When You Can’t Avoid the Toy Aisle: Turning Tantrums Into Solutions.


I want.

I want.

I want.

This must be some sort of mantra for toddlerhood. Shortly after learning yes, no, mom, dad, and other random words, it sets in – they can vocalize their desires. I want milk. I want ball. I want mama.

It’s so cute! Sweet! They express themselves.

Then you get to a store. And it dawns on you. They want something – and they can tell you.

We ventured into the “I want” phase at about two years old. You don’t realize how many stores have the equivalent of a toy aisle until you have a two year old. I knew Target was a minefield but CVS? Kroger? You’ve betrayed me. 

After a few adventures of trying to avoid anything enticing to a two year old, I decided to face this battle head on. Obviously we can’t give her everything she wants, so we needed to avoid a tantrum and find a solution. 

Realizing that my daughter loves taking pictures on my phone, when she would ask for a toy at the store, I started letting her take a picture with my phone of the toy she wanted. As simple as it sounds, it worked like a charm! We talk about the cost of the toy (we practice numbers so I ask what number is on the price tag and we talk about what kind of toy it is – is it a reward price? birthday price? Christmas price?) and then she takes a picture of it. I have an iphone so we keep the toy pictures in a folder in iphoto. As it gets closer to Christmas, she can use her photos to make a Pinterest board with me for her Christmas list. Recently, we’ve been working on potty training, so we used her pictures to pick out a reward toy for a week of successful potty trips. 

It seems way too easy of a solution, but there is something about letting her take pictures that gives her the power to do something about what she wants. Instead of just saying no, I’m able to offer her an action and a choice. It shows her that I recognize what she wants and that while she can’t get everything she wants, she can work towards getting them later. It teaches patience and delayed rewards. 

With older kids, I could see this working well as a goal for saving up allowance from chores. As the holidays start up, I could see telling kids that Santa has a smartphone and taking pictures to text to Santa. 

So next time you’re planning your Target route to specifically avoid that back section of the store, remember this post and get your phone ready to give it a try. 

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A native Memphian who did a 5-year stint in Knoxville for undergrad+grad school, Kathryn loves Memphis. Being a Memphian by birth and by choice, she takes any opportunity she can to share her favorite spots with anyone who will listen. Kathryn is married to her high school sweetheart, a fellow VOLS grad who now works at a local hospital, and mom to Ruthie, born January 2015, Kate, born August 2018, and their encore baby Eliza, born July 2020. After being team #midtownismemphis for (almost) her whole life, Kathryn traded in bungalows and original hardwood for closet space and access to Target. She's adjusting to being an East Memphis mom, but luckily still makes it to all her favorite Midtown spots. Being a mom is the hardest but best thing she's ever done.