A dad-of-six took his children with him on after-school shoplifting trips in Burnley and stuffed the loot into their satchels, a court heard.
Paul Shaw used the youngsters to try and thieve three dash cams and a TV streaming stick worth almost £200 from Asda.
CCTV footage showed he had also stolen electrical equipment worth £180 from the store just nine days before. On both occasions he had put stolen goods into the children's school bags, thinking he wouldn't get caught.
The 34-year -old, the family's main breadwinner, claimed he needed to raise cash as he was in rent arrears.
The self-employed qualified welder, who said he couldn't work due to a back injury, had also been trying to gamble his way out of his money troubles, which he had kept a secret from his family.
His solicitor told the hearing: "He is embarrassed he can't provide for his children."
Tracy Yates, prosecuting, told JPs in the town the defendant was detained at the store in the afternoon on February 6th when the alarm barriers sounded.
Shaw was with two of his children. She continued: "He had put items in one of the children's school bags to take them out of the store."
The prosecutor said while a security officer was waiting for police, he was told by a colleague that the defendant may have stolen some items a couple of weeks before.
She went on: "CCTV footage was reviewed and confirmed the defendant had stolen items on January 28th, at 4-15pm. Again, he had put items in one of the children's school bags.
"The defendant was interviewed at the store. He admitted the offence from February 6th and said he was going to sell them to get some cash."
She added: "Children were accompanying the offender. Obviously, that's an aggravating feature." Shaw had 27 offences on his record.
Daniel Frazer, defending Shaw, said: "He is extremely remorseful and somewhat embarrassed that his children have witnessed him being involved with the police."
The solicitor told the court that although Shaw put things in their bags, the defendant said their understanding of what was going on was limited.
Mr Frazer said Shaw was keeping the financial problems a secret.
The solicitor continued: "He was trying to resolve this without getting caught, but he's done something rather stupid, rather foolish, twice."
A probation officer who interviewed the defendant, said Shaw had broken three bones in his back, had sciatica and needed surgery. He had not worked for 12 months, had financial issues and had fallen into rent arrears.
She continued: "It's of concern that he used his children on both offences, which needs to be addressed thoroughly."
The officer said not being able to provide for his family left Shaw suffering from low mood, he had turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism and had been gambling in recent months to try and make some money.
She told the court: "His family have become aware since he was caught for these offences, his parents have paid his rent arrears and his partner has given him one last chance, in effect, to sort himself out and get the help available to him."
Shaw looked after the children while his partner worked. The officer said: "He tells me his main aim is to get back to work after recovery from surgery."
The defendant, of Newchurch Road, Bacup, admitted theft to the value of £192 on February 6th and a second theft charge.
He was given a 12-month community order, with a 25- day rehabilitation activity requirement and three months' alcohol treatment. Shaw must pay £180 compensation to Asda.
He was excluded from the Burnley store for six months, but told the court he had been banned from all Asdas indefinitely.