Plastic bag “balloons” keep kids distracted while grocery shopping

I love it when I “spy” parent hacks in public places. From Sara:

I was at the grocery store the other day, and saw a kid in the checkout line playing with a “balloon” made of a plastic produce bag blown up and tied off. I’m sure there are some safety issues (balloons and plastic bags in the same sentence!) if the kid’s unattended, but it seemed like a fast way to distract your kids during a grocery store trip.

Reminds me of the old “blow up a surgical glove” trick in the doctor’s waiting room!


  1. says

    Supervised, I think an inflated grocery bag is a fine impromptu distraction. (The rule of thumb I’ve picked up from balloon entertainers is not to give balloons to children under 3 because of the choking hazard.)

    My favorite minimal-space distraction is keeping a fabric finger puppet or two tucked away in my bag. They only came out when we were waiting to keep the novelty from wearing off and they still come in handy today when we encounter other kids waiting in lines or in casual restaurant settings. For inexpensive finger puppets, US Toy ( sells themed barnyard or zoo animals in a bag of 1 dozen for around $5. (Caveat: they are not designed for very small children as the eyes are sewn-on beads.)

  2. says

    A comment on oddharmonic’s mention above of balloon’s for kids under three. While the choking hazard is a valid concern there is an additional concern with balloons proper that isn’t there with the impromptu veggie bag balloon.

    If a very young child chews on the knot of a latex balloon, enough to puncture it, the force of the air rushing out of the balloon and into the child’s lungs can be enough to cause serious damage (including rupture) to the child’s lungs.

  3. Aaron says

    When we go to the doctors office, I take 1 rubber glove and blow it up and tie it. Makes for a great distraction in the exam room. Plus they have something to take home and play with.

  4. says

    We’ve also taken the shopping bags, tied a piece of string to the two handles and poked two finger sized holes in the bottom corners. In a decent wind you can get them to fly like mini kites.

  5. says

    Perhaps I am anal, but this totally gives me the willies. Mostly because while it might be fine on the spot, supervised and all, it promotes the idea that plastic bags are fun toys. My husband tends to just talk with her and engage her in the shopping. “Would you like beans or broccoli for dinner tonight?” “Can you reach that can right there?” That sort of thing, which for ours, seems enough.

  6. hedra says

    In the line, our best bet is having the kids ‘help’ unload the cart (usually by me handing things to them, and them heaving the item onto the belt). Second is just plain feeding them – we take so long shopping with ‘help’ that we always hit a snack time…

    I’m a freak about plastic bags in general, so this one won’t be on my list… but that’s probably from singing the old camp song ‘suffocation’ every day on the bus to school for a year…

  7. linuxgrl says

    I have a GREAT distraction/TOY I use at restaurants. I take a straw tie it in a knot and zootalow a fun chew toy for baby. The knot keeps baby from gagging on it. I keep a few red straws in my stroller.

  8. says

    I understand everyones concerns and they are valid, but I wonder if the parent she saw was me….my daughter in a creative brainstorm figured out that she could make a really great and really lofty ballon from the produce bags long ago and so everytime we go shopping she blows one up and is only aloud to bat it about if the isle we are on is clear.