True, it's no trip to Disneyland, but taking your kids to the grocery store can be fun -- and educational. Try these tips the next time you're low on milk and bread.
Before you go
Create a just-for-kids project before you go. Whether you're making a lemonade stand, cutting stamps from potatoes or creating a shaving-cream sculpture, ask your child to add the necessary supplies to the grocery list. Looking for "his" special items will help keep interest high.
Plan ahead. Schedule your trip when everyone is well-rested. Also, try to eat a healthy snack before you go. It'll brighten everyone's moods and make that candy aisle a little bit more resistible. Didn't have time for a snack? Plan to make the grocery store's bakery your first stop and get bagels for everyone.
Ask questions. On the way to the store, talk about your grocery list. Ask younger children "what shape are oranges?" and "what color is a box of Cheerios?" Recognizing shapes, colors and logos can be a great pre-reading exercise.
At the store
Scout out the kid-size carts. Many stores now have carts sized just for the younger set. Your child will have fun adding "his" items to his own cart.
Make learning fun. Preschoolers love to match items with coupons. Once you're in the correct aisle, give your child a hint about where the item is. Older kids can help compare unit prices to find the best value. Show your child the price-per-pound (or other unit of measure) sticker on the shelf below each item and explain how he can use the information to find the best buy. Little ones also love to pull the service number at the deli counter.
Keep little hands busy. One mom I know made a "book" of foods for her toddler that they might see at the grocery store. She cut out photos of foods from magazines and inserted them into small Ziploc bags and stapled the ends together. She only allowed her child to use the book in the store while in the cart, so it made the book more special. Her daughter loved to point out the foods from the book as they walked through the store.
Try grocery store math lessons. Before you do your shopping get ideas for wonderful "math at the grocery store" lessons for kids in grades K through 4, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education.
Give your child choices. Asking "Should we get peas or green beans?" teaches decision-making skills and makes your child feel important.
Page 1 of 2 -- Find more ways to make grocery shopping a fun, educational experience for both you and your children on page 2
Ditch the cell phone. Make this a special time just for you and your child. Unless there's an emergency, phone calls can wait.
Use your senses. Younger kids are eager to learn about shapes, textures and smells. Let them help you fill a bag with apples. Teach them how to "thump" a cantaloupe and listen to the sound. Smell the lemons together. Encourage your child to use all her senses.
Have fun! Wave at babies in passing carts. Make up a song about bananas. With older kids, fun often equals challenge. Ask your child, "how many different vegetables can you name in one minute?" or "if you ran your own grocery store, what would you sell?"
Teach money management. You may want to allow an older child to spend a set amount of money on a treat. Learning to wisely spend a limited amount of money is a good lesson for every child. Or stop by the magazines and books and allow your child to choose an appropriate item.
Do your own comparison test. Buy two different brands of a particular item on your list (orange juice, yogurt, shampoo, etc.), and then ask each family member to rate both items. Older kids can even create a list of each product's good and not-so-good features. Before your next shopping trip, vote on the brand your family likes best.
Teach kindness. The grocery store is a great place to teach kids, simply by example, how to treat other people. Show little ones how to help others, especially seniors or those who may need extra assistance reaching something on a high shelf. Show them how you say "please" and "thank you" to bakery employees, deli workers and the cashier. Ask the produce manager for advice on picking a great watermelon. Smile at those around you. Your kids will, too.
Explore! Break out of that familiar bananas-apples-oranges rut and try a new-to-you fruit or veggie. Let the kids enjoy a taste-test session when you get home.
Play checkout line games. Play "I Spy" in the checkout line and have your child guess what you see. Find things that are green, are for eating, are not for eating, are in boxes, etc.
Back at home
Keep little hands busy. Even younger kids can help put away non-breakable items. For added fun, have them play "beat the clock" with a kitchen timer. By asking kids to put all the vegetables in a pile or stack all the paper products by the closet, you're teaching important concepts -- while giving yourself time to put the ice cream in the freezer.
Reward yourselves! Whether it's enjoying a cup of cocoa at the kitchen table, making a big pitcher of fresh lemonade or carving those potato stamps, take 15 minutes with your kids to unwind and say thanks for a job well done!
Page 2 of 2