Monday, August 11, 2014

Shopping with Kids Does Not Have to Be a Nightmare.

Here is how to turn shopping with kids into a fun way to teach them essential skills like budgeting, price comparison, reading ingredient labels, and writing.  Skills that parents try to teach as part of homework, but usually ends in frustration.

Success Depends on the Right Conditions for Teachable Moments
A teachable moment is when your child is receptive to learning. It is a profound understanding, which becomes a permanent skill because of that "A ha!" moment that we adults call an epiphany. In order to have these teachable moments, it is best to remove any irritating factors for your child. Is he tired, hungry, annoyed or overly hyper? Address these issues first, before you go shopping!

Make Your Shopping List. Keep control of your budget.
I like to start off doing this alone. Involving the kids at this point usually ends up with a much longer list.

Have the Kids Make a Shopping List. It’s a great way to practice writing.
From my shopping list that has been arranged into food groups, the kids get to pick a column of  items  that they copy to a list of their own.  I ask them to leave a line for the prices they will be filling in later. Items marked with a star have coupons that need to be used. Because it’s a specific brand of product they need to find, I give the kids bonus points for getting the exact item.  They can also accumulate points by writing down the right prices, how timely they are, for adding the prices up correctly, or any other criteria that teaches them the skill you want. I like to keep the reward to non-food items, like extra activities or privileges. If our treat pantry needs replenishing I will allow an extra treat of their choice at the end of shopping.

An Ounce of Prevention is a Pound of Cure. Be prepared to avoid unnecessary obstacles.
Getting the kids used to thinking ahead can be a challenge. With consistency it can be done, and over time it will become second nature to them.   Do you have your own shopping lists, pencil, and a quarter for their own shopping cart?
Talk about the rules of shopping with your kids.  If they are tuning you out, have them tell you the rules. Here are a few suggestions for you to consider.
  • No running with carts, inside voice ect.
  • Treats are the last item to be picked out, IF there is money left in the shopping budget. You would be amazed how it motivates them to look for sales and be frugal in their choices.
  • Compare the price of similar items. My rule of thumb is, pick the cheaper ones, except for food items.
  • Read the labels. My rule of thumb is, you do not pick an item if : the first three ingredients include glucose, fructose, sugar, or red food coloring.  With an autistic son and another with ADHD, consuming these items can be likened to a time bomb of irritable behaviour.
  • Learn the meaning of barcodes. Did you know that bar codes tell you where an item is from and if they have been genetically modified?  Even if you don’t support buying local items, the benefit of fresh produce vs shipped from around the world are eminently clear.   

Time to Add Up the Numbers.  A great way to teach math.
This is a bit time consuming, but it’s well worth the effort. Find a quiet spot in the store and have the kids add up the prices. If you have younger kids, ask them to count the number of items in their list, or get them to check off that they got everything.  Now that you have everyone’s totals, you can decide how much is left for treats or items the kids want vs need. My younger son often surprises me with picking fruits that are not on the usual shopping list. You would be amazed at what choices kids can come up with, if given the power of decision. On the days when they get out of hand and want to buy a whole candy display, I limit their choices to one candy and one healthy treat.

With a little preparation, communicating expectations clearly and consistent practice, it is possible to have a pleasant shopping experience with children. Like or Share if you agree. Thanks !

Edina Hodos