Shopping With Kids: Do You or Don’t You?

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by on July 14, 2010

grocery basket Many frugal shoppers recommend leaving the kids at home when you are grocery shopping- and that makes since. Kids can become whiny, they can be distracting, and time consuming. And although I have promoted shopping without children in the past, I’m starting to rethink this practice…

Of course, if your children are 3 or under, it may still be the best idea, but as your children mature and start to understand the monetary value of items, I believe that excluding them from the grocery shopping is a disservice to them.

Why Should Children Be Included in the Grocery Shopping?

There are several reasons here, but it really boils down to helping them learn.

Learn Basic Arithmetic Skills

This may sound simple enough, but really, by keeping our children involved, they can learn basic math: addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. Use the skills appropriate for the age of your child. Turn ordinary shopping into an educational activity. The best learning takes place when it can be applied in real situations and what better place to learn math skills than at the store, especially when dealing with items the child is interested in.

This is also a great opportunity for kids to learn about spending (or not spending) their allowance, which leads to the 2nd point…

Learn Value.

IMG_4152 Where does money come from? How do we get new food in the house? Can we buy anything that we want? What sound we spend our money on? This is also a good time to introduce your children to the use of coupons, if you choose to.

My son (almost 5) loves to go around the store and look for “blinkie” machines to find new coupons. He always asks, “Mommy, is this a good deal?” He is already grasping a concept of waiting to buy products until it is at the best price.

Teaching children that everything has a monetary price will help them understand and value “stuff”. It will also help them understand that money doesn’t grow on trees (at least not that I have found). One day our children will be shopping for themselves, and I’d much rather teach them how to value their money and bargain shop now, then have them in debt in the future.

Learn Patience.

Children need to learn that we don’t get things that we want the minute we want them. This can be a harder lesson for young children, however, around 7 years old, children are able to grasp ideas beyond their immediate needs. It helps them to understand that we don’t always get what we want in life- and to understand needs before wants.

Finally, by involved your children in the shopping, not only will they gain a respect for your duties, but you will also help prepare them for their futures. They will be able to manage money, find good deals, and show restraint while shopping. And isn’t that part of parenting – teaching our children values to help them succeed in the future?

So, tell me, do you take your kids shopping with you? Why or why not?


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  • Megan

    I’ve noticed lately that my 6 year old son questions everything I buy with “Do you have a coupon for that?” If I tell him no, he has a disappointed look. I try to explain that I do buy certain things that are just on sale and don’t have a coupon or sometimes we buy things because we need or like it (For example, one particular O Organics salad dressing at Safeway that we all love, but rarely have a coupon for). I love that he is learning the value of saving money and as he’s getting older, I can explain a little more to him about saving money while we shop. We’ve set up some fun family goals (Hawaiian vacation) that I refer to a lot while shopping and saving. We actually were supposed to leave for Maui this coming Saturday, but unfortunately had to cancel the entire trip 3 weeks ago because my son broke his leg pretty bad. The silver lining is that the entire trip was booked on Expedia and we were able to get refunded.

  • I usually take my 6 boys (10yrs-9mos) and it goes pretty well. I have to have my list and coupons ready and hand them out to the boys so they can race to find the items I need. If everyone is good they all get a small piece of candy of gum. If 1 boy is acting out the other brothers help out because they want the candy. On the rare occasion I go by myself I take my ipod and jam out.

  • Wow, Lori, you’re amazing!

    I have my list organized in the way I walk through the store and I have coupons ready, but I find it easier to go without the children, or to take one child at a time. I have 6 children as well, ages 8 to 5 months. The simple logistics of where to put all of the children and the food is a tricky thing! For my children, it’s a special treat just to be alone with mom.

    Of course, I don’t go shopping very often, so when I go, they all want to go!

  • Victoria

    Haha, you women are brave! I just recieved a blanket, beautiful with peronalized message on all 4 sides. Not my most frugal purchase, but well worth it. I ordered it for my 1 year old and my 4 year old asked, “was that free?”…..I wish,lol!!

  • Glad to hear that, Megan! Thanks for sharing…unfortunately, Expedia has not been very good for me…they wouldn’t let me change my flight coming back from BlogHer and now I will miss my son’s 1st of Kindergarten.

  • Wow, Lori! That is incredible! Standing ovation to you- 6 boys! I thought I was doing well with just my 2 (and sometimes I don’t take my youngest who is only 2). You have inspired me even more- and you are doing a great job teaching those boys! Thanks for sharing.

  • I can definitely understand only taking one at a time, Prudent Homemaker. You are right, trying to fit kids and food in the cart can be tricky. Those carts with the extra seats (sometimes look like cars) are fun for the kids- but I have a hard time maneuvering those, too :)

  • Tami

    I take my 3 yr old with me all the time. We get a cookie at the bakery for free and I grab a bottle of juice in produce (both where I start in the store) and head down the aisles. I hand thelighter items to him and he drops them in the cart. Although it can get tiresome, it is a great way to teach him to be a helper, teach him patience (and remind me of that skill too) and the value of money. We were walking through a store one time and he saw a flashy toy. He was quite taken with it and started to reach out for it, then stopped, shook his head and said in a very serious voice, “No, it’s too ‘spensive. We better not Mommy.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, it was too sweet!

  • Household

    These are some good points. I have the luxury/challenge of having my mother-in-law live with us, and she always wants the kids to stay home with her because it’s “easier.” Although I am often grateful, I also feel like sometimes my kids and I are missing out on the benefits! It’s good to miss out on the hassles, too, but those are part of parenting and learning how to respond well to them is a great lesson for us AND our children. I love the idea of taking one at a time – that would make her happy because she gets one-on-one time with the one who stays home, and I get one-on-one hands on learning with the one who comes with me! I think I’ll try to incorporate that into my life over the next month or two and see what benefits we gain. Thanks for a good topic and discussion!

  • Melissa, great article! I admit that I would rather go without my kids so I be more productive but you raise some great points about “teaching” my kids while I shop. My problem is that my 2 boys (ages 5 and 7) fight and act horrible while I am trying to shop so it’s just not a pleasant time for any of us! If I could find a way to keep them from fighting, we’d have a great time! :)
    .-= Elizabeth@TheThriftyDivas´s last blog ..Printable Coupon For 2-1 Gold ‘n Plump Chicken =-.

  • That is too cute, thanks for sharing Tami! :) Funny, but some of my fondest memories in my childhood are shopping with my grandma, helping her with her coupons, and of course getting a cookie at the bakery :)

  • Thank you for sharing! That sounds like a great plan, and I hope you’ll drop back by in a few months and let me know how your experiment went!

  • Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth. What if you switched off who you took to the store? It would give you some one on one time and save everyone from the fighting…

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