Sometimes the only “me” time you get is going to the store. It’s your time to unwind and get a treat you don’t have to share with anyone. But shopping with kids isn’t always screaming toddlers and begging preteens.
Stores are full of things to see and do. Grocery stores, especially, provide the perfect opportunity for conversation, teaching, and even some fun!
Your responsibility as a parent is to teach your children. At the store, you can provide hands-on education on all kinds of things, from teaching them about nutrition to expanding your children’s vocabulary and literacy.
Start with your children’s interests and then add descriptive words as you talk about things you see or simply follow their lead. If your child loves apples, talk about the different colors of apples and compare sizes. If your child shivers when you open a freezer door for peas, say something like, “You’re shivering because you’re cold, huh? Mom is too. That’s because it’s cold in the freezer.”
The store is also a great place to teach toddlers and preschoolers shapes, colors, numbers, and letters. Make it into a game so it’s more fun for your kids. Eye spy and scavenger hunts are perfect grocery store activities for toddlers that keep them entertained while learning.
It’s never too early or late to help your children develop important skills. Shopping with kids gives you numerous opportunities to work on your kids’ social skills. Show them the importance of being polite by letting someone pass in front of you or saying excuse me when walking down an aisle. Have them ask a worker for help if they can’t find something. With older children, you can work on more communication, planning, time management, and budgeting skills.
If you can, take your children to a farmer’s market or stand. You can talk to your children about where food comes from and what foods are offered locally and seasonally to you. Plus, you can score some delicious fresh fruits and veggies!
Kids don’t fully understand needs and wants (and let’s be honest, sometimes adults don’t either). They think you can throw whatever you see in the shopping cart. Here’s a good time to explain needs and wants to your children. You can say things like, “We need tomatoes to make spaghetti sauce tonight and because they’re healthy and good for us” and “Ice cream is something we want but don’t need to get every time we come to the store. We got ice cream last week because it was on sale, so we’re not going to buy any this week.”
When you go to the grocery store, do you touch, squeeze, smell, and look at foods? Let your children do the same, where they can of course. As they experience the store using their senses, it will spark new conversations about what your child sees, smells, feels, and hears.
Tired of deciding what to cook for dinner every night? We feel you, mama. Let each of your kids choose what to eat one night of the week. This gives you a break from that nagging question, “What’s for dinner, mom?” and empowers your children by letting them make an important family decision. And of course, once they decide what to make, take them to the store to buy any needed ingredients and help you make the meal.
You could even have your child make their own shopping list. If they can write, it’s a chance to work on their spelling. Or if they’re younger, have your child draw pictures of each item.
Give your child a job(s) to do while at the store. Of course, you can’t do this if you’re grocery shopping with a newborn. But if you have a toddler or adolescent, they are big enough to go from just being your cute shopping buddy lying in their shopping cart car seat holder to your helpful shopping partner.
Keep your child’s little hands and mind busy by asking them to help you get non-breakable items and anything off the bottom shelf so you don’t have to bend over to get it. You can also have them find items on your list that are their favorite color, like a blue can of soup, and unload the cart.
Some stores even have mini shopping carts for kids. This keeps them engaged (and hopefully happy) while you shop because they get their very own cart to push. Pushing their own cart around the store may also tire them out (hallelujah for an early nap or bedtime!).
Many grocery stores nowadays offer free snacks, like a whole banana or orange, for kids to munch on and keep occupied for at least a few minutes. Some may even give free cookies at the bakery section, and no one’s going to stop you from taking a bite if you find a store handing out free cookies.
Remember, your kids’ ages will determine what you can do with them at the store and that no matter how old or what you’re trying to help them do, stay calm and patient. Shopping with kids doesn’t have to be a chore, it can be a fun adventure for you and your little ones! Be sure to always look for opportunities to make it a little more fun where you can and you’ll be surprised how much easier each outing gets as time goes on!