Most of us have trekked around the supermarket with our little ones in tow. It’s a wonderful experience for most tots and toddlers – the sights and the sounds are stimulating and for older children a supermarket excursion can be an excellent learning experience. However, I suspect, few of us have thought about the hazards that such a busy place can pose for little people. In this article, Rachael Cherry highlights some of the dangers and offers practical advice to help keep our children safe.

When we take children to the grocery store with us it can be a good thing or a bad thing. It is good in that children need to learn how to shop, where food comes from, and how to spend money wisely. However it can also be a struggle as kids can get into everything and little ones tend to put those things into their mouths! Keeping kids healthy and germ free at the store is a struggle, but here are some helpful tips:

  1. Cart Common Sense – The grocery carts or buggies that kids sit in are often full of germs. Little ones love to chew on the handles and anything else they can reach. Just think about how many adults have touched that and how many other little children have chewed on it. Ew! To prevent this, you can buy or make a seat cover for grocery carts. This is an easy way to not only keep your child from chewing and touching the cart but also keep him warm and safe even when the carts are cold or damp. If you can’t find a cover, you can use a blanket. Additionally many stores offer sanitizing wipes to clean off the carts which can be another way to protect yourself and your kids from germs. Make sure you always buckle your child up and never leave them in the cart unattended. Kids can squirm out and fall out onto the hard floor, hurting themselves badly. They can also get their fingers and toes stuck in the cracks and hurt themselves. As kids get older it is tempting to let them ride in the large basket, under the basket, or hang off the sides. However this has the danger of tipping the basket over on top of them and hurting them or causing them to fall off and hurt themselves. Toes and fingers can also get run over by the wheels so it is all around a bad idea.
  2. Eating With Eyes Only – Another big problem I often see with kids in the grocery store is picking up food and eating it. Not only is this bad for the store, destruction of things you haven’t paid for, but it is not healthy for the kids. Unwashed fruits and vegetables can have all kinds of germs and pesticides on them. Not to mention the times I have seen little ones stick their fingers into packages of hamburger and eat some of the meat raw! Do not think just because your child is in the cart they can’t reach things. Inside or outside of the cart, kids can get into things before you know it. Keep a close eye on them and make sure everything that is easy to open is out of their reach. Another danger is stacks of groceries like canned goods or sodas. Kids can go up to a stack and try to climb it or take some out from the base. The entire stack can then fall on them and hurt them badly. Teach kids to look and don’t touch when they are in the store.
  3. Potty Time – Inevitably a child that is in the process of being potty trained or even an older child will have to visit the restroom while at the store. Leaving the full cart behind you, you must journey into the restroom which can be a very unsanitary place. Teach children to not touch as much as they possibly can when using the restroom. Help them to learn to use toilet seat liners or toilet paper to provide a sanitary place to sit down. After they are through, help them to wipe well and clean up any mess they made. And flush! After using the restroom, teach them to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, or the length of the birthday song, with warm water and soap. Help them to dry their hands and use a tissue or the paper they dried off with to open the door. All these little things can really help keep them cleaner.

There are many ways that kids can get ill or hurt in the grocery store. However going to the store is an essential learning experience. You can keep your children safe and help them to learn just by being wise and keeping your eyes open for opportunities. Every time you are out with your kids you can use the time to communicate and teach as well as keep them safe.