|by Adam Lisagor/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0|
A tedious, repetitive part of a parent's life is dragging bored kids round the supermarket because you 'need a few bits' or 'have nothing for dinner'. Here's an idea that could be used every now and then to make those trips a little less painful for everyone.
It came about when I was looking after four children recently (my daughter + 3) and realized I didn’t have enough food to cobble together lunch for them all – especially as one of them was dairy and gluten intolerant. They were playing so intently though, it felt mean to interrupt their fun to take them to the shop. Then it occurred to me that this could actually be part of the fun.
I told the girls I was setting them a challenge:
I was going to release them into the supermarket with my shopping list and a shopping basket. Could they find all the correct items? Without any help from me. Whatsoever.
They took the bait. Loom bands, felt-tips, tights on heads (?!) were tossed aside and we were out the door.
To make it more challenging, I decided we'd have something for lunch with slightly more interesting ingredients than a cheese sandwich. We’d have what I call “DIY spring rolls”, a sort of made-up thing, but basically a Chinesey filling rolled up inside rice papers (which I did have in the cupboard already). I also threw in an element of free choice and a price restriction. This was the shopping list:
I had absolutely no idea how easy or hard it was going to be for them. I guessed kids pick up quite a lot by osmosis from regular trips to the supermarket with their mum or dad, but just how much detail had they absorbed? Could they identify a piece of ginger, for example? Would they be able to locate the Chinese Five Spice, hiding here?
I selected a smaller rather than a larger supermarket to keep the task – and them! – a bit more contained.
When we got there, I put them into pairs (for tighter teamwork), with an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old in each (for evenness), and gave each pair a copy of the same shopping list. But I made it clear that this wasn’t a competition against each other or a race against time. So they should do it calmly and slowly. I didn’t think four unsupervised kids screeching and squealing their way round the supermarket would go down that well.
Then I set them free.
I wandered round, peeping down aisles, watching from a distance. They looked very engaged, very earnest, very interactive, swapping food knowledge and supermarket geography with each other. Just little pint-sized shoppers going about their business. I caught one pair asking a member of staff very politely where a particular item was, and the others checking ingredient labels to see if the pudding they wanted was gluten and dairy-free. I was impressed.
After 20 minutes or so, they presented me with their baskets. Time to see how well they'd done. We crouched down by the cat litter and I checked each item against the list – with a pretend tone of formality, like a theatre nurse doing an inventory of medical equipment.
The errors: One pair had got an iceberg lettuce instead of a white cabbage, and the other pair had only been able to find dried ginger.
The selected puddings: Jelly for one pair, meringues for the other.
They all looked pretty pleased with themselves. One pair had also chanced their arm and slipped The Lego Movie DVD in their basket!
We put the duplicate ingredients from one basket back on the shelves and paid for the other. As we headed home, I overheard them discussing the pros and cons of shopping at Co-op versus Sainsburys as if they'd jumped forward 60 or 70 years.
|by Paul Downey/CC BY 2.0|