Shopping with kids gets a bad rap. I wholeheartedly acknowledge that taking kids shopping will be neither quick nor easy, especially after wrestling car seats and transporting tiny tots through a busy parking lot. If you’re going to take your kids shopping in only one store, though, that store should be Costco.
You may think I’ve lost my mind because I actually want to bring my kids into an oversized warehouse filled to the rafters with pallets of ketchup and kayaks, but it is actually the best place to take your kids shopping.
Here’s my take: Parenting is all about perspective and playing the long game. Our babies and toddlers are going to be adults one day — adults who need to know how to read a grocery label, comparison shop, and pick the ripest fruits and vegetables. Although it would be easier to order groceries online or swing through curbside pick-up (and believe me there are days that I have!), I know it is my job as a parent to include my kids in these everyday adventures to develop life skills.
That said, here are my five main reasons for bringing the kiddos with me on my Costco runs.
1. Young minds have sponge-like memories.
I start going over our list in the car and ask my kids for their help in remembering everything we need. My children are 4 and 2, and their little minds are like sponges. I give each one a few items from the list, assigning them their favorite foods, making them more inclined to remember. Lucy’s list often includes dried cherries, pistachios, and frozen fruit for smoothies, whereas Gus has dibs on the yogurt and hummus. While I may get distracted by, say, the deals in the gift card section, my kids rarely let me forget what is on my list!
2. The trip can be an opportunity for fun and learning.
Mary Poppins said it best: In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. What kids think of as fun is often quite different than what we, as adults, perceive. Kids learn by helping, so instead of confining them to the cart I set mine free and accept their help. (Luckily, Costco aisles are wide, so the kids are not likely to be in the way of other shoppers!)
Before I drive the cart into the cold room, we pretend to put on our hats, mittens, and coats. Once inside the frigid tundra of the dairy cooler, I test their color knowledge. Can they choose the Kirkland Signature Organic Milk with the yellow label (fat-free) and not the red label (whole)? We also practice counting and I teach them how many eggs come in a package (and how to look for broken ones).
For older kids, Costco is the prime place to put math skills into action. Learning how to read pricing labels, especially cost per unit, is a skill I didn’t learn until college. Costco makes it simple, often showcasing the unit price right next to the item cost. Can your kiddo pick out the best deal? Strike up a more challenging conversation in the produce section: A bag of six avocados sells for $6.99, so how much does each avocado cost? Is that a better deal than we see at our regular grocery store? Hint: It usually is.
3. There’s really not much damage they can do.
I could go a lifetime without taking my kids to a home improvement store, with its tiny (open!) boxes of screws, nuts, and bolts right at eye level; sharp saws out on display; and flats of flowers just waiting to be toppled. Costco is different, and by specializing in bulk buys, Costco’s cans, cartons, boxes, and bags are too large to knock off pallets as kids scamper down the aisles running their hands along the packages (as they do).
So I’ve learned to relax, and let my kids touch and feel. I ask for their help to put the boxes and bags in the cart. They’re always amazed that a bag of popcorn that’s bigger than they are can be so light, but the jug of dish soap that comes up to their knees is surprisingly much heavier. I get a laugh, too, watching them figure out how to lift and maneuver the items from the bins to the basket.
4. I actually want their input!
The comfort in buying products you know and love in bulk is obvious — there is always a stash tucked in the cupboard at home. But there’s also risk involved, especially when shopping for tiny (and picky) humans. The after-school snacks that they loved last month lose their luster, and I’m left with enough granola bars to feed the entire neighborhood languishing in the garage.
Instead of assuming that what my kids noshed on last month is what they want to snack on next, I let them choose. My kids love to have a say in what they eat, and I’m happy to oblige (within reason) — especially when the packs of snacks are that big!
5. There are free samples!
Despite my best efforts to prep and plan, not every Costco trip runs smoothly. You might even spot me sprinting down the aisle after a toddler wielding a minivan-sized bag of Pirate’s Booty. Shopping games fall flat. Requests for help land on deaf ears. But snacks always grab their attention, and thankfully Costco’s sample stations are scattered throughout the store. Those tiny cups distract the kids so I can pick up a few items on the way to the next sample station.
Thoughts? How do you feel about shopping at Costco with your kids?