How to avoid kids' supermarket meltdowns

Kinderling News & Features

It’s a scene we know all too well. You’re in the supermarket with a full trolley when your little one throws a big tantrum on the aisle floor. They're howling, you’re horrified and everyone is looking at you.

Besides pretending they’re not yours (which can be tricky), it’s hard to know what to do when your kid’s about to go nuclear. Here’s some survival tips from our Helpline expert Chris Minogue for pulling bub back from the brink and avoiding it altogether.

1. Choose your time carefully

Gone are the days of just going shopping when you need to. Chris says it’s important to be mindful of your child’s limitations and choose a time that suits their schedule and energy levels.

If possible, avoid shopping just before nap time or late in the day when they’re tired and witching hour is approaching. Also, don’t expect the child to sit in a trolley peacefully for too long – they’re just not built that way.

“You have to take in the needs of getting the shopping done but it has to be reasonable to the age group of the child,” says Chris.

“Generally, [tantrums] only happen in the wrong timeframe for the child. So if it’s 4:30pm in the afternoon, and you’ve just picked them up from daycare, thinking ‘I’m just going to whip into Coles to pick up six things’, it could be the longest ten minutes of your life.”

2. Pack some food

Stop them getting distracted by food on the shelves by bringing your own. Chris recommends packing a quick sandwich or taking advantage of some supermarkets’ free fruit to keep little hands full of food, rather than reaching for something else and getting upset when you say no.

Chris shares great advice with parents on Helpline every week:

3. Distract them with fun and games

Going down the chocolate aisle with a small child can feel like running the gauntlet, with tears all round. Yes, you could just skip it and give up chocolate but that’s just silly talk, right?! Instead, when rolling down one of these risky aisles, Chris suggests playing a game, like Peek-A-Boo or Eye-Spy to keep their eyes off the prize, so to speak.

4. If in trouble, ask for help

If it’s all going to hell in a shopping basket, Chris suggests taking a deep breath and getting assistance. Ask a fellow shopper to watch your trolley while you console your child, or if the situation is unsalvageable, consider getting your groceries home-delivered instead to reduce your time out. 

Check out Chris' book Bringing Baby Home on the Pan McMillan website

Have a question of your own? Get in touch with Chris and the Helpline, and tune in Fridays at 11.30am.