By Christina VanGinkel
Shopping with young kids in tow can be difficult at best, even impossible. If you have to shop, (for example if you have an upcoming wedding that you cannot miss) and you absolutely need a new outfit, but a babysitter is just not going to work out, there are ways to shop with kids and still keep your sanity.
For the smallest children, bring along their car seat or similar carrier to keep them contained. Not every store has shopping carts, especially most clothing stores and outlets. Swap your infants toy on the carrier's handle, or add one, so that they have something brand new to keep their attention, at least for a short while. Do not lug along a huge diaper bag either. Transfer your most needed items to a small bag, or use the storage often included on these carriers. Many of them have a small 'glove box' style compartment underneath.
If a stroller is a possibility, bring it along. They work great for both infants and toddlers, and even the slightly older child who hates to ride in a cart may often jump at the chance to go for a ride around the mall in the stroller. My daughter always let my grandson walk, as he hated the cart. When I asked her why she did not try the stroller, she said she just assumed he would balk at that also. She tried it, and he actually loves it. For one, it is more comfortable. If he will always like it or not, who knows for sure, but in the meantime, she can shop hands free, and know that he is buckled in securely.
If you know a youngster that is not quite old enough to baby sit, but would love to earn a few extra dollars, plus the chance to practice babysitting, arrange to bring them along for an extra pair of hands and eyes to help with baby. This will relieve you of having to keep baby occupied one hundred percent of the time, and your young employee will be gaining valuable, supervised practice. The plus side to this is that you may also gain a trusted babysitter a year or so down the road.
Bring along a snack, extra bottles, etc. Something simple like Cheerios, or Fruit Loops, in a small, lidded container, or a zip style baggie, can keep a toddler occupied for a good length of time, especially if this is not something you would normally do. The zip bags that have an actual littler zipper with pull on them work the best. Even the smallest fingers can work them, and the kids spend as much time zipping and unzipping the bags as they do eating the contents.
Not going when either baby or you are tired is also the best scenario. You may be tempted to go when your little one is tired, hoping they will sleep through the excursion, and this may work. If your child is a light sleeper though, this will most likely not work, and you will be shopping with a tired, crabby baby instead of a small sleeping angel.