Kids’ Grocery Shopping Carts Should Be Banned. I’m Sorry.

updated May 24, 2019
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If I could change one thing about the grocery store experience, I’d eliminate those tiny carts for kids. Not that anyone asked me, but they’re a menace. Much like full-size carts, they block entire aisles, their wheels stick, or they just get too full. These things are frustrating to an adult, so why do we expect children to be calm in the face of such adversity?

Grocery shopping with small children can be tough, but it has to be done. I don’t expect anyone to get a sitter just to pop out to the store, and I’m nothing but thankful that my children are older now and handle themselves in the grocery store like adults. Parents with young kids: My heart goes out to you and I’m on your side, but those little carts cause more problems than they solve.

I like grocery shopping. Checking items off my list is soothing, making a few game-time decisions based on what’s on sale is exciting, and knowing I’ll have a full fridge soon is a darn good feeling. Walking through the store, pushing my cart, I feel serene. Until one of those tiny, annoying carts gets in my way. It’s not always possible to seek out stores who don’t have them (because I love Trader Joe’s, okay?) and they inevitably interrupt my peaceful outing. Those carts are dangerous, pointless, and (did I already mention this?) annoying as heck. I just want to shop in peace, like an adult.

5 Things to Occupy Your Kid at the Grocery Store

1. Have your kids check off items on your grocery list.

Instead of blocking the aisle with a tiny cart, your kid could check off items on your list as you shop! Bonus: It will help them learn to read and plan meals. It’ll help you remember to get everything on your list because kids are sticklers for detail when they have a job to do. And you know what’s really annoying? Getting home and realizing you forgot the one thing you really, really needed.

2. Have your kid read a book or play on an iPad.

Instead of scraping my ankles, leaving me in near-debilitating pain, bring a book or your phone to occupy your kid! I won’t judge you. I promise. But if you let your child destroy my ankles without so much as offering me a bandage or a swipe of antibiotic ointment, I will judge you. I know you have both of those things in your bag, so at least offer.

3. Have your kids put stuff in your cart.

Instead of having a tantrum when you won’t let them put the large, glass bottle of olive oil in the tiny cart, have your kid put stuff in the big cart! If there’s one thing kids hate, it’s being given power then having it taken away. They won’t understand why you won’t let them have the whole cart experience. And they’ll throw a fit when not everything fits, or there’s an item you don’t want them carrying, like beer. I’ll have to listen to the avoidable fit being thrown. Make your outing a team effort. Share one cart.

4. Give your kid a snack to eat to entertain them.

Instead of trying to trip me with a tiny cart that I can’t see, try giving your kid a granola bar to munch on! When my boys were younger, sometimes it was all I could do to make it through a trip to the store — especially when I was doing it all wrong, like when I’d head out with two or three of them at 5:30 p.m. to get the one thing I needed to make dinner. At that point, appetites are made for spoiling. As long as the snack isn’t too messy, let them eat. Pay for it first or save the price tag to pay when you leave, but eating is an activity and it can keep them occupied (and not hungry).

5. Have your kids play “I Spy” or another car game.

Instead of fighting with a sibling over who gets to push the tiny cart, your kids could play a game! Remember when there were no electronics for kids? You and your siblings may have had to share one lone Rubik’s Cube on a five-hour trip, but you survived. Maybe you even laughed a little. Take turns with naming foods that start with each letter of the alphabet, see who can find eight things that start with “B” first (and let them win), or make up another game.

If you have young children and find yourself without childcare when it’s time to go to the store, how do you handle it? Are tiny carts the only way to get through it or do you have some other tricks?