The little game actually saves my time and energy in the long run. It's stressful to be with a whiny, uncooperative child while grocery shopping.
Our typical shopping trip is full of learning experiences. I'm sure many of you could relate things that work for you. If so, feel free to send me e-mail. I'll share your ideas with other readers. We parents need all the help we can get.
Before we go to the store, I plan what to have for several meals. This plan may be a simple list: tacos, baked chicken, broiled fish, spaghetti, pizza. Then I make a list and gather coupons for the sides and snacks.
When shopping with a preschooler, it's best to know what you're going to buy before you get to the store. Indecisiveness wastes time and directs your energy away from the child. A child who senses that you are engaging him in the experience will respond well to it.
Little ones get hungry frequently. I usually buy my daughter a small carton of milk before we enter the store. She can sip on it throughout our trip and not feel so deprived when I say no to her many requests for sugar-laden foods.
As she starts asking for items I hadn't planned on buying, I remind her of one special thing I'm going to allow her to select - an ice cream flavor, type of cereal, etc. That way, she can look forward to it.
When we arrive at the store, our first stop is the bathroom. I know we're going to end up there anyway, so why not get it out of the way?
As we walk down the first aisle, I hand her a coupon for the item we'll come to first. Holding the coupon gives her a feeling of importance. The coupon also helps her to match colors, letters and shapes. She becomes excited when she can find the product.
When I don't have a coupon, I tell her what letter to look for at the beginning of the product's name. This is a good time to review sounds of letters and to talk about capital (big) letters and lowercase (small) letters. I also mention from time to time whether the letters are printed - manuscript - or cursive, which we just call fancy letters at this point.
Before I ask her to look for something, I've already found it. That way, I can give her clues: Look up. It's in a red box. The second letter is "u."
At times, other shoppers or store employees hear our conversation and try to help, thinking we can't find a product.
My daughter has received more than one chuckle as she states that she doesn't need any help because she knows the alphabet.
I love the conversations we have on the way home. Earlier this week she said, "Mommy, you know 'W' has a 'U' sound at the end of it." I agreed and said, "Yes it actually is called 'double-u.'"
"Well, it really should be called 'double-v' because it doesn't look like two 'Us' put together," she said.
I smiled after catching a glimpse of her indignant glance in the rearview mirror. I wouldn't trade a thing for time spent with my shopping buddy each week.
Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.