I heard the advice from the moment my Sweet Peanut was born. Don't take the kids shopping. Oh you'll regret it. They'll ask for everything. Throw tantrums. And just plain drive you crazy at the grocery store!
Well I never did listen to the advice for many reasons. One is that I feel the grocery store offers a wealth of learning opportunities. And second she's not the child to ask for everything she sees. In fact she asks for precious little and instead seems to find delight in the surprises I add to the grocery store as we shop. Luck? Avoiding commercials at all costs? Wish I could tell you why this is.
Out shopping with mommy my sweet daughter (gush) loves helping me coral the veggies. Her job is to put the little ties on the baggies and then weigh them. Then she keeps track of how much our grocery bill is by adding the dollar amounts as I tell them to her. She carries a small calculator for this (no time to do this addition by hand).
Some special activities we work into the weekly trip.
Get Something Special for Daddy: My husband gives SP a small list of items to pick up from the salad bar. Little amounts of this and that to make a salad and she pays for the little container herself. We work on manners, how to pay, and things to keep aware of.
She loves picking up something special for daddy. And lately she has loved using her allowance to treat herself to a small bowl of fruit that she eats as we go through the store. But let's talk about how we got there.
As I mentioned above she's also in charge of keeping track of my shopping bill as we go. This is an important job because I shop with cash and if she's off we could be in trouble at the checkout. Don't worry she's good at her job and keeps me right on track.
It's several years since I first published this article and my daughter is still going grocery shopping with me.
In addition to using the time to work on her math skills she's also got this interest in healthy foods and so science is sometimes worked on as we shop.
Here are some of the games we may work on as we shop.
My Own Grocery List – Preschool
I learned this one from her preschool class. We cut out pictures of the things we were going to buy at the store. Then pasted them on to construction paper. She took her list and help gather groceries. Easy Peasy.
Oooh even at 9 our daughter loves I spy! So here's how to play I spy in the grocery store. Ask your child to find and identify something as you enter each grocery isle. You might ask them to find two orange things in the produce isle. They not only have to point them out but also name them – for example, carrots, oranges and pepper. In the packaged goods isle you can change the game and ask them to find something that is round. This will make them look long and hard as most items in the packaged isle are boxes. Remember, it's “I Spy,” so make sure you find the item before you ask them to. And an older child (not yet sick of the game) can then go and retrieve the items too.
Counting and/or Spelling Games
Count as you shop. For example, if you grab three cans of soup ask your child, “How many cans of soup do we have?” This helps when their learning to count. Math in the home. You can also ask them what colors they see on the cans or boxes and what letters or numbers they can identify. As they begin reading then have them help you find products by name.
Weighing and Helping Out
As your child gets older they can help out more. For example they can help you weigh produce. The process of weighing teaches them about physics and numbers. Shopping with you helps your child feel useful and a productive part of the family and the shopping process.
Finally, be prepared just in case your child suffers fatigue and meltdowns. Surely you don't want to bribe your child with rewards for good behavior but there are ways to make shopping more fun. Make sure your child is well fed before shopping and ask for their opinion on some items. For example, “do you want chicken noodle soup or tomato soup?” Or in our case we discuss which variety of apples we want to try this week (we're an apple eating family). When children feel engaged in the process, they're less likely to act up.