If your kids are anything like my two year old, then you know how much they love, and sometimes hate, the grocery store. It’s a necessary evil that we have to bring them along when we need to do the weekly -cough daily cough- grocery store run. They do or don’t sit in the cart, they do or don’t want a piece of cheese, they’re happy to sit or they aren’t. Most times for us, it’s a crap shoot. L NEVER lets Daddy touch “her cart”. She has to get the “right” piece of cheese (Meunster pleeeease!). She needs the cart with the “blue race car”. Honestly, it’s kind of hell-ish if you would please pardon my french. Throw an infant into that mix and sometimes it just becomes impossible.
But “going to the grocery store” at home- now that’s a totally different story. While you may not get everything on your Mommy list, this is a guaranteed success every time.
Pull out a bench or some chairs, or even use a long stretch of floor or hallway, and get to work setting out all of your kiddos play food. If you don’t have play food, make your own! Save all the “boxed” food items that you use in your own cooking- cereal boxes, pasta boxes, dog treat boxes, puffs containers, baby food jars, rinsed out yogurt cups, rinsed out berry boxes, clementine cartons- that sort of thing. Please don’t use open cans, or heavy cans. Nothing good can come of metal cans and toddler hands. Just sayin’.
We happen to have an awesome magnetic chalkboard under our kitchen counter that my husband made for L. It’s the perfect place for our grocery store because I can draw up a custom billboard each time.
Today, in light of my excitement over the new Whole Foods opening up near my house (May 2nd, hooray hooray!), L and I set up “Mini Whole Foods” in the kitchen. L has been into shapes and counting lately so I drew her up all the simple shapes and a set of big numbers for us to practice counting as she “shops”.
We conveniently have two shopping carts but you could use plastic grocery bags, handle shopping bags, reusable bags, even a little handled cooler- whatever you have really- for your child’s shopping “vessels”. Let them fill up their bags. Talk about what they like to eat, what food is yummy (push the healthy stuff!), what food is for breakfast, what food we eat for dinner, what Daddy’s favorite food is. Engage them in all the things we love about food. Help them understand the big picture.
At the end of our grocery store is the checkout as is the norm in a real grocery store. This is an area we struggle with in the real world. L cannot understand that we need to put our food on the belt, pay for it, bag it, THEN get it back in our cart. She always thinks the cashier is “taking L’s food” and has full scale meltdowns until we get the food back into our cart. We’re working on it. She’ll get there.
I’ve started collecting old wallets, junky purses, anything L might like to play pretend with and what handy items to pull out for our grocery store! In her purse, she keeps her “money”- paper money and plastic coins, and her cherished “ID” that is really an old, expired license of her Dad’s that I gave her to keep. It’s precious how much she likes that ID. She kisses the picture of B every time she sees it and it just melts my heart! *Note- some of these items I keep hidden until we do things like this so that they seem new and exciting to her each time she sees them. We’re going for maximum entertainment here people!
Once our shopping trip was complete, we did the only next logical step in the process and “went home” to “cook our dinner” in L’s play kitchen.
Let me just tell you, this activity occupied L longer than anything else we do on a day to day basis. She loves every part of it, start to finish, and really seems to be understanding and learning all that we are discussing. And just think about how much kids learn from playing pretend like this. Depending on what you chose to discuss with your child, they are learning endless food vocabulary and identification, what food is good for our bodies, where food belongs- fridge, pantry, freezer- shapes, counting, that “shopping” requires money, that shopping and cooking can be fun parts of our day. They are learning something about mealtime and where our food comes from. I love seeing her make all of these connections!
*New thought- you could also make a “grocery store” with real food and let your kids “shop” for their own lunch (of course you make this practical by only supplying your grocery store with foods you are ok with your kids eating for lunch). They can use plastic baggies or containers to pick out their food, checkout and dig in! Maybe I’ll try that when L is a bit older…
How do your kids fair at the grocery store? I’d love to hear about it!