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Going shopping can be an exciting experience for children, and a chance to develop their talking skills by pointing out new and interesting things.

Sometimes young children may get overwhelmed and frustrated, which can be tricky for you.

Here are a few ideas to make shopping more enjoyable.

You can plan ahead by:

  • Trying not to go close to meal or nap times, or when you’re in a hurry.
  • Avoiding shopping at busy times, to avoid waiting in queues.
  • Packing a drink and healthy snack and bring along a small toy or book to interest your child.
  • Trying to involve your child in preparing your shopping list. They might like their own list of things for them to find.
  • Thinking about which shop and which aisles you want to go down, to avoid temptation.

At the shops

  • Point out things you see around the shops – talk about colours, sizes and shapes and what your child is experiencing, for example if they are cold in the freezer aisle.
  • Let  your child hold their shopping list and look for those items.
  • Let your child put things in the trolley, pass them things to put on the counter or in your shopping bag.
  • Play games like ‘I spy’ or sing a song like ‘The wheels on the bus go round and round.’
  • Praise your child for finding things on the shopping list or for being patient while you shop.
  • Try to keep shopping trips short. It is hard for children to be patient for long periods.
  • Give them something to look forward to once the shopping is finished like a trip to the park.

You can respond to tricky behaviours by:

  • Don’t give in to demands for toys and sweets. Be consistent, especially when saying ‘no’. If you say ‘no’ then give in, your child may get the message that pestering and whining can work. Try to distract your child instead.
  • Show a good example by keeping calm when things get stressful. This will encourage your child to do the same.
  • Try to think about what triggered the problem. You might be able to avoid that situation next time.

Don’t worry about what other people think. It can be stressful if your child has a tantrum. Stay calm if there are people watching and remain focused on your child.

Where to get advice and support

Universal parenting support and advice is provided by midwives, health visitors, GPs and your local authority. Early help programmes such as Flying Start (if you live in a Flying Start area) and Families First are also available.

Look after yourself. Meeting up with other parents can be great for your wellbeing. Your local Family Information Service ( will be able to tell you what’s on in your area.