How to avoid a toddler tantrums at the supermarket

These 10 tips will change your grocery-shopping experience.
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How do you prevent your toddler having a total meltdown in the supermarket? The simple answer is – you can’t.

When it comes to toddlers, they can be unreasonable and unpredictable and if they decide that right there, next to the yoghurt and the cheese, they are going to throw themselves onto the floor and start with the ear-splitting, glass-shattering screams there is very little you can do to stop them.

But there are some things you can do to try and prevent the situation and/or deal with it without losing your mind. Most of them come under the sub-heading of “distraction and bribery”, which are two of a parent’s most important child-rearing tools.

Here are 10 ways to survive shopping with a toddler …

  • Write a list so you know exactly what you’re buying. Kids pick up on your vibes, so wandering aimlessly and staring blankly at shelves is a good way to unsettle them and have them nagging for an ice-cream.

  • Ask for their input on the list. “Do we need carrots?” “What could we make for dinner tonight?” “What colour washing up liquid should we get?” This makes them feel involved and will help at the shops, too. Get them to help find and select the items off the shelves and put them in the trolley or basket themselves too, making sure you praise their efforts.

  • Distract them with a task when they are in danger of spotting something they want on a shelf. It might be the latest cartoon character toy sitting at kid’s-eye-level, or it could be the brightly coloured box of rat poison they see in the laundry aisle. Whatever it is, they want it and will bring the house down yelling for it.

As if grocery shopping wasn’t enough of a pain!

(Credit: Getty Images)
  • Avoid the toy aisle in the first place. Although those sneaky supermarkets often slot rainbow-coloured, exciting-looking kid’s stuff on those hooks between the alfoil and oven mitts.

  • Take a “special toy” that only comes out once in a while. Make it bright and noisy and something they might not normally get to play with so it’s a real treat and hopefully distracts from the brightly-coloured rat poison.

  • Food and drink are another great way to distract toddlers from what they are doing or about to do, and it doesn’t have to be junk food. Sultanas or rice crackers are healthy, tasty snacks and most kids love them.

  • Promise a treat at the end of the shopping expedition if they are good and behave themselves. The idea of an ice-cream or a stop at the library or even a ride on the jerky electronic car out the front gives them something to look forward to.

WATCH: Things you can’t do when you’re NOT a toddler. Continues after video …

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  • Sometimes the best thing to do is ignore it and walk away. Don’t go out of sight, but just leave them to their moment. You might get some disapproving looks from the obviously non-parents around you, but every mother, father and grandparent in the place will give you a sympathetic smile. Walk down the aisle a bit, wait a minute or two to see if they calm down by themselves (which they often do when they realise you’re not listening to them)

  • Move on quickly, once the tantrum is over. Try and distract them by getting really excited about something on the shelf. “Oh wow! This is the peanut butter you have on your list. Quick come and see if you can reach it!”

  • There’s really only one guaranteed way of getting the shopping done without a single tantrum, and that is to go alone. If you can, wait until your partner is home and go then, or ask a friend to babysit. Especially one who has their own walking time bomb so you can share the load.

If none of those things are possible, do your shopping online. It’s not everyone’s ideal way to buy groceries, especially fruit and vegetables as you can’t choose it yourself, but when it comes to your sanity and making life as stress-free as possible, some things are worth a few spotty apples and bananas.

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