Today is a guest post from Sheila from To Love, Honor and Vacuum. She writes and speaks about love and marriage from a Christian perspective in a very practical yet fun (and entertaining!) way, so just a heads up when you check out her site – it’s SO addicting! I spent a whole afternoon reading!
It’s the task you’ve been dreading all week.
You’ve got a bunch of kids in the minivan, a grocery list that’s a mile long, and you wonder if you’ll manage to get in and out of the store without someone screaming or throwing something.
Grocery shopping with kids can be an ordeal. But maybe we just need to think about it differently!
After all, if you consider grocery shopping from a child’s point of view, it’s pretty boring. They’re stuck in a grocery cart and can’t move very much. There’s nothing to do. They’re surrounded by food they can’t eat. And so they get bored and grumpy and start acting out.
What’s the solution?
Keep kids engaged, and they just may find that grocery shopping can be fun! And by keeping kids engaged, you make it go faster for you, too.
My first line of attack when grocery shopping was to grab a banana or a dried fruit snack for each child and head to the express check out line. Then the kids would have something to eat while we shopped to stop the natural “gimme gimmes” that would start when surrounded by so much food. I’d stick the receipt in my pocket in case a staff member questioned me. (Bringing food from home is a bad idea; the staff may not believe that you didn’t pick it up there).
The rest of the plan is age-based. Here’s what to do to engage kids while grocery shopping:
Make Grocery Shopping with Kids More Fun For Everyone (Even You)
Engaging Babies: Keep Talking!
No matter what you’re doing, keep up a running commentary. “Mommy’s choosing grapes. See the grapes? Yummy!” All through the store, talk and make eye contact.
Babies may not understand what you’re saying, but they know you’re talking to them. Sure, shoppers may look at you strangely, but your baby knows you care.
Engaging Toddlers: Play the Color Game
As you walk through the aisles, ask your kids to find things that are certain colors. What’s orange? Oranges are orange! Peppers are orange! The container of sherbet is orange!
Take it one step further and count how many things are orange, so they learn numbers, too. You can even assign one child orange and one child green, and see who gets more items by the end of the trip.
Engaging Preschoolers: Play the Letter Game
After colors and numbers you can graduate to letters. How many groceries can we find that begin with the letter “P”? Peppers! Pineapple! Popcorn!
Ask them to scan the shelves for things starting with the “P” sound, even if you’re not buying it. You can even pick up a loaf of bread and ask them, “Does this begin with P?”, because B and P are awfully close.
And then all the way home, ask them to scan for things starting with P.
Next time out: graduate to D, or M, or O.
Engaging Elementary School Kids: Name Food Groups and Play Math
Move on to more challenging puzzles. You can identify food groups–is this a vegetable or dairy? And you can even teach them to be wise shoppers – is this a whole food? Is this a “yes” food or a “no” food?
If your kids are picky eaters, this can help with that problem, too, because you can have them choose some “yes” foods that are healthy that they’ll also agree to eat. If they get to choose, they’re more likely to eat it.
Then bring math into the picture. How much do you think our grocery bill will be? As you shop, round everything to the nearest dollar and have them keep track. You’ll have to guess at things you pay for by weight.
As they get older, round to the nearest fifty cents. This helps them learn to add numbers in their head, but it also helps them understand which groceries are expensive, and which ones are relatively cheap.
Once kids reach 9 or 10 you can even send them for some groceries on their own (or in pairs). Assign two children to go and get the milk and bring it back to you.
Engaging Kids While Grocery Shopping Works!
Usually when small children are screaming in the grocery store, they’re simply bored. And often we moms are so focused on getting through this awful task as quickly as possible that we tend to bark orders or even yell at our kids–“sit still!” “No, we can’t buy that!” “Don’t touch your sister!” You’re exhausted, the kids are frustrated, and everyone hates grocery shopping.
But if you try one of these techniques, you’ll likely find kids get far less bored–and they’ll learn a lot in the process, too.
Best of all, by the time they’re teenagers they will have been paying attention so much to what foods you were buying and why you chose certain things over others that you’ll be able to send them to do the shopping for you. So put in the work now–and everyone will benefit.
What tips do you have for keeping kids entertained at the grocery store?
Sheila Wray Gregoire is the author of seven books, including To Love, Honor, and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother. She blogs every day at ToLoveHonorandVacuum.com, talking about parenting, marriage, and even sex!
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I like what you said that even though you are touching them doesn’t mean that you are interacting with them! I find myself guilty of this often, I think that since she has my arms, she should be okay, but I certainly don’t accept that from my husband! If he puts his arm around me and eyes on the phone, I don’t feel loved and poured into, why should my child? I don’t know why I never found this post before-thanks for the reminder!
I don’t know why but years ago when my girls were pre-teen (even to day when they are around) they loved going shopping with me. Also their friends enjoyed coming along. Sometimes I would have six kids along … to go grocery shopping. I never did understand it! But we always had a great time. And made my shopping easier. I miss them all.
It sounds like your shopping experiences were more of a gem Kathy! What wonderful memories to have!
Morning shopping is huge for us! I have three boys, (5, 3 and 1 yrs old) and I think we have succeeded in achieving happy shopping trips! Thank God!
With infants, just having them in a baby carrier for the first 6-9 months kept them far more cheerful!
Also, laying down ground rules that any begging will not be given in to, there will be no yelling, or running, and then following through with consequences of necessary. It may sound harsh, but knowing what’s expected is necessary for little people.
We’ll chit chat, they can help put things in, and they’ve learned to just admire stuff instead of ask. As I was checking out today, they were looking up at balloons, naming the characters in the pictures. At Aldi, since you have to pack your own groceries, I position them where they can look out the window at cars. At Walmart, if they are good, they know they get to go visit the fish tanks. They are learning to just enjoy looking.
I had read somewhere to distract children from begging by firing up their imaginations. “Mommy, I want jelly beans!” ” ooh! I see the Jelly beans, too! Can you imagine if we had a whole castle full of jelly beans? ” and just keep walking and talking!
Lastly, you can’t expect kids to behave well at the grocery store, if you don’t also have standards for their behavior at home and church etc. At home, they can’t hit or scream or throw (yes, we let them wrestle and run and shout! They are energetic boys). At church, they know to whisper, look at books, and stay in the pew.
Wow, some great ideas, thanks for sharing! Will use these and report back 🙂
Good luck Jen!
These are all great ideas! Another tip is to go grocery shopping when both you and your kids are the least likely to be tired. For my family, that’s first thing in the morning, before we have time to get cranky, when there are no nap times. Another thing I’ve done is to point to something you’re purchasing, and have the child pull it off and put it in the cart. It gives them the idea that they’re being such a big helper (and a lot of times they are…I can be looking at the next thing on the list).
Both really great ideas Heidi! I remember doing the early morning shopping when mine were little. We’d be first in the store, and they were so content I could even take my time!