Something I consistently come across in my work with parents of younger children is the dreaded trip to the supermarket. Whether it is refusal from the child to go, resistance during the shop or the unfortunate event of a meltdown in the middle of your supermarket, shopping can be an incredibly stressful experience for parents. In my practice I often refer to going to the supermarket as a ‘high-risk’ situation for parents, and as such it is important to come prepared.
One quick way to reduce resistance during the weekly supermarket shop is to establish a specific task for your child. Tasks can be adjusted to the age of your child and can be made as simple or complicated as need. Examples of tasks include preparing a shopping list for the child to check off during the shop, allocating specific items that the child is responsible for getting or assigning particular items that the child must work out the best bargain for. While adding more responsibilities to an already resistant child can seem counterproductive, providing them with a sense of purpose and achievement throughout the shop is a great way to keep a child engaged and out of mischief.
If supermarket shopping is particularly difficult for your child, another helpful way to reduce the pressure on yourself and your child is to have a prepacked small bag of games or activities. These can include anything from activity books, playdoh, colouring sheets or action figures. It is essential that whatever items you pick, these are not something that the child regularly has access to at home. It is also recommended to pick toys that do not have small parts that can easily get left behind during a big shop. Having a prepacked bag that can be stored in the car and easily taken out at the shops is a great to reduce the pressure of a big shop.
Last but not least, if you are feeling particularly creative another great way to keep children entertained during your supermarket shop is to make a game out of your surroundings. Asking your child if they can guess what item is next in the trolley from your clues or to spot which of their snacks has a particular letter, number or colour in the packaging is a great way to entertain and teach at the same time.
Remember, whichever activity you choose, the more fun and inclusive you make it, the more likely your child is to stay engaged during your shop.
Laura Moresi is a psychologist at Northern and Hawthorn Centre for Child Developmentand is completing the Educational and Developmental registrar program. Laura is passionate about working collaboratively with families and other professionals to support children and adolescents to reach their best potential. Laura has experience working with a variety of development and mental health concerns.