Written by Grand Rapids Tribal Early Childhood Specialist Kailey Cline
Whether you go to a big name store, small corner grocery, or farmers market, most of us spend time each week shopping for food. To those that have small children, this task may seem especially daunting. From aisle four meltdowns and tantrums to fear of being judged by other customers, there’s a lot of reasons parents are afraid to take their children along with them grocery shopping. Here are some reasons and benefits to bring the kids along, as well as some tips to help parents with the trip.
Wearing your baby in a carrier or wrap may allow for an easier shopping experience for both parent and child. Younger babies stay close to you and often coo or sleep through the trip, while older infants feel secure enough to take in their surroundings while close to their ultimate comfort – their parent!
This age is often closely connected with tantrums, but with a few techniques and some patience you can navigate the store with ease and reap the benefits. The places we buy food are full of learning opportunities, from pointing out colors and shapes to learning about other cultures and foods. If your child is at the inevitable “why” stage, this is the perfect opportunity to feed their growing curiosity. Allow them to gently touch produce with a unique textures or discover together what an ugly fruit is. Teaching children from a young age about healthy eating can be educational, delicious, habit forming and fun.
Older children may be able to help you locate items on your list. Try asking them to find you the blue box of whole grain crackers or help pick out three tomatoes. If you want to extend this experience further, help them create their own shopping list before leaving for the store by writing out the names of items needed and/or cutting out pictures from a shopping advertisement. Giving children a task and way to help often teaches them responsibility, self-care skills and entertains them.
So what do you do when encountering a tantrum?
First, take a deep breath and exhale! Remember, you are the adult but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Model for your child ways to deal with big emotions in the store and in every aspect of their lives. Young children are often powerless in decisions for their lives and they struggle with delaying gratification. For example, mention, “We are not buying this toy today, but we can come back when it’s your birthday next week.” Don’t give in to your child’s demands, you are the parent and you get to make the decision.
Get down to your child’s level, help them to calm down by breathing, hugs, or offering a comfort object and then give them a choice that you’re OK with. For instance, they can ride in the cart and read a book or walk beside the cart. Most people understand that young children are learning, so try not to worry about perceived judgmental stares. Opportunities like this help prepare your children for future conflicts they may encounter.
Final Note about Farmer’s Markets
If you have the opportunity to visit a local farmers market, do it! These often offer many locally grown healthy foods as well as arts and crafts. It’s an enjoyable experience for the whole family, and good for the surrounding community and local economy.