I actually liked grocery shopping with kids when my girls were younger.
In fact, I liked errands in general because that would be the time of the day that I chose to interact with them the most. I found that the more attention I gave them when we were out, the more time they would give to myself when we were at home! And it was easier to engage them when we were out, because we were already doing something. At home I always had to come up with something to do. That’s harder!
The girls needed to know that I enjoyed being with them, and since we had to do errands anyway, I tried to turn them into “child-focused learning experiences”. It made it more fun for them, so that they didn’t whine or fuss as much, and it helped pass the time for me, too.
One of our favourite errands was grocery shopping. It gave me a chance to talk with them and laugh with them, while reinforcing whatever learning we were trying to do at home. Whether it was health, colours, reading, or counting, we did it in the grocery store.
Kids just want to know that you find them interesting and that you enjoy being with them. When we ignore them because we just want to get stuff done, they’re going to tend to be more whiny. It’s not that they’re being bad; it’s just that kids naturally send out “engagement” signals, like “do you want to interact with me?” It’s sort of like a game of catch; they throw, and they want us to catch and throw it back. When we don’t catch, but let the ball slide, then they’re going to keep throwing more and more aggressively.
I first wrote about this concept in my post on how to avoid temper tantrums. In that, I listed all kinds of ways to make grocery shopping more fun. It was a big hit, so I decided to expand it in a post for the awesome website Don’t Waste the Crumbs! I thought I’d share it here with you today.
After all, if you consider grocery shopping from a child’s point of view, it’s pretty boring. They’re stuck in a grocery cart and can’t move very much. There’s nothing to do. They’re surrounded by food they can’t eat. And so they get bored and grumpy and start acting out.
What’s the solution?
Keep kids engaged, and they just may find that grocery shopping can be fun! And by keeping kids engaged, you make it go faster for you, too.
My first line of attack when grocery shopping was to grab a banana or a dried fruit snack for each child and head to the express check out line. Then the kids would have something to eat while we shopped to stop the natural “gimme gimmes” that would start when surrounded by so much food. I’d stick the receipt in my pocket in case a staff member questioned me. (Bringing food from home is a bad idea; the staff may not believe that you didn’t pick it up there).
The rest of the plan is age-based. Here’s what to do to engage kids while grocery shopping:
Make Grocery Shopping with Kids More Fun For Everyone (Even You)
Engaging Babies: Keep Talking!
No matter what you’re doing, keep up a running commentary. “Mommy’s choosing grapes. See the grapes? Yummy!” All through the store, talk and make eye contact.
Babies may not understand what you’re saying, but they know you’re talking to them. Sure, shoppers may look at you strangely, but your baby knows you care.
Want to read the rest of the tips for toddlers, preschoolers, and even elementary aged kids? Just head on over to Don’t Waste the Crumbs and read about how to make grocery shopping fun for everyone!
But before I go today, I just want to reinforce how important this concept of interacting with our kids is. Interacting is not the same thing as touching them. You can carry your baby around all day, or even wear your baby, without actually interacting with your baby. Similarly, you can plunk a toddler down on your hip and go on with your day, but if you don’t stop and look that toddler in the eye and chat with the toddler, then he or she is going to feel ignored. So it’s not as much about touching your child–although touch is important–as it is about actually interacting with them. I think sometimes we feel that if we’re in the same room or we’re getting them dressed or giving them a bath we’re automatically interacting. But if we’re not talking or joking or tickling or something then we’re really not.
I hope that makes sense!
I’ve written more about how to interact with a toddler, and I hope that helps. Kids can really be quite fun, but if you don’t interact, I think parenting becomes boring. Don’t let that happen! Keep up a commentary with your kids, and you’ll find they will soak everything up.