The Many Benefits of Taking Children to the Grocery Store

In light of the growing trend of ‘curbside pickup’ I’ve been thinking an awful lot about the many benefits of bringing your kids inside to places like the grocery store, Target or the bank.  I do see the value in this service and know that there are times when, if available, I would likely take advantage of it myself.  But, I think it’s important to step back and realize the value in human interaction and real life experiences.

I remember going with my mother to the bank where she would fill out deposit or withdrawal slips, speak with the teller, see members of our community and say ‘hello’.  I remember how serious and grown-up it all felt.  Then as an adult I moved to four different states in only a few years and I was easily drawn into the world of online banking and ATM machines, making banking a cold and removed experience.  Now, my husband does our banking inside the bank but our kids never go with him and I think this is something that we need to change.  I want our kids to feel comfortable in a bank, understand what happens to their money and how to handle certain ‘grown-up’ things like making deposits and withdrawals with people, not just machines.

We do, however, almost always bring our kids to the grocery store.  While this is not always easy, I see a great deal of value in them accompanying me to the store.  I’ve had to refocus my thought pattern when it comes to heading out the grocery store.  As opposed to feeling as if it is a chore that just needs to get done and dragging the kids along is an added feat, I see it as a learning experience for them and it becomes our activity for the day.

In the past few weeks as we are all adjusting to a very new routine, I’ve gone to the store a few times with just the Little one as it fits nicely into the time when my Oldest is at school. Well, this week, my Oldest, while being tucked into bed, asked my husband to relay a message to me.  He wanted me to know that if I was going to Trader Joe’s, that he wanted to come with me and asked that I not go while he is in school.  This warmed my heart and in my head, I immediately changed our plans for the next day to include him in our shopping trip.  This is pure proof that going to the store is not an errand for him, but an adventure and meaningful experience.  How could I ever deny him that?

So, here are some of the benefits that I can think of that can come from a simple grocery store trip.  And some reasons to start thinking about the task in a different light.

Language & Literacy Development

  1. List making
  2. Reading signs
  3. Reading ingredients
  4. New vocabulary
  5. Speaking to grocers and cashiers

Social Interaction

  1. Becoming friends with grocers and cashiers – This one I want to explain…We started going to the new Trader Joe’s once a week shortly after my Little one was born.  As a baby-wearer he was either in a wrap or a ring sling, bundled up on my front as we shopped.  The woman who gives away samples commented on my wraps and my boys every single week.  We would chat briefly and over the months she would smile and say hi before even reaching her booth.  As my Little one got ever so slightly bigger, he was ready to start sitting in the cart.  The first time this happened, we walked up to the counter and she said “oh, he’s in the cart today!  Wow, he’s getting so big!  It’s so exciting!”  It was just a lovely exchange and has made me realize how these acquaintances are so meaningful.  In addition, my Older one, who tends to be quite shy, started speaking to this grocer, asking her for a sample or a napkin or a cup of juice.  He feels comfortable there, it’s one more place that I can encourage his developing social skills.  And for that, I am incredibly grateful.
  2. Seeing familiar faces and saying ‘hello’
  3. Interacting with other families who are purchasing similar items or who also have children in tow

Math Development

  1. List making
  2. Counting items as they are chosen off the shelf and go into the cart
  3. Talking about cost
  4. Discussing weight and measuring on a scale
  5. Ingredient measurements

Health & Nutrition 

  1. Asking your child to pick a vegetable – this has proven in my house to be the trick to getting my Oldest to try new veggies
  2. Discussing the importance of what foods you are buying to your health
  3. Discussing why certain items do not end up in your cart
  4. Choosing recipes

Planning & Organizational Skills

  1. List making
  2. Choosing recipes
  3. Counting and checking what food you have run out of at home and need to replace
  4. Arranging the items in your cart
  5. Packing grocery bags

In conclusion, I am attaching some photos of how we sometimes make our trips to the store complete learning experiences from beginning to end.

 A Visit to Trader Joe’s

Together, we make a list, I write the words and adding a drawing so he has the visual cue.  He will go to the fridge to count how many yogurts he has left, will request specific fruits or vegetables, and gets one special snack.


In the store, he is responsible for picking out all items on his list and then checking them off as they are put in his cart.


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This part is incredibly important for my son in particular.  He gives the cashier his cart and interacts with him or her as his items are scanned, bagged and put back in his cart.

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At home, he unpacks his groceries and puts them away on his shelf in the fridge.

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