Kids and shopping do not go hand in hand. In fact, I’d say that after 23 years of raising my children it can be a recipe for disaster. However, even if you have available childcare, it’s important to bite the bullet and take them with you from time to time.
I raised my young kids in capital cities, so those high living costs meant babysitters were a luxury, and sometimes dad wasn’t back from work until late. But a family has to eat. So every time I went to the store I always had at least one kid in tow, and sometimes two or three.
It wasn’t always easy, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t resort to the occasional bribe. But we persevered and now, seeing my teens and 20-somethings in action, I’m really glad I did that because there’s so much to be gleaned from a simple shopping trip that we don’t really think about.
1It allows effective mirroring
Going shopping and getting kids involved allows them to mirror your behavior. It’s a practical educational experience that allows them to learn how to interact with strangers during both positive and negative experiences. From the friendly conversation with cashiers, to dealing with the occasional confrontation when people take their anger or fatigue out on others, children learn a lot from seeing the adults in their life handle social situations.
Being able to interact effectively is an essential life skill that will help a child’s independence and social awareness.
2It reinforces manners
Mirroring is one of the way kids develop manners. Today, people bemoan that youngsters don’t know how to be polite. In some respects they often do know, but they’re too preoccupied to offer a “please” or “thank you.” However, if you’re child is used to experiencing social interactions and witnessing manners, it becomes second nature to them.
3It teaches practical skills
My youngest child still loves to come shopping with me — and not just for the extra things he adds to the shopping cart. He’s a curious chap and enjoys being out and about and seeing what’s going on in the world.
Due to his love of grocery shopping, he’s picked up some nifty tips that will see him in good stead. He knows to put fragile things on top of heavy items, and packs refrigerated foods together. It might seem ridiculous, but not everybody is practical, and they certainly don’t teach this at school.
4It allows kids to appreciate your efforts
The other day my 22-year-old son came with me to do what I call a “big shop” with all the heavy liquids and bulky items that are a real pain to push in the cart. My son reached over and took the cart and was happy that he could help in such a tangible way. It’s something he hadn’t done for years since his younger siblings became my shopping companions, but he had a new-found appreciation of those full cupboards at home.
5It teaches them about finances
I always use shopping as a way to teach my kids about budgeting. Of course, when they were little this was kept super simple — they were given a small amount of money to spend. However, as they’ve grown older they’ve learned to bulk buy and check those special offers that aren’t always so special!
Shopping is just one of those regular activities that provide a rich learning experience for children. It’s equally important for them to learn other skills, such as ordering off a menu at a restaurant, traveling on public transportation, and preparing for a trip. While each child learns at a different rhythm, just remember that the more you involve them in these experiences, the more they’ll be prepared for the outside world when it’s time to leave the nest.