Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Life is Learning...

Grocery shopping with multiple children in tow. That's enough to send shivers up your spine, right?

But, that's exactly what most of us have to do. I, too, am familiar with the stress of trying to get groceries while simultaneously breaking up arguments between siblings every two seconds. Except I've come up with a more creative way to do it that lessens the time it takes to shop, as well as eliminating the bickering between siblings almost entirely!

We are homeschoolers, and while we do use some textbooks in our school lessons with our children, we also firmly believe in teaching them some actual life skills any time the opportunity arises.

One way I have begun teaching these life skills to my older children is by bringing them to the grocery store with me, and then letting THEM do the shopping. By themselves. Yes, you read that right.

(My older kids are ages 8 & 11, although we've been doing this since last year.)

I start off at home by making up my grocery list. The kids help me plan a meal menu for the week, and then they look in the fridge and pantry to see what ingredients we already have, so we will know what items we will need to get at the store. (I oftentimes have to help them out a little by giving them prompts for the things they add to the menu... "What ingredients are needed to make blueberry muffins?" And if they've forgotten an ingredient, I prompt them again, "Do you think blueberry muffins would taste very good without sugar? Maybe we should add that to the list.", etc.)

Once we have all of our meals planned for the week, and listed all of the items that are needed, I get to work dividing up the Master List into shorter, more manageable lists that the kids can do. (I generally give each child a list of items I know they will be able to locate easily in the store, along with a couple of potentially difficult items to give them a bit of a challenge. Keep in mind that you might also need to add a description next to the items on the list to help them locate it more easily.
For example: Cottage Cheese -- (red tub labelled "small curd"), or Orange Juice -- ("Simply Orange" Pulp Free), etc.

Then, we go to the store, I give each of the kids their own shopping cart, and send them to get each of the items on their lists. 
***NOTE***  It would be much easier (and safer) to go to the store earlier in the day, when it is less likely to be crowded.

When looking for all of the items on their lists, there are times when one of the kids will come to me and tell me they can't find something.  As easy as it would be to tell them that they can find it on aisle 3, doing that isn't helping them with their problem solving skills.  So, even though it might require a little extra time and effort, it is much better in the long run for them to be able to figure it out on their own.  So, I prompt them again...  "This is chili powder.  It is used to *spice* up and flavor foods.  Where do you think it might be found, now that we know what it is used for?"  Hopefully, they will tell me that it should be in the spice aisle.  If not, I keep prompting until they answer their own question.

Occasionally, as part of their "challenging" list items, I will ask the children to get produce where they are required to stay within a certain weight limit.  For example:  Apples -- (Gala, no more than 3 lbs).  That way, they learn how to use the scale in the produce section of the store.
***NOTE***  For this type of item, I will have it on my Master List, and show the children how to choose "good" apples and to use the produce scale a few times before adding it to their lists and sending them off to figure it out on their own.

Now, I've told you what I do with my older kids, but what do I do with the littles during all of this?  Well, hopefully, Daddy is home and can keep them.  If not (which is more often the case), we just bring them with us and add them to our lesson.  Most of the time, while the older ones to go off to do their shopping on their own, I keep the littles with me while I get the items on my lists.  I include them, and help them to feel useful by asking them to put certain items into the cart ("I need 4 cans of these kidney beans.  Could you count 4 cans and put them in the cart for me?").  Since the littles love to help and feel "big", this often works out very well for us.  But sometimes, my littlest reeeeeally wants to go with her big sister, so I turn that into a teaching moment, too.

My oldest (R.) is 11, and my littlest (C.) is 2.  They have quite a bond, and C listens to her big sister very well.  Right now, R's "what I want to be when I grow up" choice is to become a wife and mom (makes me proud).  But, regardless of the career path she chooses, she will most likely also be married with children someday and will need to learn the skills involved to know how to handle grocery shopping with littles.  So, I allow R to take C in the cart with her as she does her grocery shopping.  If nothing else, it sure does open R's eyes to the constant "I want that's" that littles love to utter incessantly, and gives her some newfound respect for me when I have to hear that x4!  :o)

When everyone has finished getting all the items on their lists, we go together to the checkout lane.  However, I have each child empty their own carts onto the conveyor belt and the bagged items back into the cart (prompting them to be smart about how they reload the cart -- i.e.: being sure not to put canned goods on top of bread or eggs, etc).

Occasionally, I allow the children to take their carts to the "Self Check" lane, so they can learn how to do that as well.  They especially love that!  However, it does take a LOT longer, so we don't do that very often.  :o)

I cannot tell you how many times I have gotten compliments from people in the store who are utterly amazed that my children are capable of going grocery shopping at their young ages.  One day, I even had a cashier tell me that she didn't even know how to go grocery shopping until she was in college, and that it was such an embarrassing and frustrating experience, it made her wish someone had taken the time to teach her when she was young.  Overall, though, each person will need to evaluate their own children's maturity level and ability, and act accordingly.  I wouldn't send my 5 year old off on her own in the store, but as she gets more familiar with the way things work, I might send her off with her older sister.  That way, she gets to experience a little bit of independence from Mom, and begins to learn some important life skills.

Who knew going to the grocery store with kids could be so stress-free, educational, and FUN??? :o)


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