Customers In Training (For Life)

Have you ever noticed those child-sized shopping carts? You can usually find a handful of them at most major grocery stores. How do they make you feel? I smile every time I see them.

I used to dread going grocery shopping when my daughter was a toddler. We shopped together every Tuesday morning. This was never a quick run-in and get-out kind of shopping trip. It was a full morning commitment. As anyone who has taken a small child to the grocery store knows, it's not easy. It can be a headache and a half. There's a reason that there's a child seat designed right into the cart! With the child stuck in front of you, you can maintain more control over the situation and get your shopping done.

But what's the value for the child?
I'm not sure whether it was Ayla's idea or mine, but one day, our weekly shopping adventure had a new twist. I had my adult-sized cart, and she had her child-sized cart. I was no longer trying to entertain her or distract her; I was including her…and the whole experience of grocery shopping changed. We were shopping together.
As we went up and down the aisles, I would indicate things that she could pick off the shelf and put in her cart. While such an action might seem mundane to me - to her - it was gleeful fun! When possible, I would also let her make a choice. I didn't care if we got rotini or farfalle, so I let her choose the box she wanted and stash it in her cart.

Don't get me wrong. Letting your child manage their own cart can be a lot of work. Kids have minds of their own and junk food seems conveniently placed at toddler height! Certain things were very enticing, and she would slip them into her cart. So, shopping together also required a level of negotiation above and beyond the "kid trapped in the cart" shopping experience. But it's so worth it. What the child gains in life skills and independence is priceless.
These days I shop mostly by myself because the kids are old enough to stay home alone and grocery shopping is not high on their list of fun things to do. But on the rare occasion that my daughter does come with me, she often says, "Mom, remember when I used to use one of those kid carts?"
I do. Fondly.