I get it. Sometimes I dream of the days when I could quietly peruse up and down the grocery aisles or take my time looking at dish-ware. And some days I do get that luxury — after Liam’s bedtime or if my husband takes him on errands. I also understand that for some moms and dads, taking one, two, or more children to the store is not worth the stress or anxiety. However, if you never take your little ones (or older children) to the grocery store, you’ll miss out on some excellent learning opportunities as well as memories!
Here are 3 reasons why I recommend taking children to the grocery store (at least once in a while):
- It involves them in the meal planning, shopping, and cooking process. This enforces that food doesn’t just appear in the pantry, but someone has to go out and select the foods to bring home. Depending on their age, kids can be involved in choosing recipes or food items, creating a shopping list, and selecting food products at the store. Once you arrive home, have them help you sort and put food away. My almost two-year old is already learning order and where certain groceries belong. As they get older, you can take it a step further and take a “field trip” to a farm or have a vegetable garden so they begin to understand the whole “Farm-to-Table” concept.
- It expands their vocabulary. You can do this by either playing “I Spy” and having them point to certain foods; or as they begin to talk, you point to a food and have them say the name. You may also comment on what they’re experiencing. For example, when walking past the seafood section, talk about the smell of fish. Likewise, if you open up a freezer door, you can comment on how cold makes you shiver. With older children, give them the grocery list to sound-out food items and have them locate the items on the shelves.
- It is a fun outing for the kids! When I tell my toddler that we’re going grocery shopping, he get’s really excited and starts babbling about all the different foods he gets to see at the store. (The anticipation of an outing makes him much more cooperative in the whole process of getting him strapped into and out of the carseat…) Also, many stores have mini shopping carts for children to push up and down aisles. Shopping trips can be fun for parents, too. The everyday activities as a mom can become mundane at times, so a shopping trip breaks up the day and prevents cabin fever from setting in.
- Don’t go on empty stomachs! Just like it’s easier to stick to the shopping list and avoid unneeded snacks when your appetite is satisfied, your kids will be easier to manage when the hunger monster is contained. Sit down for a snack with the kids before leaving the house, or treat them to a special lunch with mom or dad at the deli.
- Be organized. Have your meals planned ahead of time and your shopping list made.
- Go during low-traffic shopping times. If dealing with the Saturday morning crowd is not your thing, try to make grocery day earlier in the week!
- Take one kid at a time! If managing two or more children stresses you out before even making it to the store, see if your spouse, a friend or family member can watch the other children while you go with one. Have the kids take turns going with mom or dad for a special outing.
- Redirect and assign tasks. If you can sense a tantrum coming on, talk calmly and quietly to your child and use proven distraction techniques! I do a lot of “When we are done picking out apples, then we can go find blueberries” to discuss the order of events. I also might ask my boy to help push the shopping cart, choose produce, or carry a certain food item.