If you have kids and you take them grocery shopping, it can be the most exhausting part of your day. One child is not a big challenge, but add one or two more to the mix and trouble starts brewing even before you hit the free coffee machine at your store. Grocery stores try to cater to kids, using race car or plane carts so they can drive or offering cookies and balloons to keep them occupied. If you are like me, all these attempts to distract the kids and keep them quiet have become a boring task they expect. My two little ones want to walk around and fill the cart up with all kinds of goodies when I turn my back. I can’t tell you how much ketchup has ended up at the check out with me, thanks to a pretty sneaky 3-year-old. I have had to regroup and figure out what I can do to keep them involved and behaving all at the same time, so I can stick to the list and get everything I need without a major meltdown.
Many resources are available to you through some great websites which I will list. However, I want to encourage getting your kids interested in food and nutrition so I want to list some things I do with my kiddos to inspire you and have a great shopping experience without the exhaustion. I will caution you, this doesn’t mean they won’t have their sword fights with your french bread as you are trying to check out. Of course, this has never happened to me because my kids are perfectly behaved. 🙂
Before you shop:
1. Let your kids pick out a meal during the week.
Help them make a list. If they can read and write, let them read the recipe and write down the ingredients. If they are preschool age or younger, draw or print out pictures to paste on paper so they can search for the missing ingredients as you shop.
2. Let your kids pick out their lunch box items for the week.
Let them draw items they like on a paper plate. You can also use their play food and let them fill up their lunch box while asking them what foods they like to eat for meals and snacks. You can also let them use some items in your pantry to play “grocery shopping” and see what they pick out.
3. Have a theme night!
Cowboy dinners with barbecue and beans, tea party themes with sandwiches, royal banquets, and cartoon based themes are some basics. You can also use holidays and cultures (Italian night, Mexican, Chinese, etc) as themes. These can work well especially with older kids. They can research what the holiday or culture is about, shop for the food for the meal, give background on the food served and where it originates. It’s a history lesson for the whole family!
At the store:
1. Let the kids pick out the produce, hold the produce bags, and weigh the fruits and veggies.
This is a great teaching moment on colors, shapes, taste, nutrition, and math. It gives them a task and mom or dad a proud moment to see what your kids know.
2. Ask the produce managers or store employees about tasting a new fruit or vegetable if a sample table isn’t set up.
3. Go to the seafood department and look for the lobsters or fish.
If your store has live lobsters, see if they will pull one out for the kids to see. My kids love this! You can also talk about different types of fish present in the case.
4. In the aisles, let them help you get what you need.
If you have more than two kids, have them take turns. This promotes teamwork and sanity for mom or dad. Also, don’t freak out when your 2-year-old goes for the pasta sauce in the glass jars. Talk to them about the color and shape of the jar and what is in it while helping them hold it. A OMG experience can be a teaching moment!
5. Talk to them about the choices you made especially in the cereal aisle and why or why not you will/won’t buy a certain item. Even if they are little, if repeated, they will get it.
6. Play I Spy! It’s always a good standby.
Download recipes with and without Strawberry Shortcake and friends, online games for ages 2-5 and ages 6-8, activity sheets, coloring pages.
Supermarket scavenger hunt (Download)
Great downloads. Check out “All the colors of the supermarket” and “Kira’s Whole Grain Treasure Hunt” along with many others.
Cute games and Weis detective
Look under Learn by Doing and supermarket activity sheets. You can download charts your kids can fill out.
Grocery Store Literacy Activity Sheets by PBS Kids Raising Readers. You can download 8 activity sheets filled with all the fun PBS characters.
Great activities and coloring pages to download for free.