Three Big Ideas For Stress-Free Shopping With Young Children


Stress-Free Shopping

Recently, I was conversing with the mom of a toddler about the stress of shopping with her daughter. Mom emphasized that her energetic and curious toddler refuses to ride in a cart and “needs” to touch everything while walking through a store. Sounds like typical toddler “issues” we’ve all encountered, and that it was far from stress-free shopping. With holiday buying season in full swing, chances are you’ll be having a similar experience with your child at least once over the next few weeks. 

However…These otherwise stressful shopping outings are actually a perfect LEARNING opportunity! (Read: diversion.)

Ok, I know you may be scratching your head wondering what in the world I’m talking about.

When my son was young, I aimed to make ordinary, life circumstances educationally fun. Why? We are our child’s first teacher! Sure, we make (or purchase) flashcards, follow the rainbow-colored path to a candy castle, slide our way around counting, and try to remember where we saw that darn match in the sea of overturned cards. But, what about looking for colors, numbers, and matches when you’re out and about in the real world? In doing this, your child will be learning practical concept application while, hopefully, being entertained.

Back to toddler mom, I suggested she create a seek-and-find color touching game for her daughter focusing on colors. Beginning with red, her daughter would have to locate a red object in the store before she could touch anything. The “game” would continue through all primary color identification and re-start as needed. I also suggested they add a memory portion to this exercise and see if all found objects could be recited.

Listed below are a few ideas for you to try when a public melt-down is occurring, or you just want to mix some educational fun into your next adventure away from the house:


  • As you tackle your grocery list at the store, sort the items in your cart by color.
  • Seek-and-find color touching game described above.
  • Try to eat a rainbow! Pick 1 or 2 meals each week where you eat a rainbow of colorful foods. Have your child select 1 color and find foods or snacks that match the selected color in the store and at home.


  • When walking through a parking lot, have your child count cars out loud. He can also count by color and alternate counting with you saying the even numbers and your child naming the odd numbers.
  • If stopped at a red traffic light, count out loud how many seconds the light is red before it turns green. (This is also a good opportunity to teach the concepts of red means STOP and green means GO on a traffic light.)
  • Count the number of houses on your street or the number of businesses in a shopping area.
  • Look for specific numbers on the shelf price markers. (“Can you find a number 3?”)


  • Have your child name letters on signs.
  • Pick a different letter each day and see how many times your child can find that letter. You can further this activity by asking him to name “other things” that begin with that letter. (You may want to begin with the first letter of his name.)
  • Play “I spy” with letters while you are walking through a store.
  • Have your child pick a letter of the week and incorporate food items using that letter into meals. (Have your child assist you with selections at the grocery store.)  

Outings with children don’t have to be shopping disasters. Turn your next outing into a stress-free shopping trip with educational playtime!