Spending Lessons: The Educational Value of Taking Your Children Shopping With You
Taking your kids shopping with you may seem like a nightmare situation, but if you approach it positively and allow yourself just a little extra time, the whole experience can be educational and enjoyable for all of you. These practical ideas may help get you started.
Include Your Children from the Beginning
Get your kids on board from the start by helping you draw up your shopping list. Get them to check the grocery cupboards and refrigerator to see what you need to buy, and if they're old enough, ask them to write the list out for the expedition. Use digital devices for itemizing supplies, and even introduce them to handwritten lists. Older kids can go to your store's website and see what's on the promotion that week, download apps that help you save money in-store or clip coupons with you.
Activities to Do at the Store
The real action is at the store, so get your kids to participate in the shopping experience with a variety of age-appropriate undertakings:
- Calculate how much you're spending, either on an old cell phone or a large button calculator.
- Work out whether it's more economical to buy smaller packs or giant packs of, for example, soap powder or cereals. This introduces the concept of working out per ounce or per pound costs.
- Decide realistically how much fresh produce the family will eat in a week. For instance, is it best to buy a large econo-pack of apples or a smaller, but slightly more expensive bag, given that some of the apples in the large pack may go rotten before they're eaten?
- Examine ingredient labels for artificial additives and flavorings, salt, sugars and trans fats. Kids can then compare similar products to see which are the healthiest.
Is it a Want or a Need?
Shopping with your kids as an excellent way for all of you to discern which are essential, "need" items and what is simply a "want." These sort of discussions are best started at home and be suitable to your child's age. Make a game of it as you pop items into your trolley, calling out what are needs and which are wants. You're sure to learn something about yourself as well--which category does that chocolate bar fall into? Don't lay on a guilt trip about wants and needs; everyone has wanted, but the thing is to know when it's financially appropriate to indulge in a want.
Encourage Your Kids to Save
While you're saving your money to buy a new set of Shear Comfort seat covers to revamp the interior of your car, encourage your kids to choose something specific to save for. When you go to the store, let them choose an item they would like, and when you get homework out a saving plan with them. If it's an item that is going to take them months to save for, perhaps say that you'll contribute an equal amount to what they save so that the end goal is not too far ahead.
Use Shopping as the Basis for the Next Activity
Shopping is a good starting point for discussions and money games. Conversations starters and activities depend on the ages of your children, and sites such as Money as You Grow offer comprehensive practical information for parents. TreasuryDirect Kids, Kids.gov and the U.S. Mint have fun games, cartoons and videos on their websites that help kids learn about and understand money concepts.
The educational value of taking your children shopping with you are varied, and include, for young children, reading, writing and numeracy skills. They recognize colors and the difference in pack sizes. Older kids learn how to budget and what it means to buy on credit as opposed to paying cash for items. All these skills are building blocks that help youngsters develop money-savvy expertise for their adult lives. Have fun and learn about money with your children.
Julia Summers is a teaching assistant and Mom of 2 boys herself. She is always looking for ways to proactively teach the kids that surround her important life lessons. She writes on education and parenting topics for various sites.