It came to my attention recently that some of my mom friends get a babysitter in order to do their errands and grocery shopping. Since my husband has always worked long hours and often on weekends–especially when our kids were small–I’ve always braved the stores with them. As they’ve grown, here are the techniques I have used to keep them happy and engaged. While not foolproof, we’ve never had major issues at a store, so take it for what its worth!
Ages: infant-3 yrs
- Speak to them frequently (no matter how small) asking questions about what we are shopping for (this may look odd to other shoppers but always keep my tiny ones interested)
- Give them something to hold that is age and developmentally appropriate, whether a small toy/pacifier you bring with or something you have put in the cart, something unbreakable and safe like a piece of clothing or small packaged item (just make sure to keep an eye out so it doesn’t end up in their mouth)
- Keep the cart moving, even just a back and forth motion while you peruse the shelves can keep a fussy baby calm
Ages: 4-6 years
- Kids this age get bored easily and are often tired or hungry when it works best for mom to run to the store. Head off frustration by continuing the trend of keeping them involved by chatting. “What kind of apples should we get?” “Should we have chicken or shrimp tonight?” “I wonder if we should grab some milk?” These kinds of questions kept my kids interested in the shopping trip.
- Grab a treat-but make sure its exactly that! We never got in the habit of getting a cookie at every Target visit, but once or twice is fine. Ditto on a Starbucks stop, hot chocolate is a nice way to warm up, and keep kids busy, but $12-15 extra every trip was not in the budget.
- Let them hold your list and cross things off. This helps with letter recognition. If you don’t carry a paper list, let them “make one” while you shop. They can be busy “writing” while you get down to business.
- Give them choices where it counts–the produce section. I’ve always told my kids they can choose anything they want in that part of the store. As parents we want them to try new fruits and veggies, so give them some freedom here. As a result, because they’ve had a “say” in things, they don’t ask for as many things throughout the rest of the store, or if they do, they take my “no” answer a bit better because they’ve gotten their way on something else.
Ages: 7 and up
- Bigger kids have outgrown the confinement of the cart, and are now on the loose. Continue engaging them with the handwritten list or have them check the Cartwheel app or store coupon flyer for things you need.
- Work on math skills by comparing prices of things. As kids get older they can use the calculator on your phone to figure out the best deals on multi pack items like toilet paper, or price per ounce on laundry soap
- Have kids grab specific items from the shelf. Since my daughter is 12, she can go elsewhere in the store and get brands or amounts she knows we usually get. This is great if we are in a hurry and mom is tired (so, every day?)
- Discuss meals, recipes and lunch box items as it relates to what you’ve had lately, what everyone is tired of or hungry for, even great parents run out of ideas
- Send your partner! Kids should learn that even the primary cook or shopper needs help with groceries, and everyone should know how to do their own shopping. Your spouse should also know exactly what is involved in keeping the house well stocked, and the “fun” of doing it with kids
My kids have turned into great shopping buddies, and often remind me of things we need that I forgot to put on the list. Better still-they help load the cart and the car! Happy shopping!