Turning Errands into Educational Entertainment

Most people are surprised to learn that I actually enjoy taking my kids on errands with me.  With some time, patience and a little planning, it can actually be a fun and educational experience. The supermarket is a great example to use here.  I would say that 95% of the time, I have at least one child with me when I shop for food.  I think of it as an activity for my child instead of another task to cross off my list.  Of course it’s quicker and easier to run into the store by myself, instead of taking the extra time to get everyone out of the car seats, load them in the carts, etc., but as we know, parenting takes patience.   I have to admit that when I am alone in the market (the 5%), it does feel strange, sort of like I forgot something from home. 
The market is a great opportunity to teach your child colors, numbers, manners, etc.  There are endless educational lessons your child can learn while strolling down the aisles.  During my last shop, I asked my 2 year old son if he could find an item in the store that represented every color in the rainbow.  Not only was he learning, he was also well behaved and we both had a great time together. 
I feel terrible when I see a kid who is screaming his head off and a mom who is mortified and ready to pull her hair out, especially since I know there is a better way.  Granted, sometimes you cannot help a child who is having an off day and in that case, it’s not the right day to head to the market with him.  Read your kids and know their limits to be fair to yourself and to them.  At my supermarket, they give free cookies to the children and it’s a great incentive to behave in the store.  I always make sure to hit the bakery last though so it’s more like a reward at the end of our shop vs. an immediate bribe at the beginning.  Another idea is to look for the cool kid-friendly shopping carts, if your store has them.  Usually they are some sort of car and are much more enticing to the little ones than the cold metal carts.  I act like the kids are steering the cart and if they stop, I will run into one of the displays and knock something over.  You will also find me making vroom and screeching noises while racing down the aisles.  I might look like an idiot but my kids are the best behaved in the store so I say, keep on staring!  Actually most people walk by us, smile and comment at how much fun it sounds like we are having. 
Don’t just run out of the house with your keys and wallet.  Take a few minutes and plan what you need to bring to the store for your child.  Make sure you have something to drink in your bag of goodies and extra snacks, aside from the free cookie.  It’s also a good idea to bring a little toy as a last option, in case you need to distract your child.  Upon checkout, my kids love to help unpack the cart and even swipe my credit card.  It has become tradition that my little one is in charge of the receipt so after we pay, he gets really excited when the check out person hands it to him.
 All these little things that don’t seem like much to adults can be very thrilling and entertaining to a child.  Instead of being scared to take your little ones to a store, get energized and make the best of your errands.  Just make sure to plan ahead, check your child’s temper that day, and have fun and be creative.  Think of it as extra time to spend with your kids while getting your errands done.  We are so busy these days, every minute that we can laugh with our children and see them smile is a memory created!