we get there, I just try to go with it. Usually it’s a game. I give my 4yo a few things the he is in charge of finding so on every isle, we look for it. Once or twice he’s even taken a nap in the cart while I shop. Your kids are only young once so I try to enjoy every second.


MamanADroit May 5, 2010 at 10:07 am

We always go by the fish in the pet section of Wal-Mart even though it’s stuck in a corner away from the sections we actually shop in
Last time, there was a baby just a couple months older than my son, so some mom I’d never met before and I stopped in the baby aisle for several minutes and let our little ones wave and shout hi at each other. They were both grinning and squealing with delight! It definitely made the shopping trip go better (and I got conplimented on how good Baby is at waving for a 9 month old!)


Vina May 6, 2010 at 4:50 am

Amber, you totally nailed my perspective on this one. I’m all about slow, and pacing ourselves with our children. Which doesn’t come naturally, but it’s much nicer, no? Thanks for sharing!


mamapoekie May 6, 2010 at 5:26 am

Wonderful post… so very true, when I go shopping with the dd and just slightly pay more attention to her and what she’s interested in, it can even become a fun experience
posting this in my Sunday Surf


Kayris May 6, 2010 at 8:13 am

It’s SO FUNNY you posted this today, because I had a similar experience on Tuesday. My son is now old enough that he has to walk and my daughter is old enough that she wants to walk. (And, BTW, the time when my kids were too big for one of those truck carts was a joyful time for me…I hate those things!) And in the past, it was always so stressful, because I had to get everything on ny list while also making sure they stayed safe, didn’t get in people’s way, etc. But on Tuesday, I let them help me pick stuff out, and other than reminding them to stay close and not block people, didn’t have too much to say. And it was much more pleasant!


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