Wednesday, April 2, 2014

5 Tips for Keeping Kids Engaged While Grocery Shopping

We've gotten into the routine of going grocery shopping each Monday morning (Tuesday if life gets hectic, Wednesday if things reach 'epic meltdown' proportions).
So when I say that we went shopping on a Wednesday this week, you'll understand the crazy that I've been dealing with lately.

oh sure, they look cute now...

Shortly after my son (baby #2) was born, I realized that running errands could either be cause to turn into 'frazzled mom' (which can still happen even with careful planning) or a fun learning experience, depending on what we made it out to be.  So today I'm going to share my FIVE tips for keeping Littles engaged while grocery shopping.

1) Create a Plan of Attack

Now, I'll admit that I'm spoiled in this area because my husband manages the grocery store, so he knows exactly where everything is and can help me organize my shopping list.  Backtracking all the way back to the bakery to get bread when you're in the frozen aisle is a way of easting precious moments of Little's good mood.

I make a meal plan and grocery list, but then I take it a step further and organize the list by aisle and section.  That way I can get in and out of the store quickly if their moods take a nose dive.  This also helps save money and reduce impulse purchases.

In order to engage the kids using this tip I make it a point to tell Hannah what I'm looking for next, and explain what aisle we're in.  I explain that everything in this aisle is *frozen*, or that everything in this aisle is bread baked in an *oven*.  Her mind loves putting things in categories, and even when she was younger it was still a good excuse to talk to her and work on vocabulary.

2) Count With Me!

The grocery store is a great place to work on counting and math.
With babies you can simply count items out loud so they start to learn the sequence of 1-10.
Nowadays I ask Hannah to count how many bananas are in the bunch I handed her, and then ask 'how many more should we pick up so that we have ten bananas total?"  The same thing with canned foods or bags of apples.

As Littles get older you can start doing math with the price tags - either adding the price of 2 items together, multiplying the price by the number of items purchased, or calculating the price per ounce.

3) I Spy Scavenger Hunt

Again this can be modified for the child's age, but playing "I Spy with My Little Eye..." is a great way to keep Littles engaged while shopping.  From learning colors, finding something with a specific price, locating a label with a particular item on it (like a pizza on a jar of pizza sauce), or finding a hidden object (Christopher's store hides a stuffed beaver named Chip, and when a child finds it they get a bell rung in their honor and can pick out a lollipop).

4) Give Them Choices

As a mom I care what Hannah eats for breakfast, but I don't care what flavor she eats, so I give her the choice from a limited number of options.  For example - I'd like to buy some instant oatmeal for busy mornings, but I left Hannah choose if she'd rather have Brown Sugar or Blueberry flavor.  Same thing with waffles, cereal, and juices.  I also appeal to her proud big sister role and ask for her input on William's yogurt.  "Which flavor do you think William wants this week?"

5) Set Yourself Up for Success

Cranky, hungry, overtired children are not going to be engaged, happy grocery shoppers no matter what you do, so set yourself up for success:  Plan your trip around nap and meal times, but also take into account how busy the store will be.  Try to avoid peak shopping times when crowds can overwhelm children and long check out lines will test their patience.

Husband's Expert Advice:  Peak times vary by store, but are usually 11-1 and 3-6pm on weekdays (after school and work, yet before dinner time), Saturdays afternoon, and BY FAR the busiest time of the week at my store is 1-5pm on Sundays.
Throwing a bag of snacks in your diaper bag or heck, you're AT the grocery store, if things get hairy crack open the box of crackers in your cart.   And perhaps most importantly - make sure your children understand the expectation for their behavior.  If you want your preschooler to hold on to the cart, remind them before going in.  If Littles have a tendency to run away, grab things from shelves, or throw a tantrum when you won't buy them a Lunchable, remind them that that behavior is not acceptable today.  Doesn't mean it won't happen - Hannah has been put in time out while in her dad's store, trust me when I say that I'm not SuperMom - but at least everyone is reminded of their goal for the outing.

Happy Shopping!


  1. Does Chris work at a Grocery store? I guess I never thought about what he does. For some reason I thought he was in the same line of work as you were.

    1. Even in school we never studied similar fields. He thought he'd be a high school math teacher. While the summers off would be nice, I'm glad he went this direction instead. We could never have afforded for me to be a sahm on the local teacher's salary - which is a whole other rant about education.

  2. Carla!!! You are so good at organizing and getting things done!! And you always have things planned for the kids to do. We need to chat. How do you do it all? What is your schedule like? Do you have set days for certain

  3. Errands? And where do you get all your ideas for outings and activities for the kiddos?

  4. Give the kids their job appropriate depending on their age. You can ask a 3-5 year old kid to hold a gallon of milk or something light heavy. So they won’t trouble you much because they too involve in shopping with you.




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