When was the last time you enjoyed taking your young children shopping? The day before never? Little kids are just not “wired” for this mundane activity. You have them strapped into a shopping cart, facing you, and expect them to sit quietly and not whine when you aren’t entertaining them?
Now I know there are a handful of “super parents” who have perfect babies – cooing and smiling and allowing you to do price comparisons and sorting of coupons – this, however, is not the norm. A parent needs to prepare their young child for what is going to happen, how long they will be away from home, and how you expect them to keep safe.
The Nemours Foundation suggests “setting rules about (your child’s) behavior before you go.” Trying to establish rules at the market is not the best place to get your child to focus on your instructions. There are too many distractions for the child to participate in a successful errand.
Distraction Activities for Developmental Stages
Infants – a full tummy and dry diaper before the errand are necessary. If you can get the baby carrier into the large portion of the cart with a sleeping baby, you are as good as gold. Granted you don’t have much room for groceries, but there are too many accidents of carts folding up, tipping over, and/or infant carriers falling off the front portion of the shopping cart.
Toddlers – avoid taking them if at all possible. Seriously, if you have to bring your toddler, make sure you follow the full tummy and dry diaper advice from above. (Actually, don’t we all do better at the store with a full stomach and empty bladder?) Make sure to have your child belted securely into the cart. One quick turn of your head and they will try to make a break for the fruit snacks. If they are continually impatient or fussy, pull out the sippy cup and your previously prepared container of Goldfish crackers – it has always worked for me.
Preschoolers – this age group is easier to take to the market. Most of them enjoy being a helper and playing games. At the grocery, you can have them locate certain fruits and vegetables. A game of “I Spy” works well in the inner aisles, and having them find colors and shapes, can help them focus and keep happy. Educating your child instead of having to say “No!” the entire trip can be fun and stimulating.
However, when you get to the checkout aisle, preschoolers are usually ready to bolt out the door. I have my girls take turns placing items on the conveyor belt, so they are not touching all of the candy in the display on the other side. Works for me!
All children (humans) appreciate praise. When you are leaving the grocery store, make sure to thank your child for their assistance and/or their good behavior during the errand. Making them feel as if you couldn’t have done the job as successfully without their help or company will make the trip a positive experience for your kid.
Also, if you would rather bang your head against the wall instead of take your child to the market, you can always try to get a sitter, your spouse, a family member, or another struggling parent to watch your kid while you go alone. I promise it gets easier as they get older!
Source: HealthDay News (NIH) – November 1, 2010
Previously published on Associated Content on Yahoo! on 11.21.10: by Stacey Hatton, RN