September 14, 2005

I Spy an Advertisement

Today when grocery shopping we made a customer smile so she could not help but comment. We were in the cereal aisle, always a tough one for my kids not to bombard me with pleas and begs for the sugar cereal of their choice. Which they never get but hope springs eternal in kids and they don't stop trying.

So one day to beat this game I created a new one. We sat down and talked about advertisements. I had a serious discussion about ads and their power and the reasons for them with my then 5 and 3 year old. Then to bring the lesson home we created a game. I spy an advertisement!

Whenever the kids felt they really wanted something they had to say "I spy an advertisement" which in the cereal aisle gets shortened to "I see another ad" over and over again. Then I ask them if the ad made them want to buy the item. Sometimes they say yes and more often now they say no. We talk about what made them think they wanted that item. On cereal boxes it is most often the charachters on them.

This has proven to be a great game and a powerful lesson for our kids. Instead of thinking they want everything that looks cool now they have the power themselves to examine what drew their attention. Yes at 6 and 4 my kids are often savvy enough to realize that the picture on the box has nothing to do with what is inside. They realize they like the picture not the cereal. They have power to express their real desire and not the impulse that the cereal company wants them to.

This is a silly game but it is also quite serious. It is fun for them but they have also learned a lot from it. They have an outlet for expressing their desire and they are learning that things are not always what they seem. I still remember the first time they realized the cereal they picked did not actually have berries inside the box, they were so disappointed.

Now this is not fail proof - my kids still ask for stuff just because and they still sometimes say yes they want something even though it is just an ad. But honestly overall this has decreased and now we have so much fun going through the store pointing out the ads that they feel less of a need to ask for as much. For some reason this has curbed their need to ask for everything. It has given them a power of some sort and it has taught them many lessons.

In a society where media and ad companies strive to get your children's attention and loyalty to their brand it is important to prepare and equip your children to deal with it. Simple games like our advertisement game do the trick.

Back to my original story - a woman in the cereal aisle heard Ciaran, age 4 say I see an advertisement. She looked up at me and smiled, then each of them pointed to another one and said it at the same time. I asked if the ad made them want to buy it to which both replied no and she looked at me expectantly. I very briefly explained it was a game we played to help them understand and not ask for everything. She said it was just amazing to hear him say that. She smiled at me several times later in the store and I thought - maybe we will win over another parent to wisen and protect her children from the advertisements that want so to affect and in some ways control them or atleast mommy and daddy's purse strings.

Try your own version of I see an advertisement the next time you go shopping and always be willing to have honest coversations with your children about the reasons for your choices and the affects outside influences try to have on our lives. Share how you have struggled with and overcome those issues and prepare your children with the tools they need to face these issues head on when they must deal with them alone.



  1. I've talked with the kids about advertisements, but I don't think my talks really sank in. I love your idea of making it a game!

  2. Wow!

    Talking about ads with your kids is such a neccessary and a brilliant idea. Bringing up ad savvy little ones is not only good for the kids, but it's good for the world! Good work.

    PS Thanks also for the kind words (again) about my logo!

    Stay well,