Enjoy Trips to the Supermarket

With a little creativity, you and the kids will actually enjoy shopping for groceries.

By Jennifer Burstein


It’s time for the weekly trip to the supermarket. You can’t avoid it. Will the kids whine the whole time? Will you have to clean up an avalanche of canned foods? Will you find yourself in a mad dash for the parking lot, clutching a screaming child and leaving a half-filled cart in the frozen food aisle?

When you have to perform this weekly ritual with young children, what is a boring chore at other times can turn into an obstacle course with sound effects. And not the kind you or the kids enjoy.

Take heart. We have eight ideas to make the trip more interesting and fun for you and the kids.

Once you’re in the market, toddlers and preschool children can play games that don’t require reading. The supermarket provides a wonderful opportunity to teach counting, build vocabulary and learn opposites.

Count With Me: Have your child count the apples, bananas, soup cans or whatever you purchase that comes in multiple amounts. More advanced mathematicians can keep track of the number of items in the cart — and can help you decide if you qualify for the express checkout.

Name that Grocery: Show your child an item and ask him to name it. If he doesn’t know, tell him and try again next shopping trip. Let an older child use the scan wand and help stash the scanned food in a tote bag.

Bigger-Smaller/Heavier-Lighter: Show your child two things and ask her which is bigger or smaller. Slightly older kids are ready to determine what is heavier or lighter, and can even use the produce scale to find the correct answer.

Shopping List Cross Off: If you have a hand-written list, let your child cross off the items. Whether the list is hand written or on your hand-held devise, repeat the name each item you put in the cart and then help your kids sound it out on the list. Focus on the first letter and then each letter that follows. Remember that the shopping list has to be legible. For new readers it saves time if the list is in alphabetical order.

Stay on a Budget: Give your child a budget to buy snacks for the week and let him carry a smart phone or calculator to keep track of the costs. Show him how he can get a bigger bang for his buck. For example, if the budget is $5.00 and your son wants a $4.99 box of cereal, the budget is spent. However, if he buys the box that is on sale for $2.99, he can buy a carton of strawberries for $1.99. One important rule to this game is that parents can always say “no” to an item that does not fit into the household’s diet.

Recipe Round Up: With parental supervision, let your child choose a recipe that is age appropriate. Have her create a shopping list and stick to it when you shop. Guide her toward the most economic and nutritious choices and then, once at home, help her prepare the dish. Most kids love this idea and are excited about cooking for the family.

Dietary Detectives: Encourage your child to investigate the dietary information on boxes and cans and in doing so, help choose the most nutritious items. Focus on one concept at a time. For example, ask him to investigate sodium content one week, Vitamin C the next.

Enjoy these games or come up with some of your own. As long as they are age appropriate and flexible, they will make trips to the supermarket fun and educational. You may even start to look forward to this weekly task.

Jennifer Burstein is a freelance writer, mother, andaudiologist. She lives in Southern California. Her blog is jlnburstein.wordpress.com