You have all of five things to pick up at the grocery store on the way home from work… but you also have your toddler in tow. While a kid-free shopping trip may take mere minutes, you can’t exactly breeze through the aisles with a cranky kiddo. But that doesn’t mean your would-be successful shopping trip has to turn into some sort of Shakespearean-level tragedy. You’ve got this: And with these simple tips, you can even make the experience easy.

A mother and her toddler shop for groceries together

1. Have them help. Your kiddo doesn’t have to trudge grudgingly behind you through the grocery store, warehouse club, or mall. Instead of making this all about what you’re buying, turn your shopping trip into fab family fun by actively involving your child, letting them help you step-by-step through the whole process.

2. Play a game. Eye Spy, Follow the Leader, and Simon Says are easy children’s games that you can play with your kid anywhere, anytime. Not only will a game make life easier for you, but they’ll enjoy the errand turning into an engaging together-time activity. You can even make your shopping trip an educational event: Pre-K kids who are learning their letters can search the store for their ABCs on signs and packaging.

3. Order ahead of time. Ordering groceries, toiletries, and other immediate necessities online isn’t always practical. But you also don’t necessarily have to physically brave the aisles of your fave store, taking up the precious time you have with your tot. Some retailers (especially larger nationwide chains such as Target) allow you to shop ahead online, drive up to the store, and pick up everything you’ve already paid for — without having to wait for a two-day delivery.

4. Have a conversation. Forget about sneaking in a shopping trip: When you can make it a parent-child adventure, sometimes tricks, ploys, and bribes are totally unnecessary. Turn a 20-minute chore into an opportunity to engage your child in a just-you-two discussion. Talk to your toddler about their favorite character; ask your preschooler what they did in art class today; or let your talkative tot chatter away with their own conversation topic.

A mother holds her child as they look at clothes

5. Invite 20 questions. Turn the time-tested 20 questions game on its side and use it in a completely different way. Your child gets 20 questions (or as few or many as they like) to ask you during the shopping trip. Unlike traditional game play, your kiddo doesn’t have to try to use the questions to guess what you’re thinking about. The questions can focus on anything that they want to know — about you!

6. Create an end-of-shopping plan. We all know that walking through a grocery store isn’t exactly thrilling, especially for a child. Shopping is something you have to do, but your child probably has plenty of things they want to do. Make a deal that after you’re done with your have-to’s, your kiddo gets to pick a want-to (within reason of course). This might mean going to the park, finger painting at home, or stopping at the library to get a bag of new books.

7. Plan ahead of time — well ahead. You know the layout of your favorite Whole Foods, Target, or wherever else you’re shopping, so use the hours spent there to your advantage. Create a mini-map to plot your trip in the most time-efficient way possible. Knowing your route ahead of time can shave minutes or more off an already-rushed errand.

8. Schedule the shop strategically. You might prefer to hit the grocery store mid-morning, but by the end of that trip, your now-cranky toddler would be beyond ready for their lunch. Pick a time that doesn’t overlap with naptime, meals, or snacks. Along with avoiding these times, carefully consider how your child’s daycare, preschool, or other activities impact this errand.

9. Trust your knowledge of your child. Some preschoolers are perfectly perky following a day of learning, wanting nothing more to hang with mom or dad, gladly shopping for as long as it takes (so long as they’re spending time with their parent). But others need a break after a day filled with activity: Children who are overwhelmed by a busy day may need a break for some serious downtime before you bring them shopping with you. When it comes down to it, select a strategy based on your child and their individual needs.

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(Photos via Getty)