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Parenting Tip of the Month
By Heather Totten

Braving Shopping With Kids

Many women I know can't believe I take all the kids to the grocery store. I rarely go alone. They wonder how I pile in the groceries, remember what I am there to pick up, how I do it without fits or the 'gimmies' (aka. "I want that . . . "), and how I don't lose any kids in the meantime.

First of all, I go to the grocery with the kids because I like to shop in the middle of the day when very few people are out. This is also a more patient time for other people too. The stores are emptier and those out shopping find it fun to watch me with all the kids. I find that shopping with all the kids when others are rushing on their way home from work to pick up a few items is a lot more hectic. The entire atmosphere is more rushed. I feel it, the kids feel it, and we all get irritable. I also like to shop in the middle of the day because my husband is working. This way, when he gets home we can play as a family. Yes, there are days when he walks in that I have to walk out to take some time out. But it is not time I have to take up shopping.

So, how do I do it? Shopping with one was not hard for me, but I remember being more nervous about him wanting to nurse in the store. So to avoid that situation I made sure to feed him and then go. I left him in the pumpkin car seat and placed him in the basket of the cart. You have to be creative to how much you buy and place it around the seat. Soon he was old enough to ride in the seat of the cart and sit up which made it a lot easier.

When shopping with two, I put Maria in the pumpkin seat in the cart and Alex rode in the seat of the cart. I either dragged a cart along behind me or I placed the groceries around Maria and under the cart. Once she could sit up, I let Alex walk (aggh! - one is loose) and put Maria in the seat. Now, to keep Alex close we had a rule that he had to hold onto the cart. If he held on he could help with picking out the groceries. He liked that idea and stayed close. While in the store we learned many things; we looked at colors, shapes, letters, words, recognized familiar products, learned about fruits and veggies, and lots of other things. This kept him busy and not begging for junk. This is also where I taught the kids that junk food is just that - junk. Of course we buy the occasional chips and donuts, but mostly we try to make much better choices for food and I allow them to help make those choices. Just the other day we picked out yogurt raisins as a snack. The kids always love picking out things to eat and their choices are usually very healthy.

In taking three to the store, I begin the same way as two and then when the baby is big enough so that she can sit in the seat of the cart I release two into the store. Remember I've taught one already, so the second one usually will follow the first. With four children, you have three loose. And finally I am now shopping with five. I do have one who is big enough and responsible enough to push a cart, so Alex gets one cart while I have the other with the baby and the 17 month old (who I could not release yet). The rest walk and put groceries in while he and I push carts. We make it a game and have fun. This is another reason I like to shop in the middle of the day. We don't have a time frame and just take our time. They don't run away because they want to participate in grabbing things from the shelves for me or participating in choosing healthy snacks or dinners.

So my biggest advice is to enjoy yourself and your kids. Don't structure it so much that you find it a chore. We all have chores, but the more fun you can put into them the easier they are and the faster they get done. Of course I've had times that are not as fun at the grocery store, but more often than not we all enjoy going. We all get to make some good choices on food, and they all get to help out in their ways to contribute to the family. I feel they are learning very basic good eating habits. They do know what junk food is, they have tasted it, and like it. But, it is not what we fill up on. We fill up on good food then we can treat ourselves to a little junk - occasionally.

This past year was the first year I had an all day school age child. I still like to shop in the middle of the day, but he is at school. After several times of shopping, he caught on that he was missing out on it and begged me to wait for him next the time. So, I guess all those years of shopping with him really did make an impact; they all love going to the store and helping me shop.

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This tip did not go into detail about consequences for bad behavior which we all come across. So, next month I'll discuss how to handle those not so fun moments and fits in the stores and restaurants. Until then - go shopping (yes, with the kids)!

Heather Totten is a stay-at-home mom with five children and a busy husband. She is incredibly organized, and shares her sense of family, parenting, and organization with us in her monthly parenting tips column. Read what's new with her family in Heather's Parenting Journal.

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