Do you cringe when you have to take your child with you to the store? Are you looking for ways to make shopping a more interactive experience? If so, I have some great ways to make shopping not only more enjoyable, but also an opportunity for learning!
Before you go:
1. Think about the timing…avoiding meal times or nap times to run that errand will help avoid melt-downs.
2. Discuss the rules in a positive and age-appropriate way (we are going to hold hands in the parking lot, stay with mommy, use your quiet voice, etc.). Notice this has a much nicer connotation than “No screaming in the store like last time” or “You are going to be in trouble if you don’t hold my hand.”. This way the expectations are known ahead of time. When you are in the store, you can also use the same wording as a reminder of the rules (i.e. “We need to hold hands.”)
3. Talk about their role. “You are my good helper,” “I really like it when you hold the bag for me while I put in the apples,” etc. Keep in mind their understanding level and make this appropriate to their skill level as well.
At the store:
1. Keep them a part of the trip. You may think…I just need to get in and out, and this is going to make the trip longer. However, by making it more enjoyable, you will avoid a tantrum that extends the trip. Have them help find items that they are familiar with (“Who can find the bananas?”). Have your child hold the bag while putting in pears. Count the pears as you are placing them in the bag. Describe the pears (green, hard, smooth, have a stem, fruit, etc.).
2. The packaged food section can be a challenge as it all tends to look the same. Here you can have your child help with some decisions (that you are comfortable giving him/her). Letting your child select between 2 cereal options or yogurt flavors does not add extras to your cart, rather it allows for some ownership of the shopping trip. Plus, selecting the yogurt flavor may make the child more interested in eating it at home. These options are also great to use when you want to encourage new or different food choices to add to your child’s diet.
3. You can play “I spy” with your child. There are always many different things to see in the store. Take turns as to who is guessing.
4. I also always pick up a sale paper at the entrance of the store to use if the child is getting bored with shopping. You can do many things with this depending on the age of the child. Naming the items in the paper, finding the items in the paper that you have put in your cart, finding items that begin with a certain letter, etc. Get creative!
I highly encourage including children in these trips when possible. Think of all of the new vocabulary items that await you at the store! Or the opportunity for your child to practice describing what he/she is seeing. Not only are these great ways to expand language and vocabulary, but they are also helping to develop pre-writing skills. You can incorporate math skills as well by counting the items as you put them in the shopping cart. Or, depending upon the age and ability of the child, simple addition and subtraction can be incorporated (“If we have 2 apples in the bag and add 1 more, how many apples will we have?”). Think of all the learning opportunities your child can have while at the same time making shopping an enjoyable experience for both of you!