Shopping is a good opportunity to develop your toddler’s social skills.
Learning to interact with others is one of the biggest challenges of early childhood. To get there, your child needs your help. You can foster their social development at home, of course, but also when you take them shopping, from their early months.
Why develop your child’s social skills?
Encouraging your child’s social skills development is important because it allows for connecting with others, making friends, getting along with them, working as a team, and carving their place. Certain social skills, such as waiting their turn, listening to instructions, and expressing emotions, help your child adapt to all kinds of life situations. Additionally, they will later help them succeed in school.
Take advantage of the grocery store to promote your child’s social development
For children under 1 year old
- At the grocery store, talk to your baby often and show them that you are by their side. This provides reassurance, because they are seeing many new smiling faces and hearing unknown voices saying hello to them. Thanks to your reassuring presence, they develop a sense of security and trust that allows them to encounter unfamiliar people and places.
- When your child shows interest in other babies you meet, don’t hesitate to stop for a few minutes to let them interact. Babies can connect with others by simply looking in their eyes and communicating with them through gestures or making sounds.
- When leaving your home, say goodbye to your other family members. Likewise, say hello to them when you come back. Over time, your baby will learn that they always come back to their family and their home after an outing.
For children over 1 year old
- Use outings with your child as opportunities to teach them to respect rules. Frame your instructions in a positive way, as negative instructions are more difficult to understand. For example, say: “You have to hold my hand when walking in the parking lot” rather than “Don’t let go of my hand.”
- Praise your toddler for good behaviour when going out together. For example, when waiting in line to pay at the grocery store, tell them: “Even though it’s taking a long time, you are waiting quietly. Well done on your patience!” It boosts their confidence and makes them proud of their abilities.
- Give your child special responsibilities when you are at the grocery store. For example, let them choose some fruit or vegetables to buy. By allowing them to manifest their autonomy, you are providing reassurance, supporting their self-confidence, and strengthening their self-awareness.
- You can also help your toddler learn some social skills by encouraging them to carry a small bag for you, teaching them how to throw their waste in the trash and put their empty plastic containers in the recycling bin, etc.
- Make your errands fun. For example, stop at a park on your way to the grocery store. In addition to making shopping more enjoyable for your child, it gives them a short opportunity to learn to socialize with others.
- If your child is aged 3 or older, you can play pretend with them at home to give them the opportunity for a more in-depth exploration of some of the things you did during your shopping. For example, in turn, play the role of a grocery employee and that of the customer. Help your child think about what they would say if they were one of these people. This game gets them used to experiencing different types of social interactions.
Scientific review: Solène Bourque, psychoeducator
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: June 2020
Useful links and resources
BELLEFLEUR, Marie-Josée. Passeport vers l’autonomie. Quebec, Éditions Midi Trente, 2013, 80 pp.
RACINE, Brigitte. Le respect, une valeur pour la vie. Montreal, Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2016, 236 pp.