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Posted by: thepinetree on 04/25/2010 12:09 AM Updated by: thepinetree on 04/26/2010 10:26 PM
Expires: 01/01/2015 12:00 AM

The Kid Connection...Make Grocery Shopping with the Kids a Fun Experience ~by Stefanie Pechan

“Okay, breathe. I can do this”. I gave myself a pep-talk before entering the building. Job interview? Swimsuit shopping? Nope, grocery shopping—with the kids. Such a simple errand can be as coordinated as a precise military operation. Seriously. Before I go, I imagine the layout of the grocery store, know where I have to go for each item, and of course, know how many steps it takes to get to the restroom (I have potty trainers). I also know exactly how much time I have before my kids are “done”. If you see me speed walking through the aisles, you know why.....

Now, I could wait to go until my husband returned home, but I am stubborn and like to get things done during the day. Evenings are precious, as it means I actually have some quiet time. So I’ve thought about how I could make things easier, less stressful, and perhaps a bit more fun. The trick is to involve the kids as much as possible.

Start with a plan: Go after your children have eaten and are well rested. Discuss expectations, such as proximity (stay right next to me) and appropriate behavior. Children are more comfortable when they know what to expect.

It’s a family affair:
1.Give them their own grocery list. For younger ones, cut out pictures of food items and glue them to the paper. For emerging readers, short and simple words suffice. They will be proud to have their own list and excited to help! Plus, they have something to hold on to and will most likely keep their little hands occupied.
Teacher tip: The kids will love this because they are involved and have a job to do. Kids love to help, so take advantage of it. Academically speaking, this works on reading skills, even with just pictures. Children learn that the picture on the jar represents what is inside. The beginning stages of reading! They will also learn classification and categorization such as: eggs, yogurt, and milk are all in the dairy section. Apples, grapes, and broccoli are all in the produce section. Learning the concept that similar items are grouped together helps teach organizational skills.

2.Make a game out of it. For example, ask your children to find shapes, colors, sight words, etc. Play “I Spy”.

3.As you shop, talk to them about why you are choosing certain foods. They will learn why some foods are healthier than others (making good choices) and about how to compare similar items: (Brand A is more expensive than Brand B, so Mommy is choosing Brand B, because it saves money). You can also point out sale signs, identifying that a specific brand or item is on sale. For older children, have them estimate how much the total will be at checkout. Teacher tip: Grocery shopping with children gives them skills they will need for life. The more often they shop with you, the better it is for their development. School-aged children can sharpen a variety of skills from math and basic reading to making healthy food choices in the future.

4.Reward good behavior: No, not bribing them, but rewarding them (and yourself). Along the way, reinforce positive behavior with praise; “You’re doing such a great job!” or “Wow, what a wonderful helper you are!”
Also, let them choose their reward. For example, I allow my children to choose a treat item for after dinner. They absolutely love fruit, so strawberries and whipped cream is a popular request. Allowing them to have some input makes a huge difference. As a teacher, I am all for intrinsic motivation, but there are times that call for an actual tangible reward. The goal is to make this a fun and rewarding experience for all. Sometimes, Mommy needs a mocha and the kids need the popsicle, cookie, or playtime at the park. Do what works best for your family.

So, great ideas and all, but does this actually work? I put these ideas to the test yesterday afternoon. Now, I have three children under the age of four. Not the easiest situation, but doable. I gave my two older children each a list with 3 items (pictures glued to paper) and we actually did fairly well. Towards the end, my middle child was tired and made things a bit challenging, but overall, I think we did a good job. I had gone to two other places before this, so limiting the trip to just one place might have made things go more smoothly. I’ll try that next time. So, that being said, I hope you came away with some good ideas and hopefully, going grocery shopping with the kids in tow will be a more enjoyable experience.

The Kid Connection is a parenting column with a teacher's twist. Stefanie Pechan is a teacher, entrepreneur, and mommy to three busy and energetic little ones. She lives with her husband and children in Calaveras County.

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