How to teach your child on the spectrum to grocery shop


One of my favorite activities for encouraging good eating habits for kids is to include them in food shopping. Studies show that when kids are involved in the process of purchasing and preparing foods, they are more likely to actually eat them. However, getting kids with ASD involved in the shopping process is often easier said than done. Just consider the tempting treats, cramped aisles, crowds of hurried shoppers, loud announcements, unexpected weird smells, and long checkout lines.

I know. I recognize the hurdles. I not only stand by my recommendation, but actually believe it’s a challenge worth overcoming. Being comfortable grocery shopping and being in unpredictable and sometimes uncomfortable situations in public is an important skill to master. You will appreciate the advantages that come with this skill now in addition to knowing that your child can shop independently as he ages.

Try these tips for successful grocery shopping

  • Start small. If you have a child prone to grocery store meltdowns, you want to start by just practicing. This means keep trips really short by going in for one easy-to-find item. Once your child can manage these short focused trips, you can slowly increase the duration of the visit and also add more items to your shopping list. Remember that more frequent shorter successful trips are more likely to result in improvement than one infrequent a long tense trip. Just think of those frequent short trips as practice. Lots and lots of practice.

  • Provide clear rules and expectations for the grocery shopping trip. What exactly does a successful trip look like? Look to picture stories or find some images online so your child van really visualize the experience.

  • Provide specific positive feedback throughout and at the end of the shopping trip.

  • Ignore behaviors you don’t want to see repeated.

  • Provide a special reward for a successful trip. Your child can pick out a special treat from the store.

  • Bring along favorite toys or comforting items.

  • Share a shopping list before stepping into the store so your child knows what to expect.

  • Make it fun. Turn the trip into a scavenger hunt. Guess how much the items will cost. Which is heavier - the bunch of bananas or box of tomatoes?

If you’d like more tips to help your child learn to love new foods, click here to download my free guide or check out these posts: