Why do kids love pretend shopping but deplore actual shopping?
When we were in Philly, I took my girls to the Please Touch Museum. Every time I hear the name, I think of my friend, who refers to it as the Please Touch Me museum. That is not relevant to the story; I just thought since I was permanently marked with that, I should mark you as well. I told that to my husband and he started referring to it as the See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me Museum, raising the crazy to nonsensical levels.
So, we went to the Please Touch Museum and the girls had a blast. We stayed for almost three hours and they didn't stop for a minute, just ran from one pretend play area to the next.
David and Primo went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (they did not run up the stairs singing the theme to Rocky, in case you're wondering, and that is precisely why my family needs me because I would have forced them to). When the boys picked us up, Primo asked hat they had in the Please Touch Me, See Me, Heal Me Museum.
"Well they had this huge pretend kitchen which led to a pretend supermarket and a pretend bakery and a pretend hospital with a pretend garden in back. And then, of course, there was the pretend garage with all the pretend vehicles, to say nothing of the pretend treehouse."
"So, it was all just pretend play stuff?" he asked.
"Yes, but the girls loved it. Especially the pretend kitchen. Imagine your workaday play kitchen, only twenty times bigger, so that it's really almost the size of a real kitchen." I explained.
Yes, the kitchen and grocery store was the piece de resistance and as the afternoon wore on, it got more and more crowded so that, again, it resembled a real grocery store mobbed with grownups doing actual shipping. Standing there, watching the children frantically filling and emptying their miniature shopping carts with groceries -- many of which were actual food boxes and cartons, covered in contact paper -- I wondered something:
"Why is it that when we go to the real grocery store, and do exactly this, it is pure torture but when we go to a "pretend" one, it is sheer unadulterated joy and hours of satisfaction?"
And then, immediately, I realized why. It's just the tiny little matter of control.
When they come shopping with me, they can't go where they please and push their own carts, and fill those carts with ten boxes of graham crackers and six loaves of Italian bread and then, two seconds later, throw all of the bread on the floor, and then ten seconds after that, put it on a shelf and then, five seconds after that, put it back in their cart.
So, I'd like to announce that I have discovered the secret to keeping kids happy while grocery shopping. Just give them a cart and let them do whatever the hell they want.
In fact, I'll go one step further and say I've discovered the secret to keeping kids happy everywhere and all the time. It's exactly the same thing, just without the cart.
Nicole is a parenting writer who contributes essays and articles for magazines like Parenting, Parents, American Baby and Babble. She lives in Brooklyn with three children, one husband and a morbidly obese goldfish.