Do, Don’t Pretend
About a year ago I discovered a guilty pleasure – the supermarket Fresh and Easy. The closest F & E is in Laguna Hills, next to the DMV. For those of you who haven’t visited, F & E is similar to Trader Joe’s – lots of store brand items, fewer additives in the foods, good prices, interesting prepared foods – plus, some brand name items, so if you need Heinz Ketchup or Coke you don’t have to hit two markets.
I’m a big Trader Joe’s fan (aren’t we all) but sometimes you just need something new and different in the house so I’ll plan a trip, usually combined with a Target run (oh, the glamour of running a household,) to F & E.
I recently had a friend’s son with me and the girls, and as we were heading home from someplace fun I realized I could swing by F & E. The three kids I had with me are good kids and didn’t complain too much about a group marketing experience. Turns out we were in for a treat.
When I couldn’t find the no-sugar added mixed fruit cups (a lunch box staple in the Meekma house) I asked a grocery clerk for help. Turns out I had found a manager who said he could go “to the back” and check if he had any in stock. This kind man looked at me with three bored, verging on cranky kids, and asked if we wanted to come along. Ooh – an adventure!
We accompanied the gentleman to the back and into a cold storage room. Along the way, he shared some interesting facts – how cold dairy had to be kept, how often they received shipments, etc. This wasn’t as exciting as a visit to the circus, but it certainly made our typical shopping trip a much more interesting and pleasurable experience.
Alas, no fruit cups were in stock, but the kids remained engaged and helped me do self-check out with gusto. I mean, who doesn’t love running the items across the scanner to hear that satisfying beep?
These three kids all attended Laguna Presbyterian Preschool downtown and as a class chaperone I had visited the Laguna Police Department (sit in a real jail cell!) and the post office (real letters!) with their classes. We’ve been in Laguna Coffee and have seen and smelled fresh coffee being roasted; as Brownies we visited our local gelateria and learned how to make gelato (great field trip – includes lots of sampling.) We talk to “our” lifeguards about the tide and cleaning the beach. The girls grew up going to work with me at the Sawdust Festival and can tell you more about glass blowing than most adults; they are also really good at being office assistants. And the excitement of visiting the fire station, especially when we met one of Laguna’s women firefighters at the South Laguna station, cannot be described.
I share all of this because learning opportunities are all around us. When parents and children interact with each other and the adults in their lives, we all become better citizens with a greater understanding of how our town, and the world, works. The Pretend City Museum that opened not long ago in Irvine lets young children pretend to visit the places I’ve just mentioned. There is nothing wrong with imaginative play, but to pay $11 per person to go into a building to pretend to visit a police station is not the same, or nearly as interesting, as visiting the real one.
Rebecca Meekma is that friend who always knows something fun to do and the Calendar Editor for Parenting OC. Follow her blog at www.ParentingOC.com.