Monday, December 20, 2010

Shopping with Kids

I don't know about you, but my list of errands about doubled this week. Extra shopping for gifts, special meals, parties, and trips to the post office mean more times out and about with kids in tow. I am fortunate that my husband works from home a couple of days a week, so if I time things properly I can run my errands while the little ones are having their afternoon nap, but there are days like today when I have several errands to run and I need to bring all of the kids with me. Over the last couple of years I've developed a method for keeping the chaos of these trips to a bearable level. I thought I'd share them here today just in time for the last minute holiday madness.

First, I think the most important thing is to know your kids' limits. I did three errands today, but two of them were short and within walking distance of each other. This minimized the number of trips in and out of the car and also provided some opportunity for linear movement (walking with a purpose). The other errand was a little on the long side, so I pulled out some extra ammunition (see below). I know which shopping cart my kids prefer, who likes to sit where, etc. Knowing all of these details helps me plan the trip and keep things positive, which is the overarching goal.

Second, you must be calm and organized. This is not the time to wander through the store tossing things into your basket randomly or pausing for several minutes to decide which pasta sauce you want this week. Make a list. Check it twice. Moving quickly but efficiently will help your kids stay nice. I actually have a road map that I follow through the store - starting at the produce, working my way through the middle aisles, stopping at the meat counter, then hitting the dairy and bread aisle before check out. My kids know this pattern, so they know when we get to the dairy aisle that we're almost done. The routine keeps us all on task. I even mark the items on my list according to which section they're in so before I leave each section I'm sure I've gotten everything from there.

Third, expect it to take longer and expect your children to get bored. When I am able to shop solo I can get in and out of the store with a whole week's worth of groceries in less than 45 minutes (if I have to) but that same list takes me well over an hour with the kids in tow. The cart we use is bigger and harder to steer. There are pauses to visit the bathroom or to issue reminders. It is just slower, and I think that is fine in some ways. The slow but steady pace can keep everyone more regulated. However, it's good to plan some distractions along the way to make the time pass. I bring a little snack from home for everyone. Everyone can choose a small toy to bring along. Our grocery store has "kiddie carts" with a car at the front that two kids can sit in - each with their OWN steering wheel. We rearrange seating sometimes so all three kids can have a turn "driving". I offer my older daughter the opportunity to help by choosing fruits or vegetables, crossing things off the list, putting produce in bags, or doing some heavy work by putting jugs of milk or juice in the cart. This all keeps her engaged, busy, and regulated.

Fourth, I am not above a PROPERLY executed bribe. I know if my grocery list has more than 30 items on it that it's going to be challenging to keep the kids all behaving well the whole time without some reward in sight. So, before we leave the house I choose a small treat (today it was one chocolate kiss per child) and hide it in my purse. Then I prime the kids: "We need to go to the meat market, the post office, and the grocery store. It might be a long trip. If you can follow our rules the whole time that we are gone I have a little treat for you." It's important that the expectations are made clear when the reward is offered...this is TOTALLY different than offering a kid a treat in the middle of a meltdown to try to get them back on track. Using treats to re-regulate from the middle of a tantrum just reinforces negative behavior. Using treats to reward good behavior when that is what has been promised builds trust, keeps positive behavior as the goal, and rewards children for reaching our expectations. I also reserve this tool for those particularly challenging errands like today when my grocery list was almost half again its usual length.

I'd love to hear any additional ideas you use when shopping with your kids. I still have several shopping trips to go this week...


Blind Conformity said...

I let the kids choose a book from the shelf to looks at when we go to Costco. They sit in the overly large cart and can quietly look at a book. I don't buy it, but it keeps the peace.

I would love if you wrote something on sibling rivalry. That seems to be our biggest problem right now!

KDL said...

If I ever figure out what to do about sibling rivalry I'll write a book :-)...I will keep this in mind, though for future posts...I'll have to collect my thoughts and it may be more of a solicitation for input than my own ideas.

I hope someday my kids are all avid readers so that the book thing will work for them. I know it would have been golden for my brother and I - except we would have wanted to buy the book.

Blind Conformity said...

Well right now they can really only look at the books. Our oldest is getting better at reading, but our youngest is not even remotely close. They just love holding the new books and looking at the pictures. My hopes for them is this fosters a general interest in reading, as well as, keep them quiet. The only reason they don't ask for them is that I have established it as a routine to not ever take them home.

Hope your winter break is going well!


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