If the Kids Love the Store, the Parents Keep Coming Back

December 10, 2014

Whole Foods’ Kids Club is a small gesture that makes a world of difference in shopping with children.

A recent Johns Hopkins study found that parents and caregivers, when pressured by their children in the supermarket, were more likely to buy items that they did not plan on buying. Despite this study, I still take my kids (four years-old and 1 1/2 years-old) to the supermarket. And yes, my four year-old has melted down a few times over candy in the checkout aisle or cereal or a toy I don’t want him to have. It is not pleasant, but it’s through these experiences that I feel my children learn valuable lessons. 

I started shopping with my kids because I found that when they are involved with choosing food and preparing food, they are more adventurous eaters. My son enjoys picking out his apples, carrying his own list, and discussing what we are going cook. But even though he enjoys the process, a little help from the supermarket itself can make a huge impression on him and me, and help us avoid melt-downs, and convince me to shop their again. 

We live in a community with only one supermarket, that I haven’t been impressed by, so I have been driving between 10 and 12 miles to shop at various supermarkets, searching for the one I fall in love with so much, it’s worth the drive. Here’s what I have found when it comes to best places to shop with my kids.

Let’s start with Whole Foods. We enter the store and immediately my son is taken with the produce display. Here is where he gets especially excited about the variety of apples on display. The produce section is beautifully arranged and just feels bright and happy. Even better, right next to the produce section is a Kids Club display with a variety of snacks, fruit, juice boxes, and pencil packs that include a pencil sharpener. All of these items are FREE for children! Imagine my son’s excitement when he sees this and can pick whatever he wants to enjoy while he shops. The snacks are also appropriate for my 1 1/2 year-old, and best of all, the choices are items that aren’t loaded ingredients that concern me. When it’s time to check out, the Whole Foods staff put my groceries on the conveyor belt and then after bagging them up, load them in my car. 

We also like to shop sometimes at Publix. One thing we know we can count on is a friendly and helpful (I cannot emphasize HELPFUL enough!) staff. We haven’t found any free snacks here for the kids, but when we check out, we NEVER have to stand in line. There are usually three staff members assisting us…one ringing up the groceries, one bagging, and one entertaining my children! They give the kids crayons and coloring pages, which are a nice distraction during checkout, but not necessarily useful while shopping. And like Whole Foods, they always put the groceries in the car for me, while I buckle up the kids in their carseats. 

Here are some other services and features for children that can help parents and caregivers make it through their grocery list without meltdowns:

1. A treat from the bakery - I recently was in Texas shopping at H.E.B. while my 1 1/2 year-old daughter was teething and having a miserable time. I was struggling to get through my list when a woman walked out from behind the bakery counter with a tray full of cookies and offered one for free for my daughter and my son. Crying stopped! Mommy finished the shopping!

2. Mini shopping carts - When my son goes shopping with Nana at her supermarket, Harris Teeter, their favorite thing to do is to both push a cart. He gets a mini cart to put his items in, while Nana uses the big cart. 

3. In-store games - This is a great idea implemented by Trader Joe’s that works well for a smaller format store. Periodically they will hide a stuffed donkey somewhere in the store. If a child finds the donkey, they get a free treat! 

4. Those big race car carts that two kids can sit in - I don’t love these carts because they are awkward and bulky and difficult to steer through the aisles, but my children love them, and it’s worth putting a little more muscle into the shopping trip if my kids will stay put in the cart without whining and trying to get out. Works every time.