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Shopping Lessons

April 14, 2010

Last Summer when Monkey was 2.5 years old we made his first grocery shopping list. As much as I would have liked him to stay buckled into the cart I had to let him walk around. His brother was now a little over a year old and too big for me to carry around the store strapped to my body. Monkey was quite curious and tended to lag behind. It seemed that I had four options when it came to toting my kids around the store. Choice #1:  Pray that one of those two-seater monstrosity shopping carts were available and spend the entire trip breaking up kicking fights and crashing that beast into aisles. (I tried it once and vowed never to do it again.) Choice #2: Put Bruiser in the front seat and Monkey in the cart part where the groceries go. I tried this too. The chips got crushed, the bread was flat, I had to carry the eggs around in my hand and listen to Monkey whine that the milk and frozen vegetables were too cold. Choice #3: Bruiser sits in front and Monkey walks along side of me. This worked better than the first two, but Monkey would still dawdle. I was constantly prodding him to come along. I tried to have him help me put the stuff in the cart, but that wasn’t quite good enough. Choice #4: Let Monkey do the shopping on his “own.” I figured it was at least worth a try. He got a toy shopping cart for Christmas and some food stickers. I had been planning on doing this all along, but wasn’t sure if he would be ready to do it at 2.5 years old.

The night before we were to go shopping I made my list. I got an index card (I’ve since started digging through the recycling for cardboard pieces from cereal boxes and such) for his list. I wanted him to cross off the items just as I did, but knew paper would be too flimsy. The next morning I showed him what items we needed to buy and he made his “list.” More of a group, really. I tried real hard to choose one item from each aisle so he would stay focused the entire trip and not fill his cart all in the first few aisles.

I took along a clothes pin and when we got to the store, I clipped his list to the seat back of his shopping cart.

That way the list was right there in front of him the whole time so he always knew what he needed without stopping and fumbling with a piece of paper. I started drawing squares for him to place his stickers, so his lists would be a little more orderly. Here is a list from the fall.

Oh, and no we are not a fish stick family. Since he can’t read, I told him those were granola bars. =) Ditto for split pea soup (ICK!). It was just soup.

After laying down the rules of pushing your own cart. He was ready. The entire way to the store we talked about shopping by himself and went over the rules. Monkey does really well remembering things in groups of three’s so I never make rules any longer than that. Here was our rule set:

1- No crashing. Always steer nicely.

2- Only put things in your cart that are on your list. (Something that I stick to as well).

3- Stay with Mommy.

Here’s the camera phone picture I took of him in the store doing his thing. He needed constant reminding about the steering nicely part because he was too distracted with his list and what was in his cart to look up and watch where he was going. Overall, he did really well.

We shopped like that nearly every week through the summer and fall. I started to get weary of the constant reminding to watch where he was walking so I used the winter to take a break. I explained that it was too cold to bring his cart. He couldn’t push it in the snow or it would get yucky. He asked to bring his cart for about a month before he stopped asking. I still engaged him in our trips and turned his focus to observing other things in the store.

Now that it’s spring I’m getting ready to let him bring his own cart again. This time I think the biggest problem will be Bruiser’s jealousy. He’ll be two in a week and isn’t nearly obedient enough to push a cart of his own, but I know he will want too.

This morning I was cutting out some coupons and Monkey ran to get his own scissors. He told me that he needed coupons for Walmart too. I handed him the pages that I didn’t need and showed him how he needed to cut on the black dotted lines.

Bruiser kindly turned the light on for us. And then off. And on. And off. And then I yelled. And then I apologized for yelling, turned the light back on, and took the stool away from Bruiser.

Monkey’s doing a pretty good job with his scissor skills. I don’t think that Walmart will accept that coupon, but I’m sure it will work at our pretend grocery store at home!

Then, like he does so well, Monkey got distracted by the ad on the other side.

He was really getting into it when the phone rang. It was the Chief just calling to say hello.

It makes me smile when my kiddo is so proud of his accomplishments that he wants to tell someone. And it makes me smile when my preschooler is learning the life skills that his Mama is teaching him. And enjoying it along the way.

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