Until the girls were about three, I mostly did my grocery store trips with them in their stroller. The biggest trick to a smooth trip was to go at a time when they were content…not hungry or tired...and to try to make it as entertaining / educational as possible. I narrated our entire trip…sometimes to the chagrin of bystanders trying to concentrate on their grocery lists.
When the girls turned three, I decided they were growing too big for our out-and-about tandem stroller. I cautiously let them out…at first for very small trips…and it became a huge novelty to the girls. It was such a treat to them to push the cart. I continued to narrate…in a more interactive fashion…well, at least amid 1,012 reminders to “Help Mommy push!” and “Hands on the cart, please!”
Over the past couple of months, the girls have gotten less content with cart-pushing, and I’ve had to come up with some new tricks. It sometimes feels like a circus show (but I’ve decided that’s just part of life these days!), but we’ve been getting through the store pretty well most trips.
The girls have been shopping with me for a long time now, and they know the layout of the store we shop most often. I’ve been asking them, “B, the next item on the list is orange juice. Do you know where to find it?” The girls often surprise me…earlier in the week, B found our exact brand of juice (even though that’s not something the girls drink), and she accurately exclaimed, “This one has ‘some pulp’!”.
If the item isn’t too heavy, the girls are [more or less] tall enough to put it in the cart. I am even indoctrinating them into my system of putting cool things in one area of the cart, shelf-stable separate from that. That, of course, helps unloading the cart “in order”, which the girls are also learning to do. [A little OCD training never hurt anyone!]
The girls are pretty helpful through the store, and then they love the produce section. They enjoy getting the bags from the dispenser, and they help me pick our fruits and vegetables. If they do a good job, their big reward is getting to weigh something.
The most challenging part of grocery shopping is the check-out line. I’ve heard parents grumble all my life about the huge candy displays…and now I know why! It’s not that my girls ask to buy things…but it seems near IMPOSSIBLE for them to keep their hands to themselves…especially if there’s a longer wait.
I’ve started playing “I Spy” with them…”Can you find a picture of a cow?” As carefully as possible not to call attention to the inappropriate celebrity pictures, we’ll point out things on magazine covers. I’ve discovered the page number callouts are great for reinforcing number recognition. And we look at the price stickers, again for number recognition, and then we talk about what is more expensive and what is less expensive.
When the time comes, I give the girls one or two items to help unload to the belt, and then I ask them to come watch the cashier as she checks out our groceries. I sometimes give them each a coupon to hand over at the end of the transaction.
Grocery shopping with two four-year olds is definitely a full-contact sport. By the time we’re home, the last thing I want to do is unload the car and put things away...but at least we can make it home in one piece.
I feel like the girls are learning something, and having two “helpers” at least is physically less-demanding than pushing a double stroller and pulling the grocery cart. I admit, though…sometimes I long for the days of stroller confinement, particularly in the check-out line!