How to Survive a Shopping Trip with Kids Under 5

Mum Life
shopping with kids

Don’t do it!!!!

Ha ha ha. Just kidding (but seriously).

Shopping with kids is fraught with danger.

First you have to get them out of the car and through the car park, if you have more than two kids you don’t have enough hands to hold on to all of them, so you’ll have to pick your favorite/s (lol). As you soon find out a pram won’t cut it – the baskets underneath are rarely big enough for shopping and most double prams are just not great in shopping centers. A trolley is an option to contain the kids but again, the dilemma – where do you put your groceries?

You decide to just let them roam free.

You make it through the car park unscathed. Give yourself a mental high five. But now you are inside the real fun starts. No longer constrained by fears of cars, the kids know they can push the boundaries. You stop at every single one of the coin operated cars/vans/rocketships/etc. on the way through the shops. Plus you have the baby in the baby carrier and they know you can’t run fast, or at all.

Luckily you allocated 5 hours to this trip and packed accordingly.

Phew! You made it to the grocery store.

But now the real challenge begins. On the way coin operated cars, unattended muffins at cafes (trust me it’s happened – half eaten ones no less) and test-your-skills machines were your biggest worries, now there are shelves at child height packed full of bright and colorful objects that they just want to touch and consequently break.

You hustle them in, best get this done quickly, you give them the talk accompanied by the bribe, which pre-parent you swore you would never do, might I add. You dangle that bribe out there like a carrot on a stick and constantly remind them of the rewards of good behavior. The kids nod solemnly – of course they want the bribe – but do they want it enough?

Five minutes is all it takes for you to lose sight of one and hear the first crash. Crap. You are still in the fruit and veg section – surely nothing could crash in here? Ahh it seems they have found the gourmet food fridge – with jars of posh looking chutney, jam and coulis sitting invitingly at the bottom. Its fine, it didn’t break, you quickly put it back. One kid into the trolley.

Now you only have space for a few things – not everything. Time to prioritize.

You enforce a strict hold onto the side of the trolley rule for the other kid. Every time she steps away from the trolley she is promptly dobbed on by the contained child. Loudly. Sibling solidarity at its finest. Kid roaming free responds in kind – I am sure the rest of the shoppers here on a Wednesday morning were really hoping to hear two preschoolers fight it out at the top of their lungs.

By this stage, you are muttering FML to yourself under your breath repeatedly.

You finish the shopping with one kid in the trolley (but trying to climb out), one in the baby carrier but starting to fuss, one drifting free and dangerously close to the confectionary isle. You think it’s over once you reach the checkout, but no, everything before this was just a warm up to the main event.


Its bright, its shiny, its sparkly, it’s branded, it’s impossible for kids to resist.

Some sociopath in head office realized years ago, that parents have reached THE END by the checkout, and they obviously want to torture us, or make us spend more money, ingenious bastards.

And here I was thinking that shops were meant to like their customers.

You literally throw your stuff onto the checkout conveyer, while your helpful 4 year old drops the bananas and the avocadoes and the bread trying to get it out of the trolley. Toddler has launched into loud ‘warning wails’, baby is rooting around for a feed.

Thank goodness for Tap and Go payments. Out and done. Nerves are just intact, should be enough to get to the car without losing it completely.

Look, shopping with kids is tough, everyone knows that. For one thing, it’s really pretty boring for them. For another, they have poor impulse control, so in a lot of ways it’s really not their fault. But if you are looking to brave the shops with children, here are my top tips.


Practical tips for taking more than one child shopping


  • Never ever let them use the kids trolleys available at some stores. If you are there with only one child, maybe its ok, but more than one? It won’t be worth the continual crashes and ankle collisions with your fellow shoppers.


  • Always use a staffed checkout if possible, that way, you won’t have to be watching them and scanning items at the same time.


  • Get them involved in the shopping, have them help choose the fruit, vegetables etc.


  • Let them help push the trolley and make it their responsibility


  • Make a shopping game up to engage them e.g. Can you find something purple on this shelf?, how many different types of pasta can you name?


  • Pack healthy snacks and let them eat them in the trolley as you do the shopping


  • Have a list and a plan and stick to it!


  • If all else fails, let them watch ABC kids on your phone, some battles just aren’t worth fighting.


  • Don’t do it – get your shopping delivered instead.



Katie -


Katie is the Managing Director and Editor of Mums of Brisbane. Most days will find her drinking copious amounts of coffee, cuddling her kids and trying not to step barefoot on lego. Katie lives in Beautiful Brisbane with her husband and four gorgeous children.

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