Let’s face it – when you’re a mum with young kids, grocery shopping alone is almost as good as a holiday! The freedom to stroll through the aisles at your own pace, with no one’s bladder but your own to hasten your stride. The blissful sound of silence as you don’t have to explain every item you put (or don’t put) in the trolley.
Ah, I feel relaxed just thinking about it!
But the reality is, our kids will be right there with us for most of our trips to the supermarket. And shopping with kids doesn’t have to be something we dread. In fact, it can actually be fun!
Benefits of shopping with our kids
Before I get into some tips, let’s talk about all the ways the weekly grocery shop benefits our kids.
- Socialisation. The supermarket is a great place to learn all sorts of social cues and character qualities. Patience, friendliness, being considerate – all these lessons richly await on your weekly grocery trip! Your child is watching and learning how you respond to someone pushing in front of you in the line. They hear you explain why they should walk close to you, to the left of the aisle, and why you don’t leave your trolley parked horizontally across the aisle.
- Life skills. Children learn important life skills at the supermarket like how to shop to a budget, basic maths skills and comparing the information on product labels. I can still remember following my mum around the grocery shop watching (and when I was old enough, helping) her add the price of each item into her little calculator, making sure that the total was in line with the weekly budget.
- Quality time. There’s a misconception that what’s really important in parenting is “quality time” – a specific chunk of time spent with one child doing an activity you both enjoy for the purpose of bonding. In all honesty, I’ve found that quantity time – no matter how mundane or boring the task – is just as important as quality time. Or to put it another way, none of the time we spend with our children has to be wasted. Even though doing the weekly shop is just another task to do, it’s precious relationship-building time.
Timing is everything
This one is so basic, I’m not sure it’s worth mentioning. Timing lays the foundation for a successful shopping trip, so I’ll mention it anyway.
If you have a toddler, don’t go to the supermarket right around nap time. They will be miserable and then you will be miserable.
On the other hand, with a newborn baby, going shopping at nap time can be a useful strategy! You can pop them in a baby carrier on your chest and let them sleep while you shop. Just make sure to do a feeding first.
Of course, sometimes you time everything perfectly, but because babies do what they want, you’ll still end up sitting on a wooden pallet in the special buys section of Aldi, breastfeeding your baby while hoping the toddler can’t reach anything from their seat in the shopping trolley (true story).
Talk about it
Whether you have babies, toddlers or big kids – talk about everything you’re doing at the shops! Tell them what you’re looking for on the two labels you’re comparing. Explain why you’re holding up that sweet potato and turning it over. Tell them which item you need to find next.
Talking through the process helps your child to engage with what’s going on and it also teaches them those life skills we talked about earlier. Just make sure you take a water bottle because your mouth will dry out with all that chatter!
Even with all the right timing and engaging your child in the process, it’s a good idea to pack some things for them to do. For older babies, a bright and fun (battery-less) toy would be a great option. For toddlers, you can pack a few little snacks and a sticker sheet with some paper. A whole apple can last quite a while! For older kids, you can write (or draw) them their own mini-list with things they need to find for you.
Practice makes permanent
As my birth instructor said, there’s no such thing as perfect, but when we practice the way we want things to go, it becomes ingrained and habitual.
Kids won’t automatically know how to behave at the supermarket, but they will learn if we teach them.
I’ve always found it helpful to do little behaviour drills in the car on the way to the shops. I ask my kids, “How do we behave at the shops?” At first, I would answer for them – “We stay close to Mummy, we don’t whine, we don’t touch anything unless asked” – but now they can answer me themselves. Then, when issues crop up during the shops, I can remind them “Is this how we behave at the shops?” Train your kids in how you want them to behave at the shops – don’t expect them to know this automatically!
Enjoy your child’s company. Teach them how to behave. Play to your strengths (and theirs). And see if grocery shopping with kids doesn’t get a whole lot more fun!