“Mommy, why do restaurants with chemicals in their food have playgrounds inside?”
What incredible insight from my four-year old!
The Walmart where we do most of our grocery shopping used to have a McDonald’s in it. As I narrated every single step on our weekly excursion, I would tell the girls, “And that’s a restaurant, but we don’t eat there.” One day, a couple of years ago, in response to the 1,438th question of the day, “Why don’t we eat there?” I replied flippantly, “Because they put chemicals in their food.”
That stuck with the girls, and they’ll often guess as we pass by certain brightly-colored restaurants, “Mommy, is that a restaurant that puts chemicals in its food?”
The girls know that Mommy and Daddy prefer to eat at non-chain restaurants, or one-of-a-kind, as they understand it. They love those restaurants, too. We only eat out about once a week, but that’s basically all they know.
Sure, they’re attracted to the play structures you can see through the front windows of many of those restaurants, but the girls know, “You can only play there if you eat there.” And then I reinforce, “We love to play at the park, right? We love fresh air!”
I loved seeing Baby A put two and two together yesterday with her question about playgrounds and chemicals. I added that those restaurants often give small toys with their food as a way of appealing to children.
My professional background is marketing. It’s been a great passion of mine since I was introduced to the academic subject as an undergrad. Over the past two or three years, I’ve delved into the subject from a new perspective…that of a parent.
I am fascinated – and admittedly often alarmed – by our consumer culture. My most recent read on the topic (thanks to a recommendation from Mama, Mama, Quite Contrary) was Buy,Buy Baby. I know the subject matter of the book backwards and forwards, and I was right in the middle of much of it during my last job. Still, it’s incredible to step back and think about the fine-oiled marketing MACHINES that are geared towards our children.
And…most psychologists agree that children can’t discern between fact and persuasion (in the form of advertising) until they are considerably older…around seven years old!
Yes, I’m trying to steer my girls to make good choices. And I think it’s equally important to try to help them understand the motivations behind some of the “not-so-good” choices…be it food or clothes or anti-wrinkle cream…that are available to them, too.