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We’ve all been there, when our wee one decides to have a tantrum when we’re in the middle of shopping. It‘s stressful for you and makes going to the supermarket such hard work.

You’ve probably tried a lot of things already, but our list of tried and tested tips from other parents will hopefully give you plenty of good ideas for dealing with tantrums.

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Top tips for taking your toddler to the shops

Tip #1: Start with a list

Get your wee one involved right from the start by making a shopping list together. You could talk to them about the different things you’re shopping for – is it an ‘everyday’ shop or is there a special day coming up, like Pancake Day or a someone’s birthday? Maybe you’re planning on baking a cake together?

When you’re in the store, your wee one can help you find the things on the list and even tick them off.

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Tip #2: Walking around

Photo of toddler shopping

Children can get bored sitting in a trolley. Especially once they’ve started walking. So if you’ve got a bit of time, and its not too busy, why not let them walk about so they feel like they have a bit more freedom?

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Tip #3: Fun shopping

Cut out some pictures of everyday food from a magazine and then ask your wee one to help you find them while you go round the shop.

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Tip #4: Point things out

Pointing things out together down the aisle or by the checkout can lead to fewer tantrums.

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Tip #5: Fun with fruit and veg

Toddler choosing fruit and veg in the supermarket with dad

The fruit and veg section of the supermarket is a great place for your toddler to help out (and it’s less likely your trolley will end up full of chocolate here). Picking out what you need, choosing between different colours and shapes, weighing and sticking on price stickers can all keep little ones busy. And the more involved they are with choosing the fruit and veg, the more likely they are to eat them when they turn up on the table later on!

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Tip #6: Don't worry

“If your child is screaming, other parents stare at you and it can be very stressful and really embarrassing. But when I know my child’s not coming to any harm, I think, ‘Who cares? Your child went through it too."

Suzanne, mum to Callum, 9, Kieran, 5, and Rachael, 2.

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Tip #7: Ask for their help

Photo of toddler shopping with dad

Toddlers are more likely to have tantrums when they’re bored. To stop this happening, you can try asking your child for their help picking out a few things you need around the shops. Something as simple as asking them to choose between two cereals can help them to feel more involved.

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Tip #8: Rewards

Create a star chart at home for good behaviour. Tell your child that if they are good when you are out shopping, they will get a star!

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Tip #9: Be positive

Photo of toddler and father having fun

When you’re out and about, don’t forget to give your toddler a smile, or some words of encouragement when they’re behaving well. This can help to make them feel happy and hold off those tantrum feelings.

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Tip #10: Silly Sausages

Playing daft games is a great way to keep your child entertained when out at the supermarket. Playing games like "silly sausage" where you ask lots of questions and they answer each one with "silly sausage" could keep your child busy and help avoid tantrums.

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Tip #11: Super scanners

If your supermarket has a ‘self-scan’ system, you could try putting your wee one in charge. Or they could help you scan items at the self-checkout.

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What the professionals say

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“Shopping with your child can sometimes be difficult. Your toddler throws a tantrum in the supermarket and you don’t know what to do. No-one knows your child better than you, so you’re in the best position to be able to spot what leads to a tantrum and either stop it from happening or deal with it effectively. But don’t worry when they do happen. Tantrums are just your toddler’s frustrations bubbling over. They can be difficult for them to deal with on their own and hugely frustrating for mums and dads too. Look out for and try to avoid common triggers like your toddler being tired, hungry, or too hot or cold.”

More information

The ‘terrible twos’ can be tough. Think about what support might help you at this time. Some parents feel that talking to other parents with children of a similar age can be reassuring. While they might not have any answers, just talking things through can be really helpful. A parent and toddler group can be a great place to meet other parents to chat with.

Remember you can also talk to your health visitor or family nurse about your child’s behaviour and how you can deal with it. You could also phone or chat online to Parentline Scotland for advice and support.

We know you’ve probably got a lot on your plate at the moment, but you might be interested in looking at these free online parenting courses for parents and carers. The Solihull Approach Online courses cover a range of topics and ages from pregnancy to 19+ years. These courses are for everyone, for everyday parenting. They don’t tell you how to parent, that’s up to you. Instead they offer a way to understand what might be going on and space to think about how you want to respond. 

You can find out more on the Solihull website and access the courses for free using the code TARTAN.

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