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Surviving the Grocery Store Checkout Line with a Toddler in the Basket

Updated on September 4, 2012

The Dreaded Grocery Checkout Line

Surviving Grocery Store Checkout with a Toddler in the Basket!

Going to the grocery store with a toddler can be difficult to say the least. Any number of things can occur to cause you difficulty – hunger pains, wet/dirty diapers, boredom, etc. But, even if you make it through the whole store and your little one is still in a good mood and willing to stay in the basket seat, all of that good mood can end at the dreaded store checkout area. And bad things occur here for three reasons:

1. You have to usually stay still here for a period of time while you wait your turn.

2. You, as the wise consumer, need to concentrate for a few minutes on getting your purchases onto the counter, getting out your coupons, watching what the checker and bagger are doing and paying for your purchase.

3. THE GROCERY STORE HAS PUT VERY TEMPTING ITEMS WITHIN EYESIGHT AND GRABBING RANGE OF YOUR CHILD!

Now, the easy advice from others is, “Don’t take your child with you to the grocery store.” But that may not be a workable solution for you. So, another alternative is to plan ahead. Be prepared for this time at the end of your trip with these following options. Know that some of these things may work one time and not another. Know that you may have to use more than one of these strategies during one trip.

1. Stop, prior to getting to the checkout line, and organize yourself. Get your coupons out and ready. Get you money/credit card accessible (not in the bottom of your purse).

2. Have one or two small things ready to hand to your child to distract him in hopes that this will occupy him sufficiently. Depending on the age of your child, these things will differ. Items I have seen parents utilize are:

a. A large key ring

b. A small favorite book kept hidden in your purse/diaper bag until now.

c. A small tablet and pen/pencil kept hidden until now.

d. A small picture album with family pictures in it.

e. Your phone with a video, pictures or a game.

3. For the older toddler, you may be able to have a short conversation about the checkout line prior to entering it. Giving the child a “job” to do while in the line and during checkout might be a possibility. “I need you to count how many things we are buying.” Or you might ask him to “Watch for the red things or the blue things that we bought.” The older toddler might be able to categorize the items as you put them on the counter by the room in the house they are for or the person/animal who will use them.

4. Distract your child with a constant conversation about something interesting – where you are going next, what you are eating for supper, what happened at school, what Grandma said on the phone, ANYTHING INTERESTING THAT WILL HOLD HIS ATTENTION FOR A FEW MINUTES.

5. Having a reward for good behavior in the line is a good thing as long as it isn’t a “threat” might be a possibility. And the expected behavior should be easily defined for the child. “Being good” is too general. If touching things or grabbing items is the behavior you fear, then state that as your goal.
“I need you to help me get through the line real fast today by keeping your hands in the basket (or in your pockets or holding my keys for me).” If you can do that for me, then when we get to the car, I will …… (let you call Daddy on the phone, have a snack, etc).

6. If you know this is going to be a difficult time and you have been able to make it all the way through the grocery store without a snack or drink, NOW is the time perhaps to break out the healthy snack or YOUR choice. Have the drink cup and the snack cup in your bag and ready to hand to your kiddo as you get into the line. If her hands and mouth are full, you might get enough time to get through without an issue.

7. If you have been using the basket seat belt on a regular basis during shopping trips, keep it up. That can buy you perhaps at least a few seconds before your older toddler might decide to try to abandon the basket. If, things are going very badly and your older toddler is truly becoming hysterical and your basket is not packed full, setting your child in the back of the basket and letting him hand you things to put on the counter, might be worth a try. The sacker can get a second basket to put your groceries in. Of course, this strategy comes with inherent problems. You need to keep your toddler sitting down during this process and you will need to transfer him back to the seat area in the second basket in order to exit the store. (Or you wheel one basket out of the store with your child in it and you ask the sacker to bring out your groceries in the other basket.)


This can indeed be a stressful time for parent and child. Plan ahead. Keep your cool when things go wrong (and they will sometimes). Think about it from your child’s point of view. She can feel your stress, she is tempted by colorful items in the checkout lane and she is probably tired of being in the basket. Don’t be embarrassed if your child acts out. EVERY PARENT HAS BEEN IN EXACTLY THIS SITUATION AND HAS SYMPATHY FOR YOU!

And FINALLY, when you get in the car and things have gone well, give your toddler a compliment for being such a good helper to you when checking out. Praise goes a long way!


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    • jenbeach21 profile image

      jenbeach21 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Great tips!