Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

6 Tips for Shopping with Kids

By Mary Olivar, June 10, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Mary Olivar
photoAs a mother of three, one of my happiest errands is a leisurely solo trip to the market to carefully select the most perfect fruit, ponder which fresh vegetables will grace our dinner plate, chat with a friend behind the seafood counter about the latest catch from the boat, and educate myself on a new heirloom bean variety I want to try out.  Unfortunately, this blissful scene rarely happens.  My children love a trip to Whole Foods Market as much as I do, and I often find myself saddled with a +3 on my shopping expeditions.  During summer vacation this becomes the norm, as the cool store air, vibrant seasonal fruits and vegetables, and tasty samples are a veritable oasis from the heavy heat outside.  Fortunately, I’ve learned a few tricks over the years that help keep my kids entertained
while I load up the cart and still have a chance to find the perfect peach.

Making a List

Before you leave the house (or car), make a list of what you need, and get your kids’ input.  This helps keep everyone on track, plus it helps keep impulse and “Oh, Mommy, please!” purchases to a minimum.  My children’s suggestions of what to buy are often very helpful, reminding me of family favorites that I’ve forgotten and preemptively answering the dreaded “what’s for dinner” question.  Plus, this is a great exercise for young writers, and even pre-writers can make or draw or maybe just chew on their own list.

Time Your Trips Wisely

While, admittedly, this is not always an option, I try to save my big shops for mornings after breakfast or even for the evenings after dinner.  These are usually not very busy times in the store, which makes locomotion easier.  Pre-feeding you brood is key.  Hungry kids make for cranky shoppers and before you know it, your kids have cajoled you into a box of cookies for dinner and they’re still fussy.  If you do find yourself at the store with some ravenous beasties, head to the prepared foods section and grab an easy to eat bite before commencing.

Do the Math

Just because school’s out doesn’t mean learning’s over, and grocery shopping is one of the best places for practical application of real-life lessons. Math is everywhere in the store and can easily occupy kids of all ages.  Young ones can learn to count.  “How many apples do we need?  One, two, three.”  As they grow so do the lessons:  addition, subtraction, greater than, less than, division, weights, measures, price per ounce.  I even use shopping to teach my older children about budgeting and value.  One of their favorite and most consistently requested gifts is a gift card.  With it, they can buy un-mom approved items in the store.  (Fortunately because of Whole Foods Market’s quality standards, things are still pretty mom-approved.)  It’s great to watch them carefully deciding how to maximize their treat dollars and learn to be savvy shoppers.

Reading Labels

Reading is all around us, and the grocery store is a particularly great place to engage even early readers. “Is it Organic?  Can you find an O?”  Label reading is a great task for more seasoned readers and also brings math into play. (There it is again!)  For the bookworm in your family, encourage them to learn from the storytelling of our food.  In every section of the market there is information ranging from sustainable seafood (ecology), meat cuts (anatomy), local food producers (social studies and local geography), artisanal crafted foods (history), micro-loan around the world (economy, geography & world cultures!), cooking tips (culinary arts) and even to nutrient density (nutritional science).  “Mom! What’s a vitamin?” Don’t forget botany and biology!  What foods are roots? Which ones are shoots? What seeds do we eat? (More that you might think, we adults have a lot to learn too!)  There’s a lot to know about our food, what it is,where it comes from and how to use it, all of which can be very interesting to a hungry young mind.

Physical education

If your kids are old enough to be out of the cart they can also practice some hands-on skills:  bagging groceries (spatial orientation), pushing the cart (navigation and pre-driving traffic skills), and an abundance of motor skills needed in the bulk and cooking departments:  tools usage (tongs and scoops), number writing, timing, geometry and volume estimating (Aah! Stop pouring!).

Social Studies

Let’s be friends! Encourage your children to talk to the people working in the store, to ask questions, to be engaged.  We at Whole Foods Market are a pretty friendly bunch, and this is a great place to help your kids practice their conversational skills while also developing their voice as a shopper.  “Do you have any more blueberries?”  “Where are your sesame seeds?”  “What does buffalo eat?”  “Where did this fish come from and how can I tell if it’s fresh?”

Bringing your children with you when you shop, while crashing the loner’s day dreaming shop, is a great way to empower them to be curious and confident with their surroundings, while developing a passion and appreciation for all the good food around us. What keeps your kids busy when you do a family shop?
Category: Grocery




Maggie says ...
The "Kids Club" snacking center photo is a little troubling. I see what looks like bananas and red peppers, but the rest are packaged and highly processed snack foods and lots of sugary beverages. I am surprised that "Whole Foods" would support a predominantly processed display targeting kids. My daughter has the neatest system she bought for her kids called Snack Time Survival Board (something along this line), but it has taught my two young grandchildren a lot about healthy snacking habits. Maybe Whole Foods should pick one up and learn what healthy snacks are all about - then redo that display! M. Fitzpatrick
06/11/2011 3:26:25 PM CDT
Marcela says ...
This is great! I find myself teaching and practicing Spanish with my little ones. I point or pick up an object and say it's name in Spanish. I also play the "can you find______?" game. They have fun trying to spot the objects I name.
06/11/2011 10:56:18 PM CDT
Beth M says ...
Oh I absolutely LOVE this post! Thank you so much for all the great tips! I have a 4 year-old daughter (and a sometimes antsy husband) so this will help both him and I occupy her a little more while providing her a bit of education at the same time. She loves to help me out whenever she can, and she adores exploring the store, especially the seafood and soap sections. A small snack like a pretzel or sorbet always helps if she begins to get antsy or doesn't want to help out anymore. If we have to go when it's busy, then we love to go on Saturdays late morning or mid-afternoon. Honestly, the food samples and music keep them both occupied for quite a while and I just love the overall vibe.
06/13/2011 2:33:03 PM CDT
Dana Sommers says ...
This is a fantastic post with wonderful ideas I'll use with my 2 munchkins on my next trip. And don't forget that kids can continue learning at the grocery store on a store tour! Many of our stores offer tours to groups of school kids, campers, and other groups.
06/15/2011 6:24:40 PM CDT
Kate says ...
Thanks for your article, Mary. I commend you for your approach. I also commend our local Whole Foods who are so welcoming and kind to my kids; they know my children's names, and my kids love shopping there and especially being a part of "Kid's Club". And in response to Maggie, I would encourage you to steer your children to make healthy choices or just say no sometimes. Special treats are great in moderation-- which is why they are special.
06/15/2011 9:12:33 PM CDT
Bob says ...
I couldn't agree more with Maggie's comment below.
06/15/2011 9:18:58 PM CDT
marianna says ...
thank you. so creative, but will this take up extra time? shopping is already a long endeavor and i wonder how putting these tips and tricks into play can extend the duration of the trip?
06/16/2011 1:45:05 AM CDT
Ginger Fisher says ...
He carries the list and walks down the aisle first looking for items on the list and then checking them off when we put them in the cart.
06/16/2011 5:48:58 AM CDT
Jen O'Malley says ...
I love this article, after reading it actually makes me want to go shopping with my kids! Thank you!
06/16/2011 7:58:48 AM CDT
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06/16/2011 8:28:59 AM CDT
Amanda says ...
In response to Maggie's comment, I was actually impressed with the Kid's Club idea and wished they had one at our local WF. I'm pretty sure those are bananas and apples, with the baby food pouches in the middle which are a WONDERFUL snack for kids (they only include fruits and vegetables--like spinach and broccoli that wouldn't otherwise get eaten as a snack), on the bottom shelf are 100% juices that, while containing sugar, at least they're from fruit juice. And in the middle are organic crackers that I suppose are "processed" so I guess some parents might frown upon foods that aren't in their natural state, but I, like the article, appreciate that at least all the products at WF are the healthier choice to begin with. Maggie's daughter's system sounds neat too, and I appreciate her letting us know about it! But kudos to the article (and the Kid's Club idea)--I love all the tips! Thanks, Whole Foods!
06/16/2011 10:14:57 AM CDT
farah says ...
Thanks for the great idea, Maggie! I just looked that up, and am purchasing it today. It will help us out a lot because I often lose track of the time and wonder why the kids are starving (oops!)! It will be good for me, too, as I often skip snacking and end up SO tired! I just finally made the correlation yesterday :-///
06/16/2011 10:32:08 AM CDT
JDP says ...
My 4-yr-old enjoys looking for the products for which we have coupons: I hand her a couple, and she watches for them. The 2-yr-old can do the same with toy food (e.g. wooden banana.)
06/16/2011 2:52:14 PM CDT
Jess says ...
Many good ideas, and I look forward to using some in the future! Unfortunately, with a 4.5, almost 3 year old, 15 month old and another on the way, I'm usually desperate to get in and out as quickly as possible! The most education we usually fit into the trip is looking at the different eggs available, and then it's a mad rush for groceries, before grabbing pizza and heading out! Always an exciting time. :) But will definitely keep in mind for later, once the kiddos are a little older.
06/16/2011 7:34:42 PM CDT
Jen@mamazen says ...
Nice tips! I'm retweeting :)
06/17/2011 2:51:05 PM CDT
Brad says ...
Hey Maggie, lighten up.
06/17/2011 3:41:21 PM CDT
Nom Anor says ...
Maggie, Just wanted to comment on what a fine job you've done by not giving your kids and grandkids any processed foods. Bravo. Write a book.
06/17/2011 3:44:53 PM CDT
Mcat says ...
Brad took the words out of my mouth. :) Bananas, Peaches, all natural apple sauce, what looks to be cheddar bunnies and some other kind of crackers... These don't strike me as terrible snacks for kids. As someone else already said: they're treats. And if these are the kind of treats your kids get, I'd say you're not doing too badly.
06/17/2011 4:24:54 PM CDT
olivarm says ...
Thanks for the great suggestions everyone! Maggie, with so much parenting and grand-parenting experience I bet you do have a ton of tips to share! Thanks for your feedback.
06/23/2011 2:23:59 PM CDT
Maggie says ...
Hello Again, Being a retired home economics teacher and part-time health educator in my community, I would agree that I might have to "lighten up" a bit when it comes to children's snacking. But I come from a place of sincere concern as the children I aim to help suffer from extreme obesity and its debilitating effects (I live in Alabama). One of the challenges we have is trying to teach young children healthy choices, and while I could only dream that the children in our communities could shop at Whole Foods and choose any of the snacks in that photo display (from my original comment), the problem is universal and transcends all socioeconomic levels. Whole Foods is a hallmark representation of good nutrition (in my opinion), which is why the picture troubled me. "Health Starts Here" should start with children as young as infants and with great emphasis on these first 5 years, and encouraging whole foods over processed, water over sweetened beverages (even 100% fruit juice can lead to weight gain). If you don't believe me, the Institute of Medicine released a report this past Thursday reinforcing my "old fashioned" views. And, I guess I am! Healthy Regards, All! Maggie
06/25/2011 4:19:17 PM CDT
Martha Vance says ...
Wonderful ideas! Thanks so much for sharing this. I will begin teaching my daughter to read the labels. I hadn't thought of doing that yet. :)
06/28/2011 1:26:03 PM CDT
The Simplistic Family says ...
Love, love your wonderful tips. Gonna put them into action. Here's another way to make grocery shopping with kids simple, fun, and educational. http://www.simplisticfamily.com/2012/01/how-to-make-grocery-trips-with-kids-fun.html
01/24/2012 6:39:37 AM CST