Grocery shopping with children is often challenging.
Items in stores are designed to make us want them. The store is full of sights, sounds and attractions that often look like a playground. Children can get over excited, misbehave and often want everything in sight. Parents, on the other hand, are often hurried and view shopping as a job to be done — the opposite of their child’s view.
Setting positive limits is important. Acknowledging that it’s hard not to want everything helps children cope when they can’t have it all.
Praise your children frequently for good behaviour. If you talk to your children about what is expected, you will let them know what behaviours you are looking for.
It’s hard for most children to stay in the cart for long periods. So whenever you can, give them a break and let them walk around. Older children can push the cart, take items off the shelf, hold coupons or unload the cart at checkout time.
Use the grocery store as a classroom. Count the number of items you need. Example, “please put five apples in the bag.” Find items based on color and size. “Can you find the bigger can of those green beans?” Use their senses. Let the children touch or smell fruit, vegetables, or other items in the cart. Have them look at pictures of food packages and guess what is inside.
Have your children make a list of all the foods your family likes for meals. Younger children can do this by cutting pictures out of store flyers. Your child can help choose a meal to serve during the week or ask her to choose a vegetable or fruit to serve at a meal.
When your child gets bored at the checkout counter:
• Play I spy and have your children guess what you see,
• Do quiet cheer games — spell the child’s name: “Give me an A, give me an N, Give me an N . . . .”
• Give older children a task at the checkout such as asking for paper or plastic bags, or giving coupons to the cashier.
• With babies, position them in the cart so they can see your face. Babies love focusing on faces — smile and laugh. Babies notice smells, textures and colours. They also can grasp things. Give them something safe to play with such as a toy from home or a safe food item. Point out the different sounds and voices.
• With toddlers, point out shapes. Invite your toddler to feel the skin of an apple or the cold milk container. Ask “How does it feel?” Enjoy the smells with your toddler. “Can you smell the bread baking? Do you like the smell of the cantaloupe?”
• When shopping, preschoolers can learn about colours. You can say “Point out the purple juice.” A preschooler can help you shop. Give them simple tasks such as “Pick out two lemons.”.
• School age children can read labels and compare healthy and nonhealthy items. An older child can help make a shopping list and cross off items.
I don’t know a parent who hasn’t struggled with their child’s behavior while shopping. You may find yourself in a position to help. Some helpful things you can say or do to calm the parent and support the child are:
“She seems to be trying your patience.”
“My child sometimes gets upset like that.”
“Children can wear you out, can’t they? Is there anything I can do to help?”
Sympathize with the parent, even if you just give a knowing glance or smile. Ask the parent’s permission to engage in a conversation with the child. Praise the parent and child at the first opportunity.
Positive Parenting appears every week in LIFE. This week’s column was written by Monique Nicholls, Building Incredible Babies program manager with Family Services of Central Alberta. Nicholls can be reached by calling 403-343-6400 or www.fsca.ca.