Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Shopping is Learning Too

You have finished your schooling and all of your chores and now you have to run to the store to do some shopping.  You are in a hurry but you notice your child is dragging behind.  They keep stopping to look at everything!  It's so frustrating because you are tired and just want to get home so you can finally relax, or worse yet start dinner and do more work for the day.  What do you do?

Typically we hurry the child along and scold them for continually stopping.  The problem is that we are missing some valuable opportunities for learning.  The hardest thing for me to do as a homeschool teacher was to stop thinking that my school had to look, act and function like a brick and mortar school.  The fact that you school at home does not mean that once the clock hits a certain time or when the lessons are complete that school is over.  Homeschooling means that the child is constantly in a state of learning.

Being the parent of a child with special needs the shopping was even more stressful because it took a long time for Gess to acquire the appropriate social skills to know how to stay close and be safe in the store.  This video about Safety in the Mall from Do2Learn was a helpful tool, but it still took awhile before Gess knew how to stay close.

As she got older I refused to make her ride in the cart or stroller while we were shopping.  She was too big and needed to learn even if it was a hard lesson to teach.  That's when it hit me.  All of her wondering off was not a matter of discipline but rather it was a desire to explore.  Do we really want to stop kids when they want to learn?  No.

Therefore what I did was make sure that at least once a week, whenever we stopped at the store I afforded Gess the opportunity to explore the store around her.  I would let her lead and I would be the one to follow. If she grabbed something we would discuss what it was.  Of course I directed her away from things she could break or that would harm her, but she simply wanted to see the stuff, and it was not even toys.  She was grabbing everything.

We went to the produce section and started talking about the different fruits and vegetables.  Gess has a real texture problem and foods need to be introduced slowly but by exploring the foods herself she began to try new things.  Each week we brought home something new, or at least something she picked out.  That's when we realized she is nuts over Kiwi.  It was here she learned the difference between a fruit and a vegetable.  We talked about their colors and sizes.  There is so much to learn there.

You can do this at any part of the store.  She loves looking at the pictures on T-shirts, which you have to be careful of these days.  She also likes looking at the books and posters.  She even loves grabbing canned goods so we started exploring what kinds of foods they were and eventually learned about nutritional labels.  Now she asks me all the time how many calories are in something.

When it was time to get to the actual shopping that I had to do I found that if I kept Gess active and engaged in the shopping process she was less likely to try to run off in a different direction.  Anytime she could grab a can off the shelf and put it in the cart I let her.  I had her look for stuff, or if I was more in a hurry I would grab it and hand it to her so she could place it in the cart.  Just feeling like she was shopping like mommy made her willing to stay close.  However we had to keep moving.  If I ever ran into a friend and tried to stop and talk Gess would start to wonder off or grab me.  We had to keep her pace for sure.

One thing you don't want to do is reward the learning by buying them something each time.  This is not about exploring so they can get a toy.  It's about exploring to learn.  Part of frugal shopping is taking the time to look at all the products and be aware of their value and worth in the first place.  Looking doesn't mean you have to purchase.  I think it has helped Gess tremendously because while she loves to browse, she hardly ever asks to actually get something when we go.  She might ask for a specific food item she knows we keep around the house, but she isn't trying to get toys or anything like that.  That is another reason why it is important to explore areas other than the toy section.  Believe me, the kids know what is in there already!

So the next time your kid is driving you nuts in the store think about ways you can channel that energy into something productive.  Do you have the time to spend an extra 15 minutes wandering around exploring?  If not can you leave early the next time so that you can?  You might find it will make all the difference in the world and your child might discover something new along the way.

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