Thinking of taking your little one to the shops may give you some anxiety – your mind may go straight to thinking about tantrums and squabbles… but we’re here to tell you it can be a positive and valuable learning opportunity for your child!
There are chances to discuss different food items and where in the world they come from, opportunities for maths and learning new vocabulary – a treasure trove of experiences!
The key to avoiding the negatives is to be prepared and set realistic expectations. We’ll discuss all that and more below in our parent guide to going to the store!
Let’s dive right in!
Planning is crucial when it comes to taking your little one to a new/public place – young children can get anxious (often resulting in crying, tantrums etc.) in busy or unfamiliar spaces so it’s important to prepare yourself and them to help prevent this.
· Strategise – know the layout of the store or mall you’re going into, where are the toilets? Are there trolleys or little push cars your child can sit in? Is there a children’s area where you can stop for a play break?
· Plan the best time – avoid going at peak times or when your little one is likely to be tired or hungry. Tiredness, hunger and boredom are the biggest factors when it comes to tantrums (click here for our guide to tantrums).
· Chat about it – help your little one prepare for the trip ahead of time by talking about where you’re going, what you’ll be doing, etc.
Showing them pictures or the location on satellite view can help them visualise the trip.
· Learning - it’s also worth discussing what you’ll be bringing with you and why – your wallet, reusable bags, a shopping list, etc.
This will give you an opportunity to talk about things like money maths, sustainability and healthy eating, all enhancing your little one’s development!
· Set Expectations – talk to your child openly about what you expect from them and what they can expect from you.
For instance, stay close to the trolley, don’t put things in your pockets, don’t shout, if there is something you’d like ask and we can consider it.
Giving them some options from the shopping list or giving them the responsibility to find items will give them a sense of purpose, making them more engaged in the process and less likely to show unwanted behaviours (click here for our guide to encouraging positive behaviours).
Be sure to manage your own expectations as well – a shopping trip with your little one will take longer so allow the time for them to explore and be curious.
The trip might not be perfect so stay calm throughout and help your child manage their emotions when needed (click here for our guide to encouraging self-regulation).
A shopping trip with your little one may take longer and require more planning, but it comes with a host of amazing developmental benefits. These include:
Language and communication
Chatting with your little one as you look around the store can introduce them to so many new words! Aisle, cashier, trolley etc. and that’s not even getting to the food items!
Discussing this as well as your shopping list can help them develop their communication and give them a better idea of why healthy and sustainable eating is important.
You can give your child various food items to find, making it a treasure hunt or play I Spy.
There are countless opportunities for maths in stores! Counting the veg, looking at prices, figuring out how many eggs you need and more.
Taking math out of a structured setting and allowing your child to learn hands-on can help them engage more in their learning.
Understanding the world
Exploring stores can help your little one better understand the world around them.
From learning about different jobs like shopkeeper, butcher, or baker to understanding where their food comes from whether that’s milk coming from cows or bananas being grown on huge trees.
Identifying different food items can also help your child about how different cultures use food in celebrations, family gatherings and more! Seasonal isles like recently for Diwali can be a great place for this.
Finally, visiting stores is all about new experiences! Practice makes perfect, so the more they head out, the more confident they will be.
It’s also a chance to meet and interact with different people – they could hand over money to the cashier or wave hello and goodbye to the staff or other shoppers.
After the trip
Once the trip is over, chatting about what you did can help your little one consolidate their understanding.
Whether that’s about the structure of the visit e.g. grabbing a trolley, finding items, paying, going home or something specific that interested them e.g. a new type of fruit will further their learning.
You may even notice your child using this new information in their role/imaginary play.