Grocery Shopping with Kids

Photos thanks to my good friend  @asisiphotography !

Photos thanks to my good friend @asisiphotography!

“Go to the grocery store with my kids? No thanks!” was something I used to always think. Honestly going to the grocery store with our children can be tough right. There usually is a toddler running away, someone crying, it takes a million years, and man it can be stressful. But guys, going to the grocery store with our children is so important!

Hear me out, I totally used to rely on the grocery pickup services stores are adding these days, and while there is nothing wrong with that, here are a few reasons why you SHOULD go to the grocery store with your kids.

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#1: Encourages Healthy Eating

The grocery store is the PERFECT place to talk about food and healthy eating. We not only talk about the different food groups while we shop, and my four year old LOVES talking about the different food groups, but we also talk about where food comes from, how we get it in the grocery stores, why it’s good to eat a variety of foods. Talking about the food allows children to get excited about food and essentially gives them the tools necessary to make healthy eating a part of their decisions as they are autonomous in what to put into their bodies.

It also encourages healthy eating by involving our children in the process of actual grocery shopping. My children are way more likely to try new foods, when they took a part in the decision process of what to buy. Their favorite thing to do is pick out “weird” looking fruits and vegetables. I’ll admit, even some of them I am hesitant to try, but including them in the process of selecting foods and trying it with them helps them get excited to try new foods. We like to quote Daniel Tiger by singing, “We gotta try new foods, because it might taste good!” Sometimes my four year old talks about how “scared” she is to try new foods, which is totally normal. Heck I’m scared to try new foods! But when I let them pick a few items at the grocery store, they are way more likely to try new foods. Some are healthy options, some aren’t as healthy, but overall it is encouraging them to experiment and become brave in trying new things.

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#2: Helps Foster Development in Letters and Reading

Okay, anyone who has been to a grocery store knows there are letters and words EVERYWHERE. There are so many different labels for them to see. This fosters development simply by being in a space where they can see the different words all around them. They are most likely seeing you trying to read the words on the various aisles, reading food labels, and referring back to a shopping list. My girls love to create their own “shopping list” when they go to the store with a few items that they would like me to buy. You can help foster development further by specifically pointing out the words, or letters. You can talk about the sounds of letters and how to sound out words.

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#3: Incorporates Math Skills

Going to the grocery store is a great place to talk math. Your child will be seeing numbers all around them! As your children take notice different numbers pertaining to each item, they will see decimals, and various prices. Sometimes we plug in the different prices of the items we are adding to our cart in my phone calculator as we go. Although my four year old doesn’t understand decimals right now, We talk about how to read those numbers, how to plug them into the calculator and add them together to see our total as we go.

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#4: Let’s Talk Money

A store is also the PERFECT place to talk money. Pretty much every time we go to the grocery store there are items that my children ask for that we don’t have room in our budget today, or they weren’t on our list and are extra items that we don’t want to spend money on right now. Rather than looking at this as an annoyance, it can be an excellent teaching opportunity. My husband used to dread going to pretty much any store with our children because they were always wanting us to buy things that we either couldn’t afford at the time, or we didn’t feel it was in their best interest for us to always buy what they wanted. Here’s the thing, when I go to the store, especially one I love like target, there are always things I find that I would like to buy as well, however, I can’t always buy what I want either. Nor do I think it’s good to simply buy something every time I want it. Kids are no different.

As a toddler, my oldest would whine or cry about something we said she couldn’t have. However as we were consistent and followed through with what we said such ask, “Sorry, we don’t have money for that today.” or “We can add it to our grocery list for next week.”etc. we were then able to give her the skills necessary to help her regulate her own emotions at the store. It was so fun watching my daughter’s self-talk enhance and change. Now she has the skills to say, “Mom, I would really like this toy, but I know we don’t have money for it today. Maybe next time.” Honestly guys, this happens WITHOUT ME SAYING A WORD! My husband was shocked when this happened for the first time at a Disney store. A DISNEY STORE. She picked up something she liked, told us she wanted it and then put it back on the shelf and shrugged her shoulders and said, “Maybe for my birthday.” My momma heart wanted to burst. We sure has heck bought that stuffed animal for her birthday. These are life skills guys, and they are so important! Every time we go to a grocery store with toys such as Target or Wal-mart, I let my girls browse the toy section. They love to look at all of the toys, press the buttons, etc. and in the process, they are practicing putting the toys back on the shelf and leaving “happily” empty handed.

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#5: Enhances Communication Skills

Another life skill is being able to talk to a sales associate. My girls love when we check out and get to see the person checking us out. My social four year old almost always immediately says, “Hi, my name is Livy, what’s your name?” These are conversation starters guys! After she introduces herself she will often times chat about something we’re buying or ask them their favorite color. My children are also watching me have these conversations with the sales associate, as well as other employees as I ask questions about where things are located, or how much an item is. They are witnessing all of these conversations and in turn learning how to engage in a conversation with a stranger as well.

#6: Practices Working Through Challenging Behavior

Okay, here is where I help you make it fun. I know some of you are probably rolling your eyes and thinking, “Okay, that’s cool, but my child ALWAYS makes a dash for it and I have to chase them.” or “I cannot handle the crying and whining.” “It’s not even worth it.” I want to start by saying, I know not every shopping experience is going to be rainbows and skipping with joy while you have three children ages 4 and under (yup, that’s me), but most of them CAN be. Here are a few tips to PREVENTING and working through challenging behavior.

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Tip #1: Before we even really begin the shopping I start by giving them choices. Choices like, “Would you like to sit in the cart, ride on the cart or walk.” My two year old uses chooses to either ride on the cart or walk. After I give them a choice, I remind them that, “If you run away you have to sit in the cart”. This helps them understand what is expected of them, and it’s important to follow through with what you say. Consistency is key in parenting, so if they run away, they go straight in the cart. Give it a few times and they quickly understand their consequences and the rules you set. Giving them choices first allows them to feel like they have some ownership in their decisions, giving the consequences second helps them understand what’s expected of them.

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Tip #2: Make it fun! As stated above, I like to include them in the process. This helps eliminate challenging behavior from the get go. My girls LOVE going to the grocery store. It isn’t really a burden or “boring” for them because they get to be included in the process. Sometimes we play silly games by talking in funny voices, singing songs as we walk or playing “eye spy with my little eye”. Trying to make your grocery experience fun is not only more enjoyable for everyone, but it can also bring about great teaching moments as you talk about the groceries and items on the shelf.

Tip #3: When they are in the cart, or if you had to put them in the cart as a consequence of challenging behavior, grab a book for them to flip through. Honestly this has saved us numerous times! I’ll grab a book off of one of the shelves and they are instantly in heaven looking through a “new book” usually we don’t buy it. So in order to eliminate challenging behavior there, before I give it to them I tell them something like, “You can look at this book while we are shopping and then we have to put it back.” I will also reiterate this throughout our shopping trip so they are clear that we aren’t actually buying the book. Sometimes I offer this choice in the beginning of our shopping trip if I have enough room in the cart for them to lounge and read a book.

Hopefully these tips and suggestions can help you get more out of your shopping experience with your child. It truly can be something that is educational and fun if we take the opportunity to include them in the entire shopping process. Happy Shopping!