8 things that make shopping with toddlers easier (for them)

It's unavoidable: at some time during the week you have to run errands with a child (or two or three) in tow. It can be a total nightmare of temper tantrums, meltdowns, and games of hide and seek so complex that the store is forced to enact Code Adam.

We've all seen - or been - the frustrated mother dragging her tantruming child out of the store without completing her shopping. It sucks, but we have to get stuff done, right?

Back in the day (the 1970s), my mother shopped at the forerunner to the Gordman's stores. They had a play area there that consisted of five large, plastic animals that kids could crawl in, climb on, slide down, and hang out in. She would leave us there while she shopped.

Today, sadly, we moms would get arrested for that. However, there are some stores that understand the "mama-with-toddler-in-tow" plight and offer solutions to (albeit, temporarily) fix the issue of cranky miniature shoppers. However well-meaning these fixes are, they actually create even more problems for us mamas.

Solution 1: Free cookies.  Everyone loves cookies, right? Wrong. There are some moms who don't want their child to have cookies. I've heard that if you don't get the cookie from the beginning, it's easier because your child doesn't ask. Whoops - I messed that one up. For those of us who do succumb to the "I want a cooooookie!," it's really a sugar-filled crap shoot. My kid may get the cookie and be perfectly satisfied for five or ten minutes.

It's hard work eating a cookie and pushing
a cart at the same time.

Or it could be the wrong kind/break apart/fall on the floor and a new tantrum begins. Not to mention the mini-sugar rush happening in 3, 2, 1 . . .

Solution 2: Televisions. There are a few children's clothing stores I shop at that have a little television viewing area with a movie running constantly. Again, it's fine for people like me who don't care if their child has a little screen time; especially if the store is small and you can see your child from every angle.

However, when your shopping takes you a little farther away from the television or it is time to leave, all hell can break loose BECAUSE THE SHOW IS NOT OOOOVER, MOMMY!!

Solution 3: Train/Lego Tables. Ahh, even better than the television is the activity table - that is if you can stomach the petri dish that lies within it. All you have to do is come over and check on your little darling two or ten times to make sure she's not putting all of the pieces in her mouth.

Unless, that is, all the trains are missing or some other little kid is taking all of the pieces right out of your kid's hands.

Solution 4: Car carts. Everyone loves a car cart, right? And most stores are proactively placing sanitizing wipes right next to them so you can wipe all the drool/boogers/feces/influenza off the steering wheel. It's a win!

You can actually see the dirt on this car cart. Eww.

Until your child decides he no longer wants to ride in it, wiggles out of the "safety harness," and leans so precariously over the side that you have to take him out; leaving you to push a 30-pound car cart with no one inside to help you steer.

Solution 5: The mini-cart. What child doesn't love a chance to play grown-up with her very own cart? Give her some responsibility, let her help pick the family's food - it's a fun learning activity.

And he's off in a blur!

Or a recipe for broken ankles and all the marshmallows and sugared cereal you can eat. Now you know why all the crap food is on the low shelves. Oh, and beware the little old lady shoppers berating you for not watching your mini shopper more closely. Sorry, Granny, send me the bill!

Solution 6: 25-cent trinket machines. Kind of brilliant, right? The store makes even more money selling your kid more junk he doesn't need for you to puncture your foot with and have to take an afternoon to purge.

That is, if it makes it home. One chain store sells huge bouncy balls for a quarter . . . that my boys loose under the racks before we even get out of the store. And then cry for another one.

Solution 7: Mall play areas. Genius. You shop, shop, shop; then break it up with time for Little Junior to blow off steam and get some activity.

Until another kid pushes him off the slide. Or it's time to move on, and he throws a tantrum so epic that you have to leave the mall anyway.

Solution 8: Balloons. Oh, look at the pretty balloon! And see how the worker has expertly tied the ribbon in a slipknot around my child's wrist so that it doesn't fly away?

Until you get home and realize you already have 43 balloons without strings stuck to your ceiling.

Seriously stores, thank you for trying. We, the harried mothers of the world, thank you; but honestly, if you could offer babysitting services (and a coupon for them, of course) it would make our lives so much easier.

Or we could just shop during nap time.

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