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How do you Keep your Kiddos Entertained While Grocery Shopping?!

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Alright, so I’ve received quite a few emails from readers with this question, “How do you grocery shop with kiddos in tow AND use coupons AND compare prices AND survive the trip?”

This is a great question and one that I’m very interested in hearing some tips and feedback on. Some of my suggestions (these may be basic to some of you)– bring snacks, pick the cute carts that have little cars attached (aren’t those fun to steer?) and make sure to bring along a Fisher-Price Doodle Pro (or something similar)! I also like to have my 8 year old son figure out whether using a coupon on a product or buying the store brand is a better choice. He feels very important when I let him make these decisions and I know by doing this he’s learning just how far a $1 can go when you shop smart.

Do you have any tips up your sleeve?! Any creative ways to keep your kiddos entertained? Let us know!

Join The Discussion

Comments 263

  1. momondealz

    For my 15 month old I either bring a snack for him or I hit the free samples in the store and stock up on them before shopping; that way he has something in his hand at all times!

  2. Marla

    I make a “treasure hunt” for my kids. They have a picture of the item they are looking for on a page, with the number we need, and the coupons we will use. They are able to get out of the cart to look for it when it is their turn.
    They also just love to put things in the cart, I start with the cans so less things get squished.

  3. Barbara

    OK…maybe it’s the speech therapist in me, but when I absolutely HAVE to take my kids with me we play categorization games throughout the store. I usually say something like, “I see bananas, grapes, and apples. Those are all…….(and I wait for them to say ‘fruit’). I spy is a great game for the store too – especially when I hear ‘I spy a coupon…’ ๐Ÿ™‚ My kids are TOTALLY into my couponing by the way…we recently went out to eat and my son told our server, ‘My mommy doesn’t use dollars, she uses coupons!’. So true…boy, that kid knows his mother!

  4. Keri

    V Cast videos on the cell are a God send!!! They work when we are out to dinner too!

  5. Stephanie

    I bring along our little plastic shopping cart from home and let my two year old push it around the store. She loves having stuff to buy in her own cart and it wears her out for a long nap after lunch!

    • Shellie

      That’s GENIUS! I will have to try that. The kiddo gets exercise and is entertains, then I get mommy quiet time at home. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Kate

        Hmm. =) My kids don’t really need to be “entertained.” They are trained, so they don’t nag for stuff or get on my nerves. It’s like going to the store with friends, only they happen to be small. =) They are 5, 3, and 1. I would much rather have them with me than go shopping alone. That sounds boring!

        I’d say, train your kids instead of distracting them with constant entertainment. It’s better long-term for them to learn self-control and to have a mommy that isn’t irritated with them. It may take a few shopping trips that you have to take the kids back to the car to deal with some issues, but when they see that you are serious, they won’t keep doing whatever it is that is stressing you out.

        My kids do have a lot of fun when we bring the kid cart – I found a little metal grocery cart at a garage sale for $2 and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever gotten. They love to be like Mommy! If I found two more of them, I would totally buy them. So much fun!

        But still, don’t use a toy or food as a cover-up for a problem with disobedience or whining. It masks the problem instead of truly dealing with it.

  6. Kelly

    Today my 18 month old entertained himself with my camera phone. Usually I have snacks & such on hand, but then there’s the moment where you just know you have to go! There will be more deals there when you can come back the next time, at least that’s what I told myself today ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Barbie

    I bring my husband along, too, and he does the kiddo-watching while I shop! Seriously, we both work full time, so I can’t shop during the day. We love to shop together, so I don’t go by myself very much at all. We usually have our kids, 4 and 3, and our nephew, 3, with us. I couldn’t shop with the kids without my wonderful husband.

  8. Michelle

    I have started giving my 3 year old .05 for each store coupon or mfg coupons from the machines that he can find. He loves it and also helps me not to miss out on some good coupons. Not much $$, but at least he gets to earn a little. I am sure his fee will increase with time. ๐Ÿ™‚ He also loves to carry one item around the entire time. He feels so important carrying that one item and stays right along with me since the “item” isn’t allowed to get very far from the basket.

  9. Danielle

    I let my 2 year old son hold my grocery list and check it off as we go ( I have my own list too) and then if he’s doing a really good job I let him have a fruit snack or a piece of gum or my grocery store hands out free cookies and I’ll let him get one if he’s really good. He loves it!

  10. PNW Frugal Finds

    My daughter is six weeks old, so currently my only issue is if she starts screaming or where I’m going to fit my coupon book in with my bag and her carseat! But… my four year old nephew used to live with me and when he and I would grocery shop I would tell him that he could have one item if he behaved the whole time, but only one. So through out the store he would get the “I wants” and I would ask him – Do you want this item or the one you had picked out? And he would always be so busy deciding which item he wanted that he was very distracted. If he behaved by the end and had one item picked out, he got to give it to the cashier and it was his. Sometimes it was silly putty, sometimes ice cream, whatever his little heart desired. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Lori

    Leave them at home!

    • Trisha

      Thanx I was starting to get a complex! My 4 year old goes to the sitter twice a week!!! Its impossible to focus when she goes!!!

  12. Heath

    I pretty much just keep them on the straight and narrow. If they even think about acting up during the store or not minding their manners, they know what’s coming to them. It’s only taken once or twice, now I simply tell them what I’m looking for and they help me. They’re as focused as I am now-a-days! (pretty good for a six year old, I think) Hopefully, he’ll thank me in about fifteen years when he’s going on his own trips for his own house… gotta raise ’em right!

    • Jaime

      I agree. My son knows the drill – he’s four. He looks forward to the bakery cookie and knows he needs to make it last b/c we will be there for a while. And I bring a drink for him. Other than that, he knows to behave and does a pretty good job. We sometimes play seek & find games for numbers, letters, and such, but sometimes I just need to focus.

      And it’s very cute when we get to something he likes and asks if we have a coupon for it. He knows if we don’t, then we probably aren’t going to buy it. He says, “Well, maybe next time!”

  13. Sarah

    I usually let them help me. They love it when I dont tell them we get to buy a movie with a coupon…that is so exciting for them.

  14. Wendi

    DS’s are a great tool. Sometimes we stop by the toy dept. first and let them enjoy looking first (that way I don’t keep hearing the requests for this while I am shopping) and then maybe take a toy or book with them to look at or read while I shop. Then I strategically stop by the free samples when they are wearing thin, and need a distraction. Love reading the other ideas and it will be fun to take on some new ideas. Great idea Colin, thanks.

  15. Money Duck

    Got my 2 year old looking for blinkie machines, tearpads, hang tags and RED clearance tags. He’s been good at finding them. He will push against me and tell me to turn around if I miss one and he catches it. Loves to carry some in his hand, which we are going to get him a velcro wallet to carry his own in. He has cried a few times when he has dropped his coupons.

    Usually only good for about 45 or 60 mins in the store, so I plan out most of what I am buying from the online weekly ad and match my coupons up. Usually put my deals in envelopes, so I can get through there quickly. Binder usually then can stay in the car.

    Walgreens: It’s hard to get him past the candy they lay out. It’s like a landing path from the food section to the register. Shame on them.

  16. chris

    I try to get the kids envolved. Especially if I have an older one with me. I let them go down the isles that I need only one item and that saves me from dragging the rest of the kids down an extra isle. I sometimes ask them to look for the price and while they locate it I have snatched another item from the shelf. Additionally, as some readers have mentioned..get prepared at home! Cuts the trip time in half or more! And reward them! Let them have one or two coupons for the snacks you planned to buy anyway and “Pick” it out! Also Play ABC. Find products that start with the letter a then b then c etc. You may have to go to the vitamin isle before you leave to look at the ZINC>

  17. Jennifer

    My husband does the grocery shopping and always takes one of the kids with him. Yeah!! When I take the kids out, my 10-month-old likes to hold my mini coupon file and chew on it. He is obsessed with my binder and file because he already knows they are important! My 3-y-o knows she needs to behave. I also try to make it fun for her by having her help “pick out” what we get. “We need diapers for your brother… let’s see which ones we should buy”. This helps her feel like she is making choices for the family and helping her brother, whom she adores. We also play “I Spy”, and she is very into letter recognition, so she is always spelling words and asking me what they mean. Basically, I talk to my kids and engage them so they are not bored. They have their days, as all kids do, but by shopping at their best times of day (NOT naptime or lunchtime, for example) and keeping it brief (lists made, coupons in order before leaving the house), I increase my likelihood of success. We primarily shop together at Target, so there is a lot for the kids to look at and since I am VERY familiar with the store, we are in and out pretty quickly.

    • Stephanie Daugherty

      I totally agree with this. I talk and sound like the craziest mom in the world. But I Talk Talk Talk to my 19 month old. Lots of LOOK over there, and OMG what is that kind of stuff. If I take my 11 and 9 year old, they help by going over to the next aisle with my coupon to match it. They are totally into the coupon mindset. They tease me for being so coupony but the know to always ask for a coupon before asking for the item. Target is really quick nowadays. Safeway too! Thanks Collin!!!

  18. Katie

    I always have a snack on hand. Also, my 23 month old loves to “help” by filling a bag up with items. When the bag is full, we empty it into the cart and start all over.

  19. Laura

    I cut the pictures of the items that are on my grocery list out of the sale flier and make a shopping list for my 5-y.o. and 6-y.o. The love finding the items that are on their list, and it is good practice for them to match the picture to the actual product on the shelf.

  20. Chantelle

    My youngest, age 4, accompanies me to the various grocery/pharmacy stores. He likes to ride in the carts that have a driving seat in the very front! Usually we are only picking up less than 20 items at each store, so when possible, we do self checkout. He loves scanning the items all by himself and the coupons too! He knows that if he behaves he gets to be the
    ‘scanner man.’ He loves it!!

  21. Aimee

    I have no choice but to bring my 19 month along for all my marathon 2 1/2 hour grocery shopping trips because my husband is deployed. He is a trooper though! I make sure he has had a nap and I bring his little bookbag full of books and toys. I also bring D ring hooks to hang my purse and his bag on the cart handle. He has one of those soft cart liner things so he is comfy. He helps me pick out some items and likes to hold some of what we pick up (goldfish, cheerios and his gerber puffs!) But when all else fails you can’t beat Sesame Street podcasts on the ipod!!

    • MommySpendsLess

      Do those cart liners provide extra cushion, or are they just a single layer of cloth for germ protection? I’ve thought about getting one for my 7 month old who just started riding in the cart itself but if it’s not more comfy for her then I probably won’t bother since I have enough to keep track of already.

      • Jennifer

        Most of them are pretty cushy. My son sometimes falls asleep, so they give him a touch of comfort — and they have loops for toys, which help. I ended up with 2 kinds and keep them in the back of the van with my reusable grocery bags, so I just grab and go. This is another way to get my daughter involved — have her help me remember the cart cover and bags!!

  22. Melissa

    I have Vcast on my phone too, My 3 year old will sit quietly through a 25 min Mickey Mouse episode! Otherwise we’ll swing by the kids section and pick out several books that he can read while we shop and then put them away when we leave.

  23. Deborah McNelis

    This is such a great post. The work I do is to create greater awareness of children’s brain development.
    This post is so great because it is addressing how to both give the child a fun way to learn and keep the brain from becoming bored. A child’s brain loves to learn when there is something interesting and new to do. Children need time to play and explore on their own, but also very much love learning through interactive activities with their parents.
    Your suggestions for using coupons is great because it focuses the child’s attention. (Did you know the brain can only pay attention to one thing at a time?)
    In the Brain Development Activity Packets I have created, I have activities using coupons like you offered here. The brain loves to have fun… so your suggestion is very valuable!

  24. Anonymous

    we play grater than of less then. my kids think it’s fun. I ask them is this butter grader or less than the store brand? I always buy the less then so then that child gets to put the item in the cart. I also show them the coupon and let them help look for the item. coupons has saved me from some grocery store fights with my kids. before they would ask to get stuff all the time. now I say we only get what we have coupons for. and they know that. now they ask do you have a coupon for anything junky?

  25. Amy

    3 words… Portable DVD Player!!

  26. Christi

    My daughters bring there leapsters with them and also know that if they donot behave we will bypass the free cookie in the bakery:)

  27. Elizabeth

    I pop my 4.5 mo in a body carrier so i can use the front part of the cart for my coupon book, I put my purse underneath it so it doesn’t fall or close shut!…sometimes he falls asleep, but it works all the time!

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