Shopping with a baby: Tips to make the store easier

Shopping with a baby or toddler can be a challenge, but following these tips can make a shopping trip just another outing instead of an embarrassing situation that you wish you never had attempted. Photo: Amy Jefferies

SILVER SPRING, Md, November 29, 2012 – Shopping with young children can be difficult, especially when you are going to be in and out of multiple stores, or plan to be out for an extended period of time.  If you do not have the luxury of being able to leave your little one with a friend or family, here are some strategies to make your shopping trip successful.

Plan ahead for meals

One of the top reasons babies become cranky and irritable is hunger. Make sure you plan ahead for meals and snacks based on your child’s normal schedule. If you baby takes a bottle every 3 hours, make sure you have enough with you for your shopping trip. If he likes a snack an hour before lunch, have some portable baby munchies with you to tide the little one over.

Try to make sure for any meal other than snacks, you plan to stop at a food court, restaurant, or even a picnic table to give your little one a little break from the hustle and bustle of shopping. Do not try to rush through the meal in an effort to get back to the stores. Hurried meals can lead to under or over eating and digestive problems.

Pack extra diapers

Nothing is worse than having a cranky baby with a messy, stinky diaper and discovering that your diaper bag is lacking that one essential element for which it is named. Before you head out for a long day at the shops, make sure you take inventory of your diaper bag and restock all the essentials. Pack what you think you’ll need for the day plus an extra diaper change, just in case.

Plan a play stop

Think about how much, or how little, you enjoy long car trips. Being strapped into a chair watching the scenery go by with little more than music as a distraction.  Well, for a baby being stuck in a stroller or the seat portion of shopping cart can be much the same.

They are stuck in a seated position, buckled in, and unable to control where they go, what they see, or what they can do. What makes it worse, is that while a 4-hour car ride may be tolerable to you, 4 hours to a baby can seem like an eternity, and they have not yet learned patience.

To avoid a public melt down when baby has decided he has had enough and wants out NOW, schedule a few play stops into your shopping plans. If your child is old enough to enjoy a carousel or train ride at the mall, plan on the diversion if it is available to you.

If he likes to get out and walk rather than ride, use the trip between stores to allow your little one to stretch his legs, putting him back into a cart or stroller when you have reached your next destination and need your hands free.

Talk to your child about your selections

Children throw fits when they get bored. To try to mitigate the tedium of shopping, talk to your little one and include him in your decision making. Tell him where you are going and what you are looking for. When you find something that you are considering more closely, discuss the item with him. Does he think Daddy will like the new golf shirt? Is the color right? Will Aunt Sally like the red or the stainless mixer better.  Does he like the black shoes or the sparkly shoes better?

Let little ones touch things that you are planning to buy so they feel part of the process. Babies love textures, especially things that soft. By letting your baby feel the fuzziness of that sweater you have chosen, or letting him play with the necklace with the shiny beads until you reach the register and are ready to pay for it, you will entertain him, make him feel included, and maybe even give him some new experiences or new vocabulary.


Mall fountains can be a good entertainment for young children. Photo by César RincÃ3n via Flickr. Click to enlarge.

Bring a distraction

For long days at the store, or for a baby who gets bored easily, distractions are key to making it out of the shop without a scene. If your little one has a favorite toy, that can be a good way of keeping him placated. If you are afraid of loosing that precious item, look for straps that can be attached to a stroller or cart handle and wrap around the toy. These inexpensive investments can prevent the accidental loss of a stuffed animal, a teether, or other favorite, thus saving you the misery of an inconsolable baby later.

There are also strap-on toys designed for car seats that can double as shopping distractions. Most of these already come on a strap and are easily transferred from car seat to cart or stroller. They come in a variety of options ranging from mirrors to animal shaped rattles to teethers.

If you forget the toys, look for things along the way that can distract your little one. Dressing room mirrors can be a good distraction. Allow you baby to see himself while you try on clothes, and make faces at him in the mirror.  Watching the wall fall in the fountain in the center of the mall or in front of a shopping center can be mesmerizing for a little one. Elevators can also be of an interest to a child who enjoys watching it go up and down over and over again. Remember, the world is still new and full of wonders to young children. So, something that we may take for granted may be just the thing to provide a distraction to a bored child.

A dressing room mirror can entertain a baby. Photo by Emran Kassim. Click to enlarge.

Cranky versus sleeping babies

You do not want to have a cranky, over-tired baby in a store with you. It is a bad situation waiting to happen. A sleeping baby, on the other hand, is an ideal shopping companion. If your baby predictably falls asleep when you get in the car, you may be able to transfer a sleeping baby to a shopping cart and get your purchases made without as much as a peep from your little one. But we are not always so lucky.

Try to shop when your baby is fresh and pleasant. But if you are going to be out during nap time, try to incorporate the naptime routine and the nap into your shopping. If your little one likes to drink a bottle and then read a book and snuggle up before taking a nap, try going back to your car until he is asleep. Then transfer him to a stroller, and return to your shopping list.

If you are in the middle of a shopping day and you do have a baby who falls asleep in the car, try to time car trips between shopping centers, malls, or stores to correspond with his naptime as close as possible. That way you do not disrupt his schedule too much, and you can take advantage of the lulling motion of the vehicle while you travel from one site to the next.

Ask for assistance

Do not be afraid or embarrassed to ask for assistance. Getting help from a store associate or sales clerk can save you valuable time. If you know the exact item you are looking for, in and out is the best course when shopping with a little one. Ask where to find the product, and if it is not on the shelf, ask if it is in stock and if not how to order it. Do not waste your time wondering aisles aimlessly.  

Shopping with a baby or toddler can be a challenge, but following these tips can make a shopping trip just another outing instead of an embarrassing situation that you wish you never had attempted.


Follow Brighid on Twitter a @BrighidMoret and receive updates when new columns post on Facebook. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times. Check out Brighid’s children’s book reviews at Big Reads For Little Hands.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

More from Parenting The First Time Through
blog comments powered by Disqus
Brighid Moret

Brighid is a freelance writer and first time mother.  She holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.  Find her on Facebook @Brighid Moret


Contact Brighid Moret


Please enable pop-ups to use this feature, don't worry you can always turn them off later.

Question of the Day
Photo Galleries
Popular Threads
Powered by Disqus