“… And avoid taking your kids to the supermarket, no matter what! … ”
My twins were only a few weeks old when I got this gem of parenting advice, and, at the time I thought it was pretty spot on. Even the idea of taking twin babies to the supermarket scared me, I was prepared to avoid the reality at all costs!
But when my twins finally came home from hospital, and I found myself home alone with two babies day after day, I realised how unrealistic this advice was for me.
We needed to eat, there was no one else to look after the babies, my husband worked shifts, and I really, really, needed to get out of the house.
So I took my twins to the supermarket… and guess what? It wasn’t that bad.
Sure juggling baby twins in and out of trolleys wasn’t always easy, and some days I couldn’t even get out of the house let alone get to the shops, but as my girls got bigger I realised that there was a lot of great things about taking my kids to the supermarket, for my kids and for me.
Here are six reasons why you should take your kids grocery shopping… at least occasionally:
Learning Letters and Numbers.
Recognising symbols on food packaging is often one of our kid’s first pre-reading skills and there are so many opportunities to practice these skills when you go to the supermarket. Point out interesting signs and symbols, play eye spy and ask your child to find a picture, letter or number, write a shopping list together and have your child cross off the items as you collect them. Going shopping helps kids learn that words and numbers are useful and meaningful.
Learning about Money.
Money is a tricky concept to teach kids without hands on experience. If our kids grow up seeing us buy things, handle money, use bank cards, etc they will have a good, real life, foundation of experience on which to build their knowledge about money. Older children can get even more hands on by helping hand over money, handling change, talking about how much items cost etc.
Practicing Social Skills.
Social interaction was the number one reason I braved the supermarket with my babies – I needed to see other adults! Our kids also benefit from seeing, meeting and interacting with a range of different people. It helps our kids learn that people come in all shapes, sizes, and colours and that they do all kinds of interesting things.
The supermarket is also a great place to experience and practice social skills such as waiting your turn, being respectful to others, speaking politely, asking for help, etc. I
Learning about Food.
When my middle boy was preschool aged we started a little challenge – find the weirdest looking fruit or vegetable in the supermarket and google to find out more about it. Now my boy knows what a custard apple is, where a rambutan is grown, and what you might use a choko for!
Taking your kids shopping gives them an opportunity to see and learn about a wider variety of foods than just what comes home with you. It’s a great opportunity to talk about healthy foods, where food comes from, and may even help motivate a picky eater to try something new. It is also the starting point for teaching our kids about cooking, meal planning and budgeting so when they are adults they can plan, shop for, and cook a meal from scratch.
Learning about Advertising and Labeling.
We want our kids to make healthy choices about the foods they consume, and to do that they need to be informed. They need to learn how to read a label and compare items. They need to understand that the word ‘sale’ doesn’t always mean it is a good deal. They need to learn that brands use words like ‘healthy’ or ‘99% fat free’ to entice you to buy, not necessarily because the item is good for you. They need to know what issues are important when buying items – are you looking for a locally grown item? Are you looking at how much salt is in something? Why are those things important to you? Small children learn these things by watching adults well before they actually understand themselves, and older children can play an active part in these discussions and decisions.
Before you decide that I am totally insane and start looking for a straight jacket, hear me out!
If going to the supermarket is familiar, if you have set everyone up for success, if you’ve set clear limits… taking your kids with you to do the shopping can be fun.
It’s a chance to spend time with your kids, to enjoy their company, and to watch them learn. Chatting to my little one as he rides in the trolley facing me is a great way to connect and it’s lovely to watch his eyes light up when he learns or experiences something new. I often take just one of my older kids with me to help with the shopping, it’s a chance for some one on one time and we have some great conversations.
Have I convinced you to take your kids grocery shopping yet?
Maybe you are still wavering because you’ve tried it and it was a nightmare?
Perhaps these tips will help make shopping with kids a little easier…
Know when not to go
Don’t take the kids to the supermarket when you are tired, stressed, hungry, or in a hurry.
Same goes for the kids – don’t take them if they are tired, grumpy, hungry or overstimulated. You know your child, you know if they will cope or not.
Don’t take the kids to the supermarket when it is super busy – try going in the early morning, and avoid holidays if you can.
Don’t take the kids to the supermarket if you have a super long list of things you need to get – little kids especially can’t cope with an hours shopping trip, but they can manage 15 minutes.
Make a list at home and know what you need and where you need to go to get it.
Make sure your kids have everything they need to get through the shopping trip – a snack, a favourite toy, a drink.
Think about how you can involve and engage your kids in the shopping process.
Set Clear Limits
Make sure your kids know how you expect them to behave ahead of time – if you say no treats that means no treats, no matter what.
You can bypass the confectionery and toy aisles if you need to, and look for a checkout that doesn’t have lollies (candy).
Do you take your kids grocery shopping?
What do love about it?
What do you loathe about it?