Children are adorable, loving, and sweet. They are also cranky, tired, and hungry. When we go shopping and we have children to take along with us we truly need to be organized, on our guard, and aware because they can distract us more than anything else.
(1) Go when the children are rested and full, but take some snacks with you in case they get hungry or thirsty. This will keep you from having to buy something when you are out, and you can nip it in the bud rather than wait until they are full out tantrum because they need food or sleep.
(2) Set ground rules with the children before you head out. One in the cart, the other stay right next to you, holding hands or hand on the cart. Whatever rules make sense for you and your children, put them into place before you enter the store, and then enforce them.
(3) Take another adult with you if possible. Not only is shopping with another adult more fun, as we have talked about, but having them there to help with the children allows you to try clothes on, or turn your back for a second. I have tried clothes on with a baby in the dressing room. It's difficult and put us both in a bad mood.
(4) Leave the kids with a friend. If they have children offer to swap so you can both get some shopping done. Yes, shopping with another person is safer, but if you can go without children you have minimized your distraction and that allows you to be more aware than another person might be with the children there.
(5) If you have no one to go with you, and no one to leave them with, make short trips. Be organized with where you are going and what you are looking for. Go early in the morning when the crowds are smaller. I understand, it's hard. I was there many a year myself.