Grocery Shopping with Kids

September 15, 2011 by  

How To Make It A Learning Experience

I am sure we have all been there…. cart is almost full and the tantrum of all times happens because you said no to a package of cookies.  You have a screaming kid in your cart, walking beside you on the floor or possibly by this time; laying on the floor kicking their feet!

grocery store

What’s a mom to do?  Do you just keep going while they are pitching their fit in the cart or do you ignore them and walk to the next aisle hoping they stop and get up to follow?  Do you spank them and have everyone think you are a child abuser and glare at you threatening to call child services?  Do you try to talk to them reasonably, hoping they can hear you over their screams? Or do you pick them up, grab your purse and leave you cart and go home?

Ok… next case scenario –  You are trying to shop and keep your kids near you as they are running up and down the aisles playing games with each other, making noise and not listening to you at all.

I’m sure there are very very few moms who have not had to deal with these dilemmas.  I’ve been there…. believe me!

There are a couple suggestions I can give you before things get to this point.  (Read at the bottom if you want to know how I would personally handle the above situations – but not everyone will agree)

My thoughts are that kids are bored, they want your attention and right now that grocery list, cart and mission of getting in and out of that store are main things on your mind; and they don’t have your full attention.   They want to be a part of the mission.

So – make them a part of it.

I started this with my kids and have carried it on more with the triplets.  I met Dave when the triplets were three and half years old.

Make a Shopping List for Them

Make them your grocery helpers.  Make a list for them and let them help you shop.  It can be done at most ages.

Toddles – Preschool

They can be young this young.  They don’t have to know how to read.  When they are that young, draw pictures after the word.  Write “Bananas” and then draw a banana.  Just put two or three things on their list.  Explain to them what they are looking for and they let them know they have to help you find them.   When you do find the item, let them get out of the cart to get the item off the shelf.  Help them put the item in the cart and explain they have to get back into the cart before you can go to look for the next item on the list.

Kindergarten – 2rd Grade 

Put 3-5 items on their list.  Print the words and the kids have to first sound out what the word is.  We usually did this in the car on the way to the store.  So now they are also learning how to read.  Let them carry their own list and a pencil so they can mark off the item on their list once they find it.  Again, let them pick out the item and place in their cart.  You can also start teaching them about finding the best deal.  Show them the prices and help explain how to read them. Help to show them which is more or less expensive and let them know why you are picking the item you are picking.

3rd – 4th Grade 

You can add a few more items on their list by now.  They should be doing more reading and sound be able to sound out and read the items themselves.  Continue to work on helping them understand the math involved in grocery shopping.  “Which is the better deal Alex? The gallon of milk that cost $4.00 or the half gallons that are on sale for $1.50 each?  You can also start teaching them about coupons and how they work.

5th-6th Grade 

You can easily give them up to about ten items on their lists now.  Let them write their lists as you rattle off what each of them will get. I normally have my full list written and then pull off items that I know are a little easier to find or items that I know won’t be too confusing for them.   You can give them a couple coupons to go with their items, and also tell them to look for the best deal.  They would come back to me and ask at times, telling me the store brand vs. name brand prices if they weren’t sure. We would figure out the math problem together and I would make them solve it.  LOL.. we were doing this one time this summer, over an item and the man beside us looked at the kids and said, “Schools already in session huh kids?”  They laughed, but they don’t look at it in a negative way. They think it is fun.
The triplets have been doing this since they were three (at least when they shop with me.  We have heard from people who work at our small town store that when they are with their mom, they don’t behave real well for her, and they are different kids when they are with their Dad and me. By the way – she does not do this with them at all.)  Since they know how to behave in the store (with us) I full trust them with their own carts and lists and they can go on their own.  They know if there is any messing around or running of any kind in the store they lose the privilege of getting to do this. (I have no issues.. they love helping)

The other day we went in and the triplets had their own carts (pics I took as we were walking into the store.) and I had my own cart and list.  We ended up spending almost $150 in groceries (we needed a lot, my boys were coming to visit) but we were in and out of that store in about 25 minutes! It was awesome!

Older + 

Just keep increasing responsibility and math skills, using coupons etc..

Can I tell you this will solve all your problems in the store. No…. but if you give it a chance and try it several times, you might find that it will help.  Oh… and especially when they are younger and you are making out their lists.  Try to find things spaced at beginning, middle & end of the store. If they have all three items in the first aisle.. you might be in for a bit of trouble again as they get bored.

I’d love to know how it goes if you try it. Remember it might take a few times before they will respond.

Ok.. now for my personal solutions for taking care of the tantrums in the stores.  

Let me first say that I hate to see parents bribe their kids to behave. “I’ll get you a treat when we get to check out if you behave.” What I SO often see (and I saw this all the time as a pediatric nurse) was the kids acted like hellians and mom still gives them the treat at the end because she is more afraid of the next tantrum that will ensure if she says “No”.

I would sometimes get my kids a treat at the bakery or register if they were good, but that decision came at the end, by me… not used at the beginning of the trip as “incentive” to make them behave.  But I certainly would never “reward” poor behavior.

I use a point system.  The kids will get a point for poor behavior. But they can then lose those points for good behavior as you go on with your store visit.  Each point can be whatever you choose it to be. When my four boys were young, it was spankings when we got home.  I’m sure many of you aren’t advocates of that… and that is fine. That is your choice.  This was mine.  (By the way, I don’t think any of my kids ever had to get more than one spanking by the time we got home, because they would be good and lose the points if they earned them) .

For the triplets, since they are my step children, I have never spanked them and never will.  Dave has only spanked them a couple times since I’ve known him and that was for very serious issues.  He only has to raise his voice and that is enough for them to behave. But I have sent them to their rooms for misbehavior. I don’t put up with it.

I also use the 1-2-3 method for discipline.  With my older boys if I said the number three… it meant a spanking.  With the triplets I haven’t used this as much, but it would mean time in their room.

It is funny, I was out to dinner this weekend with three of my four older boys (two in from out of town) and we were all cracking up. I forget what they were doing, but I asked them to stop and they kept up (joking around… nothing bad.. I was cracking up too). Then I said.. ok…  “One…. Two…  ”  and they immediately stopped and said…”On No.. Mom is counting!”  and of course we all cracked up again.





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5 Responses to “Grocery Shopping with Kids”
  1. When my kids were young, they used to make a game out of organizing the candy displays at the check out. The different types of bars were always in the wrong places, so they would put them back where they belonged. For some odd reason buying them never even came up! It took just about the same amount of time that it took to check out – so it worked fine. And they were doing a good deed too!

  2. Kaylen says:

    The toddler-preschool suggestion has me laughing – you assume that the child will actually want to participate in such things. And that you can convince them to stand still long enough to explain it to them. My toddler has zero intention of participating in any game that is of Mommy’s suggestion, because he is in total defiance mode.

    It also sounds like you are supposed to take them in and out of the cart every time they are to look for something on their list? How on earth do you get your kids to agree to that? Once my toddler is out of the cart, you’d better be ready for a wrestling match to get him back in. Can’t say I desire to repeat that more than once at the store.

  3. Sandy says:

    When my kids were that young they would walk and hold on to the cart if they were out. If they didn’t want to participate or wouldn’t stay with me, they got to sit in the cart. They can still help, you can hand them the items and let them put them in the back of the cart.
    It might not work for all… but it has helped bunches with mine. My oldest 4 (3 of them out of the house) all have ADHD .. so I know hyper, don’t get me wrong. But having things to help occupy them and letting them be part of the process… can help.

  4. NCN says:

    I do most of the grocery shopping for our household – because my work schedule us much more flexible than my wife’s – and I often have one of our three kids with us. I’ve been taking them since they were babies, and I always involve them. Honestly, I’ve never really had to deal w/ much defiance or fussing, as long as I give them a “project” or two, both before we arrive and during the trip through the isles. For little kids, I always put them in the top of the cart, and just talk to them during the whole trip. Face-to-face, they feel grown up, and they feel like they are as important to the trip as I am. Also, when applicable, I’ll give them a “choice” (always between 2 products that I was going to buy 1 of anyway) – this, again, makes them feel involved. The older two, they get to help w/ pushing the cart, swiping products at the self-checkout, and even handling cash for the payment. Oh, also, when we get home, everyone (even our 3 year old) has to help “put up” the groceries. The key is not to stress, plan ahead, and have a few extra minutes for just hanging out.

  5. Sandy says:

    See? You totally get it. It can make all the difference in the world to involve them! Thanks so much for your input and more suggestions.

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