Melrose Free Press

Aug. 17, 2011

By Rob Barry

It’s a problem that parents everywhere will face at one time or another: shopping with a toddler. You never know how long their attention span will last or what they’re likely to get into. It can be a lot for a parent to handle.

In an ongoing series of events called “Shopping with Tots,” Hallmark Health is trying to make a difference.

“It’s important to get the kids involved,” said Kim Talbot, nutrition manager at Hallmark, “We always say you’re looking for 3 grams of dietary fiber. Give them that box and have them compare it to Cheerios to get them to see the difference.”

Challenges are everywhere in the supermarket, Talbot said, most of the sugary foods kids see advertised during their cartoons are not what they should ideally be eating, yet they’re all on shelves at toddler eye level.

To get parents thinking about fun strategies to get their tots involved in shopping, Talbot has helped to organize a series of scavenger hunts at the Shaw’s Supermarket on Essex Street.

“For the program we have them do a rainbow scavenger hunt,” said Talbot. “So they try to find something of every color.”

The idea, Talbot said, is to try to use kids’ developmental stages to your (an their) advantage. Older kids who are starting to read can make a game out of reading labels and looking for certain ingredients. Or they can work on counting by looking for the number of grams of healthy ingredients like fiber.

The scavenger hunts are designed to last under 30 minutes, which Talbot says is about as long an attention span as you can hope from a 2-to-5-year-old. The organizers tell the kids that each color of vegetable has different benefits to the body and they go off searching.

Talbot said some of them had a tougher time finding blue or purple produce.

“This last one we had a little boy come who was wearing big rain boots and binoculars,” Talbot said. “He was looking down the aisles. I think his mother had gotten him excited before the scavenger hunt.”

The final Shopping with Tots scavenger hunt will take place on Oct. 11 at 9:30 a.m. at the Shaw’s on Essex Street.

For some general tips, Talbot said it’s good to teach kids what numbers to look for where. For instance, on any juice product, you can teach kids to look for “100 percent juice.”

“And don’t make your kid be a member of the clean plate club” Talbot said. “Kids eat until they feel filled up. Don’t make food a reward or penalty.”

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