Supermarket Skirmish – shopping with a four year old!

Showing uncharacteristic enthusiasm for a shopping trip, my son Josiah queued up to get a token for the kiddie supermarket trolley. Well, what harm can a four year old let loose with a teeny trolley do eh?

Before long, Josiah found a box of cereal, sweet little brown bricks with three holes (you can guess which one it is). Then he found cakes with Thomas the Tank icing on it, right at his eye level.

When I said the ‘Thomas’ cakes were not coming home with us today, Josiah protested (loudly), folded his arms and gave me an “I shall not be moved” look.

My instant thoughts were:

  • Marketing towards children works and it is very effective. Our little ones are bombarded with attractive marketing pitches everywhere they look.
  • Kids do not have the ability to make sound and healthy decisions.  Are they easy targets for junk food manufacturers?  You bet!
  • The main objective of supermarkets appears to be making money.  Children’s health comes way down the priority list

After I recovered from the stand-off, I concluded:

  • I can use this ‘difference of opinion’ to begin a discussion with my son about what kind of foods help him to grow to be healthy – and more importantly, which foods do not!
  • I do want to be mindful of these tricks so I can steer my clever little junior away from them
  • As his parent, he will often hear me say no – get used to it son!
  • Everything in moderation – if I did give in and buy that cereal it does not mean that I have failed as a parent (especially one who is a dietitian) in protecting my child’s health.

In the past, I have packed books or toys to distract him.  That was when Josiah was younger and was happy to sit in the trolley!

Now Josiah wants to roam the aisles by himself and he loves the kiddie trolley so I’ve got a different plan.  Since his favourite healthy foods (for now) include low fat milk, yoghurt and fruit, I let him load these foods into his little trolley.  We talk about the different sizes and colours of the apples and pictures of fruit on the yoghurt tub.  As much as time permits I try to make it an educational outing.

I’m sure many other parents have their own strategies when it comes to engaging or educating children when grocery shopping.  When he’s an independent teenager I just hope that my role modeling will help him make some healthier choices so he doesn’t come home with a bag full of high-sugar fat-laden goods (well not all the time!).

If you have tested and proven distraction strategies I’d love to hear about them.

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