Sunday, June 14, 2015

Tips for getting toddlers to cooperate while shopping

A mom on another forum asked for ideas of how to handle her toddler who was taking things off the shelves in the store and not wanting to put them back when asked repeatedly. I typed up a reply and then thought maybe I would post it here also, in case it could be helpful to others.

  • It's very helpful if you can tell kids what you DO want them to do rather than what you don't want them to do.

    For putting things back on the shelf, first try not to turn it into a battle if possible. Acknowledge her interest and feelings about the o
    bject, and make an observation about its special qualities. "Oh, you like that ball? It's really neat, isn't it? So bright and playful with the yellow polka-dots on the red ball." Or, "That's a box of muffin mix. It looks yummy, doesn't it? You like the blue box?"

    Then in a light, cooperative tone ask her to put it back and show her where it goes. You may need to physically pick her up and show her where to put it, but it's ideal if you can have her put it down without forcefully prying it out of her hand (both to avoid the battle and also just to treat her with respect).

    Sometimes a brief explanation is in order: "I know you really like that toy and want to keep it, but it's not our toy. It has to stay here at the store. Can you put it back on the shelf and say bye-bye to it? Bye bye, ball." Saying goodbye to things helps a ton for my 18-month-old.

    If she is hesitant, try to offer choices. "Do you want to put the ball on this shelf or leave it over here?"

    You can offer something else for her to carry or do to distract or interest her. My toddler loves to carry my purse or wear my watch or sunglasses. Or you can ask her to help get things off the shelf that you need to buy and carry them or put them in the cart.

    If all else fails, you may need to physically help her put it back, but sometimes you can save the day by giving her a choice: "Can you put the muffin mix back by yourself or do you need Mommy to help you?"

    Even if you end up having to wrestle it away from her to put it back, use it as an opportunity to help her identify and verbalize her emotions: "You feel sad and disappointed that you couldn't keep the ball. You really liked that ball and wanted to keep it, but it has to stay here." Then redirect her to doing something else like helping push the cart or get groceries.

    Also, with toddlers through grade schoolers while shopping, it really helps to plan ahead and make sure you are giving them things to keep them engaged, whether that be having them help shop or bringing toys along for them. Try not to shop when they are hungry or tired if possible, and bring snacks along or buy them a snack if needed. Be sensitive to keeping shopping trips as short as possible with little ones who tire quickly and have short attention spans.

    If my toddler is being too difficult to contain or keep up with in the store, I wrap her on my back and carry her that way. ;) The cart can also be used as a way to contain them and let them take a break if needed. In some situations, especially if the child is overstimulated or overtired and cannot be calmed or redirected, going to the car to let them have a few minutes of quiet to rest for a few minutes or just cutting the shopping trip short and going home may be necessary.

    Try to avoid telling a child repeatedly to do things. Ask once, calmly; show how to do it and offer choices, wait and give her time to do it, and then help her do it if needed. If you just keep saying the same thing over and over she will learn not to

    When you ask/tell her to do something, be prepared to follow through and physically help her do it if she needs help--not in an angry or punishing way, but just matter-of-factly helping her. She's still learning, and will need lots of help and repetition. :)

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