Monday, November 5, 2012

Super Target: a successful shopping trip with a toddler

I make a right into the Target parking lot and Toddler Bear lets out a wail, or rather a screeching objection.  She then proceeds to whip out her new, signature "fake cry".  Her "wah han han han wah".

It was not going to be easy, but I was desperate.  I was armed with her toy shopping cart, the stuffed puppy, a picture of an apple, and a double chocolate Quizno's cookie.

I was starting: Operation Get Ellie To Tolerate Shopping at Target.

Or maybe I should re-title it as: Operation Let's Get In and Out of Target without an Epic Meltdown and Ear-Drum-Shattering Screaming

A few posts ago, I hypothesized that Ellie loathed Target because she is offended by red shirts or the pesky buzzing of their fluorescent lights.  Now, after a careful comparison between HEB (which she somewhat tolerates) vs. Target, I believe it is expectations.  At HEB, we walk in on one side, start at the produce section and then end at the dairy section.  We then check out.  At Target, we sometimes purchase groceries, or clothing, or pet food, or greeting cards, or even toys.  There is no routine.  She doesn't know when the trip will end.  It is not predictable.  Now, I cannot prove this, but just a thought.

This Mama Bear counted this exercise as her cardiac workout.

At the fabulous and priceless advice of Miss L, Ellie's ABA therapist, I strove to create the settings for a successful shopping trip.  A brief, short trip with a reward at the end.  The hope is that the next time we go to Target, she will not perceive it as an abhorrent activity.

Sequence 1: showing Ellie what we are buying.
We shop for 1 item and 1 item only.

Sequence 2: retrieving the actual food item

Sequence 3: Go immediately to check out.
We want a quick, SUCCESSFUL trip to the store

Was it a success?  Yes. . . er. . . mostly yes.  She was a rock star for the most part.  She required frequent redirecting because she wanted to run up and down the aisles of the store rather than select the actual apple.  Then she wanted ALL of the apples which she was trying to take huge bites out of. After convincing her to select one apple and to place it into the car, the Spider Monkey decided to go down an empty, unmanned check-out line and head towards the door.  That's right, we almost stole an apple.  With more redirection, she propelled her little cart to an operating line and gleefully used the Amex to purchase the apple (that's correct, I only had $0.40 in cash and our beautiful, red, crunchy apple cost $1.15).  For some reason, The Bear was a pro at the whole swiping the credit card.  Should I be worried?

Sequence 4: Reward.

She tried to put her cart "away" in the return cart holder and then things went south.  Way south.  She did not want to hold my hand in the parking lot.  She pulled the boneless toddler where she lets her body go entirely slack so that she is laying on the asphalt screaming.  Turning red and purple.  I scoop her up and the shopping cart.  I am being pinched and slapped so I turn her sideways so that she being carried to the car like a loaf of bread.  Stares.  Oh yes, stares.  BUT this time it was in the parking lot and not in the Target store.

Sequence 5: Going to the car.
Things started to go awry at this point.

What is the next step?  Not sure.  Let me consult with Miss L!

*Miss L could explain this in greater depth and with much more accuracy, but I compiled these photos in an ABA activity sequence format.  Each photograph captures a specific step of the shopping trip (except the whole using the credit card part).  I can later show Ellie these photos so that she knows "what to expect".  These sequences demonstrate to the child how to perform an activities step-by-step such as with hand washing: i.e. turn on water, push soap dispenser, rub hands together, rinse hands, turn off faucet, grab paper towel, dry hands with paper towel, place paper towel in trash.  We have discovered that Ellie learns best by seeing videos or herself or pictures and I imagine many other children learn similarly too!

**I am not a ABA therapist or child behavior therapist.  I am just a mother who wants to show off the awesomeness of my daughter and I must say I am pretty proud of our recent Target shopping trip.


  1. What a great idea. Hopefully you can get some shopping done without the Toddler Bear though, or it could take weeks to get all your food. Glad there was some progress. The stress that this must cause you is huge!

  2. I'm impressed. One that it worked so well after the stories you have told us about shopping at Target and that you went to Target just for apples!

  3. I read this the first time and thought, "How great that you had a good shopping trip."

    After thinking about it, I'm thinking it's a really good thing for my girls as an activity in independence, too. I'm going to make little lists for my girls. One with pictures and the words with a few items for each girl to pick up and maybe amounts after the first time. This is a great idea!

  4. Heck, for a double fudge cookie even *I* will go shopping & I enjoy it about as much as Miss Ellie does.

    [Seriously though - This is awesome! Are you putting the pix into a story board? Ingenious]

  5. OK totally impressed that you went to Target (of all places) and only walked out with one thing...that place is horrible for me!!! just plain ole check book hates Target!!!!!! Sooo way to go!!! ;)


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