Do you dread going shopping with your preschooler? It doesn’t have to be a nightmare…although it does take some planning and prep work. Here are some ideas that may help you and your child enjoy future trips to the market and beyond!
- Talk with your child beforehand about where you will be going and what you will be doing. If your child helps you with meal preparation (which is an awesome way to build self-esteem: mixing, pouring, and measuring ingredients develops confidence and competence), you can discuss what items you will need to purchase. If your child feels involved in the process, he/she will be more likely to enjoy helping you find what is needed.
- Talk to your child while shopping, pointing out colors (how many different color apples do you see?), shapes (do you see the big round sign? what shape is the cereal box?), and other items of interest. Elicit responses from your child (how many pumpkins are on the shelf?).
- Prepare a small backpack or drawstring or canvas bag with: a small bag of a favorite dry cereal or homemade trail mix to munch on; a non-spill cup of water or juice; a few crayons and a notebook of blank paper; a small board book or small game with moving parts…but not removable pieces that might get lost. I don’t know why a lot of parents think a small child should be happy just sitting in the shopping cart, doing NOTHING, for a few minutes or, sometimes, a few hours.
- Oh yes, and on the subject of SHOPPING CARTS: if you are using one of the shopping carts provided by the store, please don’t forget to clean it out before putting your child in it. Many times a previous shopper has left used tissues or other items that you would not want your child touching.
- Carry some of those anti-bacterial wipes with you…although many stores are now providing them near the carts…so that you can wipe down the surfaces of the cart where your child might put his mouth or hands. You can purchase a ready-made shopping cart cover that fits into the seat area and covers all the surfaces and can be tossed in your washing machine.
- Make sure your child is seated securely and belted in.
- Please, please don’t allow an older brother or sister to pull or climb on the cart while the younger child (or baby) is in it…or even when it is empty. It is scary and dangerous for all concerned when a shopping cart tumbles over.
- It is hard to believe that I feel I have to mention this…but since I see it all the time in grocery and department stores, I guess I will have to: NEVER LEAVE YOUR CHILDREN UNATTENDED EVEN FOR ONE SECOND…BECAUSE THAT IS ALL THE TIME IT TAKES FOR THEM TO DISAPPEAR. The other day I was shopping and a little girl about 4 years old was wandering around, looking for her mother. I brought her to the service desk and they called the mother’s name over the intercom…no response! I asked the child what her mother was wearing and located the woman who was talking to her shopping companion and hadn’t even noticed that her child had disappeared for over five minutes. She thought someone else was watching her…the other person thought she was. So, even if your little one does not like to sit in the cart, unless you will constantly hold his/her hand, the cart is the safest place.
I hope with all those warnings, I haven’t made the thought of shopping with your preschooler even more onerous. It really can be a great fun-filled learning experience for your child…treasure every moment you have with him or her…even while shopping!
Here is a great trail mix recipe you can prepare with your child to keep on hand. Having a little bag of nutritious munchies may help keep your child from requesting the sugary candy bars and salty chips most stores display near the checkout counters.
CHILD-FRIENDLY TRAIL MIX
You will need: 1 cup unsalted peanuts or other nuts, 1 cup hulled sunflower seeds, 1 cup coconut flakes, 1 cup raisins, 1 cup dried fruit cut into small pieces, a large bowl and a package of zip-lock plastic bags.
- Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl.
- Store in an airtight container or large glass jar with a lid.
- Scoop out a small zip-lock bagful for your child when needed.
- Makes about 5 cups of trail mix.
- TIP: You can make an alternative trail mix for very young children who are not old enough to manage nuts and seeds or for those who have allergies. Combine several different types of dry cereals, rounds of Melba toast, and pieces of zwieback. Your little ones will enjoy the different shapes and tastes and will be occupied while you shop.
Amanda Rock, the parenting preschoolers guide at about.com, has a lot more suggestions on this topic: http://preschoolers.about.com/od/foodnutrition/a/grocerystore.htm?nl=1