Your life changes once you have a child. Yes, it changes for the better in so many ways, but that doesn’t mean we don’t miss a few things we could do before having children. You know, the simple pleasures of running errands without lugging around a stroller and fighting with your toddler over the fact she needs to wear her shoes and coat because it’s 40 degrees outside while your baby spits up all over himself?
Going to stores is no longer a spontaneous, short trip. It’s a sweaty marathon that takes planning, patience, and bribing. There are some kid-friendly stores that make it easier for you to shop with children, though. But then there are other stores you should never bring your children with you to.
Most neighborhood grocery stores usually have a small stand or basket with free healthy snacks, like fruit, for kids. Many neighborhood and chain grocery stores have mini shopping carts for kids, while others offer single or double-seater car carts that let kids sit and pretend they’re driving the cart around the store while mom pushes.
At the checkout stand, you can almost guarantee an employee will ask your child if they want a sticker, and if they don’t, they may offer a balloon or coloring page for the drive home. Take for instance Trader Joe’s. This nationwide grocery store chain has a sample station—sometimes an employee will offer your kid a cookie if he doesn’t like a sample food—as well as little fresh fruit stands for kids and stickers at checkout. An employee even hides a toy somewhere in the store every day for kids to find, and if they do, they get a little prize when you check out (most but not all Trader Joe’s do this).
Another perk of grocery stores is your shopping cart car seat holder should fit on their shopping carts since most are the standard size. Grocery stores are also the perfect place to teach kids different things, like numbers, letters, colors, and shapes for little ones and then social, meal planning, and budgeting skills for older kids.
Shopping at this membership-based warehouse store is never really quick or easy, especially when you bring children along. But it’s actually one of the best stores to take your children shopping. The first two obvious reasons revolve around food: free food samples and a food court with cheap, kid-friendly foods and treats.
Next on our list is the wide aisles. Your children can help you find and put things in the cart and they shouldn’t get in the way of other shoppers.
Costco is also a great place to help kids expand their math skills. It showcases item prices in bigger, easy-to-read numbers and often lists the unit price and item cost next to each other. Ask your child what the individual price of an apple is if the 12-pack costs X or have them help you find the best deals.
One downer is putting a baby car seat in a shopping cart. If your neighborhood Costco uses the large, deep carts, our shopping cart hammocks fit perfectly. However, if their carts are the extra wide and shallow type our hammocks unfortunately do not fit. This means you’d have to put the infant car seat down in the cart, and then you may not have enough room for all the good, bulk buys you find.
IKEA offers families with kids a lot to be happy about: family parking spots, shopping strollers, baby care area, and perhaps every mom’s favorite, a children’s play area. You can drop your children off for supervised play for up to an hour—for free! The only requirements? Your children must be potty trained and at least 37 inches tall. Drop them off, go browse child-free, and relax in a living room that’s newer, nicer, and cleaner than yours currently is. Who says you even need to buy anything? But if you want to, there’s also the IKEA Restaurant that sells adult and kid-friendly foods.
Ever heard the expression “like a bull in a china shop”? That’s young children in an antique shop. Everything is old and breakable. You must be extra careful and gentle when at antique shops, and kids, well they just don’t understand that. Even the most well-behaved toddler will be tempted to touch things or accidentally bump into something. So unless you want to spend $200 on a pink set of 1930s Depression glass, we recommended leaving the kids at home with dad.
Hairspray, perfumes, eye shadow, foundation, mascara, lipstick—there are just way too many things within a kids’ reach in beauty stores. We know a mom who once (she’s never taken them again) took her two toddlers to a beauty store because it was next to a fast-food restaurant they’d gone to and she was out of lip gloss. While her 3-year-old was angrily throwing lipsticks across the store because mom wouldn’t let him try any on, her 1-year-old, who was in a stroller, was grabbing all the sample lip liners and throwing them on the floor—and this all happened within 3 minutes. We’ve heard similar horror stories. Makeup and kids don’t mix.
Imagine someone took you to a fancy jewelry shop or your favorite boutique, and you don’t quite yet have a grasp on patience, giving, or money. And guess what? That person who brought you takes you around the whole store, buys something for SOMEONE ELSE, and then makes you leave without anything.
If your toddler or early elementary-aged kid gets invited to a birthday party, ask them what they want to get their friend and then grab it when you’re going to run errands before picking your kid up from school. Better yet, save yourself all the hassle and buy it online.
Circling the parking lot looking for a space big enough for your large SUV. Kids pulling clothes off racks. Toddlers having meltdowns because you won’t let them go to the LEGO store. Baby having a blowout and you’re a good 5-minute walk from a family restroom. A food court with long lines at every restaurant your hangry kids want to eat at. Going to the mall just isn’t as carefree as it was when you were a teenager, huh?
Shopping with children isn’t always easy. Make it easier on yourself by bringing your shopping buddies along to stores that provide free entertainment and learning opportunities.