Park your car near the grocery shopping cart return area

Lydia thought to write in with a hack that I only discovered after my second child was almost too big to ride in the cart:

When going shopping various places with the little one, I always park next to a shopping cart return area so I can put her and her paraphernalia into a shopping cart asap. Also a plus, after our excursion I don't have to leave her long to put the cart back once I've buckled her back in the car. I always feel bad leaving the random cart in the parking lot for someone to collect, but I feel even worse leaving my daughter unattended in the car. I know I could just heft her around, but babies sure do know how to pack on the pounds fast!

Let your kid "drive" the shopping cart
Bring toddlers' toy shopping carts on actual shopping excursions


  1. Todd says

    I always keep our kids in the cart while unloading groceries into the car, wheel them to the cart return with me, then take them out and carry/walk them to the car. That way you never need to leave them unattended.

  2. adrienne says

    Great hack! And it also shows your kids the practice of returning the cart to the corral.

    When people abandon their carts mid-parking lot (a hazard in any imperfect weather), Jim observes (to me) that they have no good grounds to tell their kids to clean up their rooms.

  3. Mike says

    We’ve been doing that one for years now. Another perk is that it makes it much easier to remember where I parked the car.

  4. Rachel says

    Great idea! I’ve done this for a while, too, with a slight adjustment: I park _near_ the cart return. Some people get a little sloppy returning the carts and I like to reduce the chance of dings to my car.

    The funny thing is when I automatically park near the cart return when I am out alone.

  5. Mama Duck says

    Ha, I do this too. Now that my little guy is walking/running, I let him help push the cart back to the return too (in front of me behind the cart so if he does break off and run, I can grab him). Saves me from lugging his heavy little behind all over ;).

  6. EvilleSweeny says

    I have a minivan – I always try to park to the left of the cart returns, so that way I have the “wall” of the cart corral to help contain the kids when I load them in and out that side.

    Related hack: If you have a minivan with 45/55 seats that fold down in the back, the normal Target/Walmart cart can “dock” with your tailgate so the kids can hop out (with assistance and a careful eye) and “walk” straight from the front of the cart into the van. I have three 3 and under, and this helps so much not having to lift them up and down or have them hop through the snow.

  7. Alyssa Morris says

    I think this is a great idea for when you’re leaving the store. However, I’ve always let my children walk from the parking lot to the store so they could stretch their legs a bit. I’ve never wanted them to go from being locked in a car seat to being stuck in a cart and back again. I think shopping is boring enough from their perspective that to keep them “locked in” the whole time would just make it worse.

  8. Melanie says

    Now, if only there was a hack to keep my 1 year old from grabbing anything and everything in my cart and alternately tossing it on the floor or chewing on it… in the winter I used his car-bag snowsuit thing with sleeves that folded over his hands, but as the weather (slowly) warms up, I sense I will need to think of something else. Putting my bread & produce on the “lower level” of the cart drives me crazy because something always gets bruised/squished. However, that’s my best solution so far. Then I put the hefty things (big box of cat litter, 2L bottles of pop/juice) within baby’s reach, as he can’t (yet) do much harm to those. Any ideas fellow parent-hackers?

  9. Hot Wife says

    I have an opposite hack. I park far away from wherever we need to go so my lazy daughter has to walk farther. Shhhh, don’t tell her my little secret.

  10. Brandy says

    He he, we do this too, Well I do. When its all of us *Hubb included* we park where ever.

    I love the carts that just “dock” into your van. Means that I have a covered area when loading kids/groceries in the rain and I can set that bulky umbrella down.

    I also park with the door I’m loading the kids into on the side of the cart return. Just a. helps keep my 3yr old right there, and b. means no ones walking up behind me without me knowing. *we live in a big city*

    As a mom who does almost all the shopping with the kids on my own, its a big helper.

    Oh and on the kids walking to the store, I would love if that worked out for us, the big one doesn’t mind walking and then getting in, but if the little one gets to walk to the store doors, he thinks he’s walking the whole time. If not, he throws a fit. And he’s a screamer on a normal basis…

  11. meggiemoo says

    I do this, too! My toddler also hates to ride in the cart, and loves to push the cart, so he pushes the cart while I load it up as we walk down the aisles. It never fails to crack other people up as they see this invisibly powered cart rolling by.

    All I have to do is steer it every now and then…

  12. Anita says

    I have always parked near the cart corrals, but if there’s not one (like my neighborhood grocery store), I leave him in the cart until I return it, then we both go back to the car. It just makes it so much easier to park near the corrals when it’s snowing or raining-or if it’s really cold! I don’t want him outside in the cold until I’m done, but I also don’t want to leave him in the car while I go put the cart back-so I usually end up leaving it there! Oh well, great hack.

  13. Diana (Holes In My Shiny Veneer) says

    I park next to the corral and if I’m lucky, can open the minivan and swing my daughter straight from her car seat into the shopping cart seat!

  14. Stephanie says

    Looking for advice: I have a 3 year old and am expecting #2 in September. What’s the best way to take an infant and preschooler grocery shopping? My daughter tends not to want to stay by my side when we’re in the store, she likes to run down the aisle. With a newborn, I won’t be able to chase after her anymore. I’m thinking Daddy will be doing all the shopping! :)