I walked through the doors of the store as they slid open beckoning us to enter.   Each of my three boys were holding onto the sides of the cart as I stopped next to the tomatoes to fish my phone out of my purse.  I opened the calculator app on it and turned to one of my boys and told him, “You’ve got a big job today.  You’re going to keep track of how much we spend at the grocery store.”   His eyes bugged out slightly and a grin was overtaking his lips.  This is a huge deal. They’re not allowed to play on my phone.  I completely and totally had him at “hold my phone.”  The other two boys listened longingly and quickly calmed down in unspoken hopes that they would get a turn also.

The goal of this activity was three-fold.  First, practice rounding up (to include tax in our running total).  Secondly, to teach him how to use a calculator.  Third, to keep his little hands occupied so they wouldn’t be touching everything and everyone.

The first item was placed in our cart. “This is $4.69.  If we round it to the nearest dollar, what are you going to press into the calculator?”



This went on throughout the whole store.  He stayed vigilant and engaged the entire time.  The other two boys were also calmer than I’ve ever seen them at the store.  Hope is a powerful tool.

As we placed all the items on the conveyor belt to check out, my little ones paid close attention as each item was being scanned. They were anxious to see the total and how close they were to estimating the total cost.  One of my sons, who was not holding the calculator, asked very loudly as I’m paying for the groceries, “Mom…are you sure you have enough money to pay for all this?”

Sigh.  “Yes, I have enough money to pay for it.”

“Are you SURE you have enough money to pay for it?  That’s a LOT!  You told me you don’t have an endless amount of money in the bank.”

I think I actually feel some of my hairs turning grey.  Sigh again.  “YES…I’m sure I have enough money to pay for it.”

Other than questioning my ability to pay for the groceries at the end, the whole activity was a huge success.  I had one more store I needed to stop at on the way home.  I let the next boy keep an estimated total of our purchases at that store too.  I have a feeling this is going to be a rotating activity for the boys when we go shopping.  In the long run, it’s actually less work to do this than to constantly tell them, “Keep your hands to yourself.”  ” You don’t need to be touching that.”   “Come back here please.”