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I don't buy shopping helps children

ACADEMICS don't half talk some tosh.

I've held that view for some time - dating back to a sentence I served as an undergrad at Edinburgh University. And my prejudice was reinforced yesterday when I read a report that claimed that shopping boosts kids' happiness levels.

The study, carried out by Oxford boffins and The Open University, argued that shopping is "particularly significant in relation to child happiness". An OU bod said: "Children are getting visual stimulation, they are getting out of the house and into a new environment, they are bumping into other families where social skills come into play, and they may get the chance to do something physical in a shop like run around."

The paper, based on a survey completed by more than 800 parents of two and three-year-olds, added: "Child happiness is positively related to engagement in more active activities, such as reading or telling stories, going shopping and painting."

Up to a point, Lord Copper. In Nineteen Oatcake Leith, shopping was certainly an active pursuit, though it was hardly a joyful one. It consisted largely of having a crumpled piece of paper wrapped around a handful of change shoved into my juvenile mitt and being told to run to Maloney's, our local corner shop, for the messages (one such occasion, resented to this day, involved being sent out for 10 Woodbines and a pint of milk during the 1966 World Cup final; I missed the West German equaliser).

Whether that is a contributory factor or not, I've hated shopping ever since; it's a chore, not therapy.

The weekly supermarket shop is a case in point. I start off with the best of intentions; I can just about keep my interest going through aisles 1-3 (fruit and veg), but then I lapse into a trance state until the haven of aisles 17-20 (bevvy). In the meantime my other half has incomprehensibly spent an age comparing various plug-in air fresh­eners and vainly sought my views on the relative merits of Aqua Blast and Citrus Fresh bleach (I know, I know; I should care, these things matter).

Then there is the lottery of selecting which checkout queue to join. This is the ultimate manifestation of Sod's Law; the person with the least amount of shopping to unpack will invariably be the one with an item whose price is unknown, prompting a Dr Stanley-style expedition of discovery from a teenage sloth.

There is hope, though. At the weekend, by way of a change, we went to an Asda superstore; they have a creche near the entrance. If you're looking for me next Saturday, check out the soft-play ball pool.

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