By Christa J Koch
What could be more routine than a trip to the grocery store? Before you
had children, you did it hundreds of time without giving it much thought.
Now, you have an inquisitive, demanding, hyper, and at times cranky
companion along for the ride. Hopefully you are not expecting to get
through your shopping in record time, as you did before. If you think you
will be making the Olympic shopping team this year, you are bound to be
disappointed and annoyed. The trick to getting through the shopping trip
with your youngster is to view the experience as an adventure. (Which it
will be.) This will set you in the right frame of mind. Making shopping
fun for your youngster can actually be an easy task. It just requires some
extra time. I know time is limited for everyone, but in the long run the
extra time will be worth it. You will both leave the store feeling less
Hints for your shopping adventure:
1. Scheduling is the most important part of your
shopping adventure. If you can, find a time of the day when your
supermarket is comparatively uncrowded. From experience, I would say early
morning is a great time. But this can vary from town to town, and store to
store. Hopefully the Murphy's Law curse will not get you. If the store is
relatively uncrowded the lines should be short and quick. Just be sure
that this time does not coincide with your child's naptime. There is
then a tired child on a shopping adventure.
2. Running into
acquaintances can sometimes be fun. But on your shopping adventure it
could be disastrous. Your youngster will get bored and it can throw your
whole trip off. So, tactfully explain to your friends and acquaintances
that you need to get to your adventure. If they have children they will
fully understand. If they don't offer to explain it (Some other time!).
3. Be sure that your child is
safe at all times. Shopping
carts can be dangerous. According to securityworld.com
an average of 21,600 children ages 5 and under are treated in hospital
emergency rooms for injuries associated with shopping carts each year.
Here are a few tips to help keep your child safe:
- Always use the safety belts to restrain
children in shopping cart seats.
- Consider bringing a harness or safety
belt with you when shopping to prevent your child from falling or
climbing out of shopping carts.
- Always stay close to the shopping cart.
- Do not let your child stand in the
- Never let a child push or steer the shopping cart.
- Never let your children sit in the
4. If your preschooler has their
own child size shopping cart, let them bring it to the store. Before your
shopping adventure, you will want to discus some basic shopping cart rules.
If your child is over-active and you fear they will hurt themselves or
other shoppers, this might not be an option for you.
5. If you are taking your
shopping adventure with a young preschooler and you have your child in the
cart (buckled of course), be sure to roll the cart down the center of the
aisle. This prevents hearing what every parent dreads… “Clean up on
Out This Cart
6. This last hint is probably
something you are already doing. When checking out, avoid the counters
that have candy displays or other “can I have this” items.
You are prepared to handle most situations while on your shopping
adventure. Now just how can you make this adventure fun for your
preschooler? There are several simple ways to do this.
Making It Fun:
1. Let your preschool have a
part in your shopping adventure. Ahead of time make a shopping list for
your preschooler. Now most preschoolers can’t read, but they are expert
matchers. Before throwing out a box of cereal, or a can of vegetables that
you normally buy, pull of the logo or any easily recognized part of the
label. Take these logos or part of the label and glue them to a piece of
paper (or index cards). If you plan to use the same one over and over you
can cover it with contact paper. Hand this grocery list to your child.
These are the things they need to find. Start out with only a few items.
As your child gets better at this game, add more items to their list.
2. Now if you really just
don’t have the time to make a shopping list for your child, then try
matching with your coupons. When you get to the aisle where the cereal
is, give your child the coupon and have them pull off that cereal. Most
coupons have a picture of the product for easy identification. Of course you
will still need to check for size and variety to make sure the coupon is
3. Finding letters is not only
educational, but can also cure the boredom for a little while. Have your
child find 5 letter A’s on a sign, or in a product you plan on buying.
In the next aisle do the letter B. Preschoolers love to show you they know
their letters. If your child does not know his letters yet, what better
way to teach them. There are letters everywhere in a supermarket.
4. Write the words to some songs
your child likes to sing (or even some new ones) on index cards and keep
them with your coupons. If you child is not shy and loves to sing, he will feel right at home with a store audience.
5. There is always the good old
stand-by “I Spy”. Pick something in the aisle that is red and chant
“I spy with my little eye something red”. Have your preschooler try to
figure out what it is. Don’t make it too hard, because you only have till
the end of the aisle till you have to pick a new one.
6. Counting your steps. If your
preschooler is not in the cart have them count how many steps it is from
the “corn flakes” to the “raisin bran”, etc…
7. Teaching your children about
the food groups is always a good thing. But you can help reinforce these
skills by asking food group questions as you shop. When you put bread into
the cart ask your preschooler what food group that is in. (This is good for
8. Another way to get your
preschooler involved in shopping is to give them options. Let them pick
between “Chocolate or Vanilla Ice cream” “Red juice or Green
juice”. Be sure to only give them options on items that you really
don’t care what is picked. Don’t let them pick then say “Are you
sure, this one is cheaper” or “but Mommy would rather the
chocolate.” etc… Let it truly be their choice.
9. Always bring a little
“grocery store last resort” bag with you. No doubt seeing all this
food might make your preschooler hungry. (Please don’t open food from
the store before you buy it, this is stealing. Although you plan to buy
it, this is just not something you should pass onto
you child. It is not ok to do this.) Pack some snacks, a stuffed animal,
and an action figure or two into your “grocery store last resort” bag.
Another good item to pack in this bag is a storybook. I know what you are
thinking when am I going to have time to read. I have shopping to do.
Well, like I said earlier hopefully you are not plagued by the Murphy’s
Law curse. But if you are, you could be waiting in the check out line a
little while. Why not keep your child entertained by reading them a story.
10. Once it is your turn at the
register, allow your preschooler to help you put the groceries on the
belt. Just be careful of little fingers. Make sure they are not playing
with the belt. Also, little hands and breakables are not really a good
idea. Let them put the paper products, cans etc… on the belt.
It Didn’t Work:
what do you do if nothing I have suggested so far has worked for you? Well
there are few things you need to keep in mind. Kids will be kids; they are
not perfect. Of course, neither are we. We all have bad days and go
through phases where we like something one week and hate it the next. So be
flexible and patient with your preschool. If you are still having problems
here are a few tips:
1. Ignore inappropriate behavior
unless it becomes dangerous, destructive, annoying to others, or truly
embarrassing. You have to find a happy medium here. While you are trying
not to give your child attention for unacceptable behavior, you also do
not want to convey that you will allow him to misbehave in public.
2. Remove a child who is out of
control. Take him or her to the restroom or out of the store. Tell the
child quietly, eye-to-eye that the behavior is absolutely unacceptable.
NEVER do this in front of others. That will not make the situation any
better for either of you. Try waiting and saying nothing at all until your
child calms down. Then ask if he is ready to try again.
3. Go home if the child cannot
calm down. If the shopping cannot wait, find a sitter and return alone.
4. Tell your child you will have
to leave him at home next time. Then do it. Make sure to follow though or
your child will continue the same behavior because they know you will do
nothing about it.
5. Don't ever buy your child a
treat when he has thrown a fit.
6. If possible, try bringing
another adult along on your shopping adventure. Maybe a friend or a
grandparent. Someone who may be able to keep your child occupied while you
gather the items you need.
A Job Well Done:
Now that we have
focused on the unacceptable behavior, what about the good. If everything
went well and your preschooler was very well behaved, don’t forget to
praise them. Again I would not suggest buying them treats or offering
material items. Most times just your words are all the praise a preschooler
needs. Knowing they have made you happy can be reward enough.
Even with these ideas and hints,
you probably still will not qualify for the Olympic team. But making your
supermarket shopping a less stressful experience for you both should be
About the Author: Christa Koch is
the proud owner/developer of the website www.preschooleducation.com.
She has been teaching preschool children for over 11 years and has loved
every minute of it. Christa lives in Pennsylvania with her wonderful