Cheap Dates with Toddlers: Hardware stores, grocery stores, Target, IKEA!

parent-shopper

[Every Friday, I post a “toddler date” idea for something fun and simple to do with your toddler. The big picture ideas apply to any locale, but the specific examples will be Bellevue-centric.]

If you have an early riser, like my third child, your day sometimes starts at 5:30 am. Sometimes by 8:00 a.m. you’re desperate for something to do, and it’s still hours till all the “toddler-friendly” activities are scheduled. That’s one reason to love big stores. You can head to a store at almost any hour, load your child in a cart, and start your exploration.

Grocery shopping may seem like a mundane task to you, but remember that every store is full of new sights and exciting things for a toddler to explore. Talk about what you see, smell, touch, and taste (if you’re lucky enough to be at a store on food sample days).

Children learn through experience and through real-world applications of information. Think about what all there is to learn in a hardware store:

  • talk about colors at the racks of paint chips
  • explore textures in the sandpaper aisle
  • discover on and off in the light switch display
  • talk about different sizes of objects in the nail and screw bins
  • learn about numbers and letters by checking out the house numbers and ‘garage sale’ signs
  • and for sheer entertainment value: run a paint roller back and forth across your toddler’s belly

An etiquette note: if you’re ‘hanging out’ in a retail establishment where your focus is more on entertaining your child than on buying stuff, make sure to never get in the way of the real customers, and make sure you put everything back as you found it, or even better, help tidy up a bit as you go along!

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