Going to the grocery store with children can be extremely frustrating. Keeping the trip short for younger children is a must, but there are some ways to help things go more smoothly by planning ahead. This may seem obvious, but bringing toys and a snack are great ways to occupy your child. If they are small enough to fit in one of those cars, let your child cruise around while munching on a favorite snack. Here are some ideas however if your child is older.
Set & Communicate the Rules Ahead of Time
Before going into the grocery store, tell your child what type of behavior you expect. I make sure to tell my girls prior to going inside that they must stay near me holding the cart at all times, and control the cart by not running into anyone/anything if they want to drive. If they don’t follow these rules then I say, “I’m sorry, it looks like you have chosen to ride in the cart today.” Then I have the offender ride inside my cart for the rest of the trip.
For older children this method of putting them in your cart will obviously not work, but you may consider doing a “practice run” to the store. Arrange for a friend or your spouse to be in the parking lot if you know that shopping is typically difficult. As soon as your child begins to have difficulties, call your friend and have them come and take your child home.
Turn Your Trip into a Learning Experience
Allowing your child to help you pick out the items you need and talking about the different reasons you are choosing certain items (price and nutritional values) are a great way to keep your child engaged during the trip. You may even give your child the list with a pen and have him/her cross off each item as he/she sees you put it in the cart.
Let Technology Lend a Helping Hand
For children with autism, or other challenges such as ADHD, you may try using social interaction or technology to help prepare your child for the trip.
You can take pictures from clip art or another picture program of the food items you plan to buy. Then allow your child to help you pick out the food items. Of course, this may be difficult if you have a lot of items to buy, so you may want to limit it to a certain number of items. Then, gradually work up to a longer trip. With devices such as the iPad, you can download apps that include grocery store item pictures and the child can find them first on the iPad and then in the store.
The more children are prepared and know what we expect of them, and what is happening next, the more likely they are to want to please. Most children feel more comfortable when they know the rules and the boundaries. Now that does not mean they will not try and push them, but they do appreciate knowing them because it provides a sense of security. And for mom, that security translates to sanity!
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