Kiersten Blanchard shares ideas and games to change your shopping experience into a time to teach and even have a little fun with your family’s littlest shopper.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when shopping with young children:
Plan ahead: Plan your trip before you get in your car. Make a shopping list and plan it so that you won’t have to walk in circles revisiting aisles multiple times. Let your child know what to expect. Will she get to ride in the truck cart? Does he get to choose a treat today? Talk about it before you go.
Choose the best time: Don’t go close to nap or meal time. Not only will your child be fussy and begging you for treats, but if (like me) you ever do a little emotional eating, you may end up with a lot more chocolate in your cart than you planned.
Get your child involved: Beside the games (below), allow your children to feel empowered by letting them make a few choices. Of course, I’m not talking about the cut of meat you’ll have for dinner. You choose the brand of pasta, let him choose the shape. You choose the brand of juice, let him choose the flavor. If your child helps choose the produce, he may be more inclined to try it at meal time.
Carry a bag of tricks: We are always prepared for the doctor’s office or a church meeting. The grocery store should be no different. If all other attempts at creative calming fail, have a quick treat and favorite toy on hand.
If you are desperate, hire a baby sitter: If you find yourself having to leave a cart of groceries because things have gotten out of hand, plan ahead next time and bring a baby sitter. Now your threats to leave them in the car can actually be carried out and your toddler will soon learn that walking around with mommy is a lot more fun than sitting cooped up in the car.
I Spy: This is a simple game that requires nothing from home. It can be as simple or complex as you’d like. Just find something on each aisle – something brown and boxed, something with an animal on it, or even mommy’s favorite fruit. After your item is guessed, let your child do the spying.
Hot/Cold: When you’re not in a rush, let your child help pick up the next item on your grocery list by directing her with “hot” and “cold” cues. The closer she gets, the hotter she gets, until her hot little hands can place the item in your cart.
Lost and Found: This game works best if your child has an older sibling shopping with you. The older child can choose an item from the aisle you are on and have the younger child try to find its place. Keep items generally simple, large, and at the eye level of the younger child.
Weigh Game: For the young child who is interested in numbers, take a few minutes and let her guess how much each produce item is going to weigh before you put it on the scale. For a younger child just ask which item will weigh the most.
Shake It Up: You will need one letter die (like from a Boggle or Scategories game) and one numbered die. Place both dice in a small container. I use small Ziploc storage containers. As you shop, your child shakes the container. Help him open it to reveal the letter and number. For example an “S” and 4 dots. Your child must them find four items that begin with “S” before rolling the dice again.
Speed Shopping: In this game, the pressure to hurry is on you. You will need to bring a timer from home. Teach your child how to use a simple timer. She then gets to start the timer each time the cart is stopped. Decide on an amount of time (the “treat time”) beforehand that if reached means she gets a treat of your choosing when you get home. Of course, if she wanders from the cart, the timer is reset to zero!
Grocery Store Bingo: There are many ways to play this game. Choose from pre-made cards you’ll find here that simply need to be printed and mounted on a clipboard with a pen. Or you can print out and laminate one of the reusable cards where you choose a new letter or color for each shopping trip. Don’t forget your dry-erase marker. With a little extra time, and a lot of fun, print out the blank bingo card and let your child go through the grocery ad with you while you make your list. He can cut out items (even those just on your list) and adhere them to his bingo card. When he spots them in the store 4 in a row means BINGO!
Be creative, and look at a shopping trip as another chance to spend some quality time with your child. To use Kiersten’s great ideas, you can print out the attached games by clicking HERE.