Supermarket soup
Taking toddlers to the shop is a recipe for disaster.
(Getty Images)

Recipe for Disaster


One long supermarket checkout queue a busy Saturday morning, a screaming and demanding toddler one exhausted and impatient parent.

Cooking instructions

  1. Let all the above stand for half an hour
  2. Add several shelves of sweets, plastic toys, batteries and blades on either side of the trolley
  3. Add one wet nappy
  4. Add several packets of dripping, frozen goods
  5. Stir everything together inside a trolley with one wheel locked in the direction of the parking lot.

The result of the above scenario is fairly predictable. The problem with a hard smack is that not only does it make the toddler scream louder, it also invokes the wrath of other people in the queue who start making noises about phoning Childline.

What can be done then to make supermarket shopping a more pleasant experience for all concerned and to let parents emerge relatively sane and toddlers relatively happy?

Quite a lot, actually:

Tips for parents

  1. Don’t take a hungry toddler to the supermarket.
  2. Make sure your child’s nappy is dry before you go. Some supermarkets have changing stations (nowadays also in the men’s toilets), but it remains a disruptive experience at the best of times in any public place.
  3. Take your toddler’s favourite toy to the supermarket. This is a good diversionary measure.
  4. Reward your toddler with something small (not necessarily sweets) if her behaviour has been good.
  5. Go to the supermarket at a time when it will be empty – Tuesday mornings are good.
  6. Make it absolutely clear that under no circumstances will you allow your child to grab things off the shelf and throw them into the trolley. Don’t let this become a weekly battle. You and your spouse have to be consistent in enforcing this disciplinary measure.
  7. Make sure that you know what you want and where to get it. If you go about your shopping systematically, it will go much faster.
  8. Turn the expedition into a game – and pretend that sitting in the trolley seat is a special treat.
  9. Some supermarkets now have checkout queues that are devoid of toddler temptations – choose that one.
  10. If you are feeling frazzled, find a friend or family member who can babysit for an hour while you do the shopping on your own. Offer to return the compliment.
  11. If your child is having hysterics, abandon your trolley and go home. The stress it will cause to finish this shopping expedition is much more than the stress it will cause the staff to unpack your trolley.
  12. Send someone else to do your shopping if the supermarket has turned into a battleground, or better still, order your groceries on the internet.

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