Grocery shopping with children can be quite a task. It takes a while to get through the store, there are lots of temptations and distractions at their level and most times, not a lot of fun. There are several ways to increase the likelihood of a successful shopping trip.
The first line of defense is getting organized. Shop at the same store each time and build your list around the store layout. You might bring a snack along for your child or open a box of cereal or crackers that you plan to buy. An available snack might curb repeatedly asking for other foods.
The second is to have a way to contain them as needed. Of course this is for the little ones and includes a baby seat, a seat belt, space in the big cart or a drivers seat in the car carts.
The third way is to engage your children. Give them jobs and include them in the shopping process. Here is a list of several ways they can help by age:
One and Two Year Olds
- Okay, this age is probably too young to really be helpful, but for sure the grocery store provides a wealth of conversation starters and chances to encourage early speech. You can label the fruits and vegetables, discuss colors, and talk about cold vs. hot in various areas.
Three and Four Years Olds
- Children this age can start to make choices about which cereal or ice cream to pick. At this little age, it’s best to give them a choice of two per decision.
- They can count (with you and then independently) the number of apples into the bag or soup cans into the cart.
- They can find rhymes such as a fruit that rhymes with “bapples.”
- They can find flavors of yogurt based on the pictures.
Five, Six and Seven Year Olds
- As they are learning to read and write, children may be excited to help write, find and cross off the items on the list.
- They can weigh fruits and vegetables.
- They can help load and unload the cart.
- They can play Eye Spy to find foods on the list. You might describe, “I spy a fruit that is round and crispy, red, shiny and has a stem,” for apples or, “I spy a blue box with a happy tiger on the front,” for Frosted Flakes.
Eight, Nine and Ten Year Olds
- As they are a bit older, children might be interested in learning about nutrition labels.
- As math skills increase, they may be able to calculate the cost of fruits and vegetables by weight.
- They can manage the hand-held scanner if it’s available.
- They can push the cart.
- They can manage the coupons.
- To practice additional math skills, children can learn to comparison shop by comparing price per weight of different sizes. They can keep a tally of the total and calculate coupons and taxes.
- As you are comfortable, they can find items scattered across the store and bring them one at a time to the cart, OR take half the list and a second cart and meet you in the middle.
- Older kids might bring recipes they’d like to make and shop for them along side you.
At any age, give descriptive praise when they are successful. Say things like, “you got the apples in the bag, that was helpful!” or, “thanks for pushing the cart.” Please add your own ideas for getting through the grocery store below!