We all know that going to the grocery store with kids can be…difficult. Different ages present different challenges: negotiating baby car seats and wandering toddlers presents all sorts of issues, while having opinionated older kids who desperately don’t want vegetables or need that new toy or don’t understand why this is taking so long! (always the experience I remember most) can leave you wondering whether sneaking out of the house at 10 pm is really the better way to get it done.
There are so many ways to involve your kids, though, in a way that makes grocery shopping bearable for you and maybe even…fun? I always have to remind myself that kids want to help – or, at least, they want to be involved in what you are doing and be given responsibility. Not every kid (or every adult) is necessarily excited about the prospect of shopping every week, but there are lots of activities you can do to make the trip more enjoyable!
Kids can help the whole way through, from building your shopping list to paying at the till. Having your kids make their own shopping list helps them work on writing (or drawing), as well as making time for a conversation about expectations before you even set foot in the door. At the store, having to find the items on their list gives them a sense of ownership and responsibility. Give them their own cart – my kids love the mini shopping carts at Trader Joe’s – and you might be surprised to discover just how much fun they can have! In that case, though, be sure to go at a quiet time of day, when there’s space to wander around a bit more than usual.
For little kids, one of my favorite games (no prep required) is I Spy. This can be as simple as, “I spy something green” in the produce section. Or, to make it more interesting, “I spy two things that are yummy when it’s cold out!” They also love grocery store Bingo or a scavenger hunt (see models here).
Of course, going to the grocery store also provides ample opportunity to talk about nutrition, ingredients, and food choices. How do we make choices when we’re presented with an abundance of options? Do you read ingredient lists? Do your kids understand the “Nutritional Value” table? What are your priorities – shopping local? In season? Organic? Or maybe, just trying to cut out high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors? Do you try to shop in season – where, for example, are the bananas grown that my girls eat year-round? How does the price factor into the considerations? Even though she’s not quite reading, our four-year-old can recognize numbers and points out which is a cheaper option. Do you use coupons? Or do you like to pick up the flyer on the way in? Involve your kids in your thought process – how you make shopping decisions – and they may prove to be genuinely helpful! Not to mention that you are teaching them valuable life skills that will only become more applicable as they grow older!
As my kids get older, I also try to make them aware of advertising, and how certain products (breakfast cereal comes to mind) may look appealing but aren’t necessarily the best choice. Or, just because Elsa and Anna appear on the yogurt container doesn’t make that yogurt the best choice! And of course, trips to the grocery store inevitably result in different kinds of interactions with all different kinds of people. These little exchanges can be so valuable for kids – asking for help, saying excuse me, waiting your turn in line… a grocery store is an excellent place for your kids to interact with people from all walks of life, and this is always an educational experience.
I hope this blog has encouraged you to get out there with your kids. Armed with scavenger hunt sheets, or grocery lists; with clear expectations, lots of wipes, and even some snacks stashed away! You may be surprised at how much fun you end up having – even if you come home with a few treats that weren’t on anyone’s list!