The Independent Shopper

A brief story from something I had the opportunity to witness a few days ago…

Going to the grocery store is always a family event. My husband, son, and I often times go together, so that we can pick out exactly what we want and discuss our meal plans for the upcoming week.

Per our usual Sunday afternoon activity, we visited our local Krogers to stock up for the week. There was another family who kept arriving at the same isles we went to, almost as if we had the same shopping list. They had a small boy with them, probably only about 4 years old. He had a child-sized grocery cart that he was pushing alongside his parents, which was surprisingly very full. Of course, the Montessorian mommy in me immediately noticed his independence, and thought how precious it was to see his desire to help his parents shop. My husband, poor guy, made the comment, “Wow, they actually make their child push a heavy cart like that?”, which of course led me to an in-depth conversation about the importance of what he was doing, and how it represents the beauty of a Montessori child.

He wasn’t given a grocery cart as a form of distraction, or something to keep him occupied while mom and dad shopped. He was genuinely needed, and given valuable items to be responsible for. I actually witnessed him grab eggs from the refrigerator, and carefully place them in the correct place in the cart, careful to not let them touch anything else. Amongst many things, he also had a few loafs of bread, tomatoes, and cookies; items that could’ve easily been bruised or broken if not handled correctly. His parents trusted him to carefully handle each item of food, and asked him to pick the food off of the shelf. He was given the opportunity to help, and not punished for picking up something too fast, or not picking out the right brand. His parents respected his work, and relied on him to help carry the food that they needed, despite his young age.

We do the same for our son, even though he is just shy of 17 months. Everything that goes into the cart, goes through the “Troy inspection”. He enjoys handling the food, touching it, smelling it, and inspecting it’s every bump, fold, or texture. Of course, this lasts only a few seconds, before he tosses it into the cart. We redirect him on how to gently handle the food, which he’s learning. He loves the fruit most of all, probably because of the bright colors and smells, and the way that their displayed. Whenever we get home, we both sit on the floor and discuss what was bought, as we empty the bags. I’m always sure to let him watch (and sometimes help) me prepare the food, allowing him to be a member of this important process.

As soon as your child shows interest in doing these activities on their own, allow them to try! Try going to a local farmer’s market and pick out new fruits that your child hasn’t tried before. Incorporate “food tasting” into your home life. Use the right language to describe what the food is, its color, texture…all these things help build their language development. Children want to participate in meaningful, productive work. This is a great way to introduce them to new things, while opening their eyes to many different foods and flavors.

For those of you wanting to purchase a more natural, child-friendly grocery cart, you might try this website:

shopping cart_1

Happy shopping!

2 thoughts on “The Independent Shopper

  1. I do that too. When ever there is a child shopping cart available, I make sure Viswesh selects his items. And now its both Viswesh and Akshar. I let them choose their items, irrespective of the cart. I then explain the nutritious value of the food if they pick candies or chocolates or other junk food. I try to convince them to put the junk back. well some times I dont succeed. But, right from dresses, they choose their stuff.

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