Image: qmnonic/Creative CommonsGrocery shopping is not one of my favorite tasks despite the fact that my husband seems to think it is my version of a day at the spa because it takes me so long to accomplish on a typical Saturday afternoon.
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I generally leave the kids behind because well, you all know why. There is nothing fun about grocery shopping with your kids. However, yesterday I had no choice but to bring them with me on an after school shopping trip because we were desperately in need of a few things, and as we were checking out I thought to myself, "Grocery shopping is a really good thing for kids to do."
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Now, don't get me wrong, if you've got really little ones, by all means wait until your partner is home, hire a sitter, or beg your neighbors to watch them, but if you've got school-aged kids the grocery store is a place they should visit at least every once in a while because there are five great lessons they can learn while grabbing some fruit and water for the baseball team.
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1. Maneuvering in Crowded Places: While my six- and four-year-olds do argue over who is going to steer the shopping cart, and I'm on edge regardless of whichever one ends up winning that battle, it's important for kids to learn to really be aware of their surroundings and how their actions may affect other people. From paying attention as they come out of an aisle to be sure they don't crash into anyone to making sure they don't hit any store displays (easier said than done), it's a great way for them to practice navigating a public space that isn't primarily geared towards kids while operating a vehicle (well, at least to them it is).
2. Teaching Restraint: Most trips to the grocery store with kids involve the repeated asking of "Can we get that?" It's annoying and most of us would rather perform this task without that element so we leave the kids behind, but bringing them with us to a place where there are so many things they want reinforces that they really can't have everything (or anything) that they see and want if it's not on the shopping list. It's easy to cave to the kids in order to stop the whining, but the more we say "no" the more power it has and they learn to stop asking so incessantly.
3. Making Healthy Choices: The grocery store is a great place to teach your kids about the foods that go into their bodies and what the healthy choices are. My kids often ask for foods packaged with their favorite characters on the label or foods that other kids in school have, but that I don't want them to have. When we're at the grocery store and they ask for these things, it's easier to discuss with them why I don't want them having these foods and point out that there are healthier options next to those other ones. It also gives the kids the chance to make selections from the items that are Mom-approved which helps make them feel that they've got some control over what healthy options they choose. And you never know, they may really want to try pineapple, mango, or another item from the produce department that you hadn't considered buying for them.
4. Shopping Smart: The grocery store is a great place to teach your kids about getting the best value for your money and having them use their math skills in the real world. Analyzing the regular prices, sale prices, sizes and more will help them make smart decisions not only when shopping for food but whenever they are faced with a decision that requires some analysis.
5. It's a Life Skill: Have you ever met a college student who can't maneuver their way through a grocery store because their mother always did it for them? I have, and it's not pretty. The idea for this post struck me when my six-year-old pushed the cart into the checkout lane, reached across the belt for the divider to place between our groceries and the person ahead of us, and started unloading the contents of our cart onto the belt. He didn't need me to tell him what to do or to even ask him to do it, and I realized that at this young age, he's already developed a life skill. And while it may not seem like something that's very hard to learn, when you've seen adults that can barely navigate the process, you realize how important it is to teach it to your kids, and there is no reason to wait.
I still prefer to do most of my grocery shopping without the kids, but from time to time I'll take them with me and know that it's only to their benefit -- even if they don't get super sugar puffs for breakfast and I want to pull my hair out through the process.
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