The nice folks at our local Trader Joe's store know my crew of 4 kids by sight, and some by name. That's because they frequently come grocery shopping with me, and have been doing so practically since they were born.
Way back when, in a different city, I'd wear my oldest in a Bjorn and push the cart, or just push the stroller and fill the basket beneath. Next, I'd push the double stroller for the twins and have my then-2-year-old push the little cart, and fill both the stroller basket and the cart. At one point, I vaguely remember 3 small children pushing mini-carts and I'd push the youngest in her stroller. It was hard to miss us.
These trips to the grocery store certainly weren't relaxing ,but they did start to teach my kids about food from a pretty young age. They learned that food doesn't just appear in the kitchen, that there are lots and lots of choices to make, and they became actively involved in a discussion of why I might buy this and not that. Here are the top 4 reasons why (I think) grocery shopping is good for your kids:
- Exposure: My crew has routinely been exposed to just about every fruit and vegetable out there. They know that the produce aisle is filled with so much more than just apples, carrots, bananas, and strawberries. They've also learned that there are many different types and cuts of meat, milk, and just about everything else.
- Dialogue: When I select a certain type of bread or tortilla or cereal vs. another option, I'm often asked: Why did you pick that one? Grocery shopping with my kids provides a platform for discussion about why I make the food choices that I do. These choices are often based on the number and type of ingredients, and I have the opportunity to share my rationale with my kids.
- Choices: As we go up and down the aisle, my kids will often ask for a number of things that aren't on my list. They know that they can't have it all, so they have to pick what's most important to them.
- Independence: I feel like they're getting prepared for something they will have to do on their own someday. Now that the kids are getting bigger, they will often pick a few things off the list, pair up, and go get them for me. (Truthfully, they also want to spend less time grocery shopping!) And, they've recently experienced shopping on their own: I've given them a couple items we forgot on our main trip, and waited by the door while they get the items, pay on their own, and proudly report back to me!
It's not all roses. We've had tantrums, tipped carts, and sibling squabbles. But I do think the benefits outweigh the added chaos. It's pretty sweet when my kids will ask me if we can buy an extra melon or avocados, ingredients to make ice cream, or ask to eat a banana while walking through the store. I wish I had more pictures to share, but I'm pretty sure I had my hands full with the whole crew and photos were not at the top of my list. And the littlest one shown here was tube-fed until she was four. But I do think her exposure to so many food choices, even though she couldn't eat the traditional way, helped her become the wonderful eater she is today!