My son earns a $1 for pushing the shopping cart in the grocery store. This is part of his Occupational Therapy homework I came up with after watching him crash a shopping cart into five things in under two minutes. I made a deal with him. If he can navigate the cart at a slow pace without hitting anything, he earns one dollar. If it is a long store visit (over 30 minutes), I give him the choice of continuing and earning a second dollar.
Before we started doing this, he would stand on the lower bar of the shopping cart and lean his back against my chest while I pushed him around. He made zero effort to hold himself upright and was very much like a rag doll. He had no reason to pay attention to anything, not even his own safety. He left it up to me to keep him from falling. So, it was a real workout for me to shop with him. When I finally decided he’d have to walk on his own, because an almost-seven-year-old boy should be able to do that, he was still hungry for that pressure he got while standing on a bar and pressing against me or draping himself over my arms.
Pushing a shopping cart also gives him pressure, but there is focus and effort involved. It is not as easy as it looks. Both hands have to push with different pressure to steer, and the force used to push forward must be balanced with ones ability to turn left and right. My son really wanted the money, or he would have given up. And, today when we got a cart which constantly veered left, he did give up.
His behavior in the store is greatly improved when he is given this task. He is present, in the moment, and actually enjoys the challenge as long as he is having a certain level of success. Being successful is really important.
When we finish filling up the cart, I also ask him to help unload everything at the checkout. His willingness to help me is greater if he has been helping push the cart than if he has been riding on it.
I hope this idea is something that will work for you and your child. Every little bit helps. Is there anything you do while shopping with your child to serve a double purpose?