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Making Grocery Shopping Bearable With A Grade-Schooler

By the time children reach school age, they can at least be reasoned with in regards to a trip to the grocery store.  My son, though, still has his “moments” where grocery shopping is the last thing he wants to do, and he will try his best to make it as miserable of a trip as he can.  So, here are some pointers to avoid the conflicts (or at least some of them):

  • PLAN AHEAD!  As with any aged child, make a list and go into the store looking for specific items.  Aisle shopping is not nearly as efficient or successful with children in tow, so when at all possible, write down the things you need before you go to the store.
  • Give older children ownership.  Arm your older child with a list of their own of things that are needed from the store.  Allow them to find the items on their list and put them in the cart.  If you don’t have time to create a separate list, hand your older child any coupons you plan on using.  They can use the coupons as their list.
  • Turn it into a nutrition lesson.  Have older children compare sugar content on cereals, the difference between milk percentages, and which yogurt is the best for them.  Allowing them to help make decisions on brands to purchase can be a valuable lesson in cost comparison, too. 
  • Lay your cards on the table.  Tell your child exactly why you are going to the store and how much you plan on purchasing.  I found that when my son knows we’re there for a cart-full of groceries, he at least understands that it will be a while before we check out.  Likewise, if I am only picking up four or five things, I have him hold me accountable to that.  It keeps me from impulse shopping.
  • Our store now has an automated checkout area, so if we are only picking up a few things, I use this as my Secret Weapon.  Nothing smells more grown-up than scanning stuff at the grocery store.  If my older child is able to behave and be helpful while we’re shopping, then he gets to scan all the items from our cart (with my supervision).  The little one is the money-handler unless he’s had a particularly rough go of it at the store.  Knowing that they will get to do something a little different at the end of the trip is oftentimes the only incentive needed to behave.

Of course, an ideal shopping experience is one on your own, at your own pace, but more often than not, that isn’t an option for me and my brood.  Taking a few steps and being prepared will pay off handsomely in the long run.

Making Grocery Shopping Bearable With A Preschooler

The dreaded grocery store.  It is always such a precarious balance between getting the job done and keeping your young child or children occupied.  As children grow older, their needs (and demands) change, too.  Tips that worked wonders with little ones don’t seem to be quite as effective as children hit preschool age.  Here are a few tips to making grocery shopping with a preschooler a little easier (and fun!):

  • Timing is everything.  If you can avoid peak hours at the store, by all means do so!  Also consider times when your child is especially cranky.  Needing a nap and hunger can hinder a shopping trip, so make sure your child is well-rested and fed.
  • Make a plan.  Going into the grocery store without a list will most likely lead to missing items and things you weren’t planning on purchasing.  Write down everything you need to get.  Your child can watch you check items off the list, giving them a good indicator of “are we done yet?”
  • Safety first.  Those lap belts are on the cart for a reason – use them!  If you have a cart seat or cushion with additional straps, by all means use it.  Never leave your cart with your child in it out of arm’s reach.  Children should stay seated in the seat portion of the cart at all times unless they are going to walk beside you.  Riding on the sides or front of the cart, sitting in the main basket and even helping push the cart can all be dangerous to little ones.
  • Play a game!  Make shopping a fun adventure for your child.  Sing favorite songs, and make up your own songs based on things you find in the store.  Play “I Spy” along the aisles.  Look for familiar letters and numbers.  If your child wants to “help”, give them a coupon and have them locate the item on a shelf.  Most coupons have pictures of the item on them, and children can match the picture to the items on the shelves.
  • Consider bringing a goody bag.  A small stuffed animal, a treat or drink are all great things to put into a grocery goody bag.  Allowing children to snack on items in the cart before they are purchased is not acceptable.  Children need to be taught to purchase items before using them.  Put a book in the goody bag – it will be a great distraction while you wait at the checkout lane!
  • Make it a general rule to not buy “extras”, such as candy and toys.  Buy not doing it at all, the temptation is not fed and it is not an expectation the child has at the store.
  • If your child isn’t able to behave or control themselves, leave the store.  It is far better to come back when your child is in a better mood, and it teaches the child that unacceptable behavior is just that – unacceptable.  Harsh punishment or words is not necessary – your child will get the message when you walk out the door.

Not every trip will be a walk through the park, but by practicing these tips, many issues that arise with preschoolers at the store can be minimized and even eliminated.  Happy shopping!

Making Grocery Shopping Bearable With A Toddler

Gone are the days of snuggling my baby in the sling as I perused the aisles of my local grocer.  No longer will he sit idly in the “bucket” (infant carrier) while I push the cart and make googly eyes at him from time to time.  Nope, that is all gone.  Say hello to Toddlerhood and a host of New Rules, especially when it comes to navigating the grocery store.

My first suggestion would be to forego the grocery store altogether with young children.  Eliminate the distraction from the get-go.  However, in many families (as in mine), this isn’t feasible.  After all, it isn’t recommended to lock your kids in the car while you shop, and if there’s no one else around to watch the kids, you’re looking at a few pairs of extra “helping hands” on the trip.  So, arm yourself with a few tips to make those aisles of temptation easier with your toddler.

First of all, plan your trip.  Go into the store with a list, no matter how long or short.  Write down exactly what you need, and if you are familiar with the layout of the store, order your items according to aisle.  If you are shopping with coupons (yes, it CAN be done), make sure they are in order as well to eliminate any “down time” while shopping.  As long as the cart is in motion, your trip will run smoother.

Keep those tiny hands busy and happy.  Pack a healthy snack – a baggie of Cheerios and a sippy of juice or a half of a bagel.  The distraction will keep your child from feeling the need to eat everything in sight and occupy those little hands as well.  Simple toys are another easy distraction.  Using links or a velcro ribbon to keep items from falling to the floor is a good idea.  Keep these special toys in a bag specifically for the store.  Bringing out a “new” (or new today) toy is a great way to keep a child occupied in the cart. 

Timing is everything.  Avoid stores around naptimes and mealtimes.  The only thing you will be walking away with will be a cranky toddler and a few “oh I know how you feel” looks from those of us who have been there.  And try not to hit the store during peak hours – lunch and after work.  Crowds are bad enough; crowds with a toddler are almost painful for you and the child. 

Establish some ground rules early on for your toddler.  Realize that, if you give in one time at the checkout to that bag of chips or that package of M&Ms, you will be doing it each time you return.  Teach your child from the beginning that the goal of the trip is to purchase groceries for the house, not to stock up on snacks while Mommy or Daddy pays.  Whip out that trusty bag of crackers or cereal when the munchies hit.

Take this moment to teach some healthy habits.  My boys both went through the “taste-test” period where they were interested in discovering the metal content of the carts with their tongues.  Both boys learned right away that this wasn’t necessary nor acceptable.  Enter the distractions – the snacks, the toys and the juice.  Crackers in the mouth?  Perfectly okay.  Shopping cart handle in the mouth?  Not so much. 

Streamlining your trip and keeping the experience simple will ensure an enjoyable grocery experience for all (or tolerable at least!).

The Sniffles

A couple of months ago, we became Best Friends with the only allergist in our small town.  Actually, he’d probably call us HIS best friend first, since I think we single-handedly financed his in-ground pool he just had installed at his home.  Our younger son, now three and a half, was once again going down a road we do not like to travel:  the never-ending Sniffle-Lane and the Ear Infection Highway.  Multitudes of visits, tests (“pokes” on the back – not well-received), nose-swabs and bills later, we discovered that our little guy is allergic to absolutely – NOTHING.  Not even dust (which I welcomed with open arms, realizing my possible days of tedius dusting were now, well, dust).  Our son was (and is) the victim of Germs.  He has a perpetual Cold.  And the nice best-friend-doctor classified him with Vasomotor Rhinitis.

Vasomotor Rhinitis is just a big, fancy way of saying that our little guy’s nose and nasal cavities get highly irritated and swollen when he has a cold.  He exhibits many allergic symptoms, from nasal congestion, runny nose, dark circles under the eyes, and drainage (which naturally leads to the ear infections).  There are many things you can do to ease the symptoms during a cold, but the best advice he gave us was the use of saline.

Giving your child’s (or even your own) nasal passages a saline wash, several times a day, removes the irritants from the cavity and aids in keeping colds to a minimum.  That’s not to say it eliminates them; it just makes them easier to deal with.  our doctor recommended a saline mist spray for about $3 at the local pharmacy and to use it at least 4 times a day.  While that seemed excessive at first, we found that it can be given any number of times.  The saline has an amazing way of keeping the passages moist (instead of drying them out like a decongestant) while helping to clean them out as well. With our little guy, we found that we did have to use the “nose bulb” that he got when he was first born because, well, he isn’t a nose-blower, and that stuff does need to come out.

So far this year, we’ve been fairly cold-free, and the one or two that we have had have been minor compared to what we are used to going through with our preschooler.  We use the saline on a daily basis, and it is such a part of our routine now that our older child also has a nose mister that he uses as well, and neither of them complain about using it.  They both understand that something as simple as saline is helping them stay healthy and is keeping the sniffles at bay.

Saline is an effective, easy, inexpensive tool to use with children when they’re sick (and even well).  And, someone else can finance the allergist’s hot tub this time!

Five Ways To Avoid The Viruses (Or At Least Attempt To Hold Them At Bay!)

The flu.

Our bodies fight off many germs and viruses each day, including the ones that lead to such nasty illnesses such as these (and more).  There are a few simple things you can do to keep your body healthy and strong to ward off serious illnesses.  These are also great practices when you ARE sick, if for nothing else than to protect others with whom you come into contact.

1.  Wash those hands – A LOT!  Make sure you use soap and water, and wash well.  I love to use the “preschool rule” for washing hands – sing the ABC song to make sure you lather and scrub for an adequate amount of time.  Washing your hands frequently is a good way to ward off unwanted germs and viruses that may find their way onto your skin.

2.  Bulk up on fruits and veggies.  Foods that are high in vitamins, especially vitamin C, will certainly help boost your immune system.  Make sure that you have at least five servings each day.  While multivitamins will give you your daily allocation, they are not as easily absorbed into the body in pill form as in their natural state.

3. Don’t forget your water.  Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day – more is better.  Keeping your body hydrated will help flush out any impurities in your body. 

4.  Saline is your friend.  Before you even get a sign of the sniffles, keep your nose clean by misting it with saline at least three times a day.  The saline will flush out any histamines or other airborne impurities that might leave you feeling not 100%. 

5.  Be a friend without being too friendly.  Keep your contact with others to a minimum.  People can carry viruses and germs on their bodies without showing any signs of illness.  Respect people’s personal space and keep your germs to yourself; others will follow suit.

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