I am a firm believer that learning opportunities can be found anywhere. My parents often used every day situations to teach my sister and I various lessons and skills that would be helpful to us in our lives. While driving home from places, my mother would encourage us to give her directions home. When we would go on walks, they would encourage us to point out familiar things and name them. All of these lessons helped my sister and I to become avid readers and learners. I am starting to do the same with my daughter, and she is already eager to learn from the world around her. Shopping is one of the tasks which my daughter and I do together that affords us lots of fun learning opportunities. We have been learning and reading at the grocery store since she was a few months old.
From a young age, my daughter has loved to go shopping (she calls it “shop-shop”). She likes to hold the list in the grocery store and put things into the cart for me. She loves cooking already, so I like involving her in shopping for ingredients as well as preparing our meals. As we stroll through the aisles of the grocery store, she likes to point out familiar foods. I enjoy showing her new foods and watching her examine them.
She has also figured out that the people handing out samples offer yummy foods for her to eat. This has given her an opportunity to try new things, which she is happy to do. (This can lead to problems, such as when she enjoyed the lobster mac and cheese they were sampling!). From exposing kids to new things to discussing math, language and problem solving, there are so many ways that you can turn your weekly shopping trip into a fun learning experience.
Using your senses
Talking about Food – This is the simplest way to get kids learning in the grocery store, and can be done with kids only a few months old! Kids are sponges, and they take in everything around them. Even before your child is able to speak, they are curious about the world. Show them how different fruits and vegetables look and feel. Let them touch a pineapple or a loaf of bread. Use simple words like rough, soft, hard and shiny. Point out the red apples or the yellow bananas. They may not be able to fully understand it yet, but you will both get into the habit of talking about the world around you.
Grocery List – Put kids in charge of the grocery list! For very young kids, this can be as simple as a few of the items you need. You can include pictures you printed off the computer or cut out of the weekly ads. Letting them be in charge of the list and letting them search for specific items gives them a task and helps them to feel responsible. My daughter loves to “read” our weekly list to me. She mostly looks it over and calls out foods she would like, but I love that she already understands that the paper she is holding is “telling” me what I am looking for!
Seek and Find
Grocery Store Bingo – This is a great way to keep kids entertained, particularly if you have a long shopping trip ahead of you. Give kids a bingo board and have them find the right products to match their boards. You can have them go for 5 in a row or the whole board. You could use the pre-made bingo board, or let kids create their own bingo boards. Use the blank boards included and have kids draw items or cut pictures out of the weekly ads. If you have more than one child and they are a bit older (or know the store pretty well), you could have them create boards for each other to make it more challenging.
Grocery Scavenger Hunt – Give kids the challenge of finding items for each letter of the alphabet or each color of the rainbow. You could keep track together, or provide kids with a notepad and pen to keep track of their finds.
Talking about Money
Shopping Math – Grocery shopping can be a great way to introduce kids to a variety of math concepts. From rounding and estimating to adding and budgeting, there are a lot of life skills that kids can practice while shopping. Depending on the age of your kids, these are a few options you can use:
- Show young kids two differently priced products, side by side and have them tell you which is the bigger number of the smaller number.
- For kids practicing rounding, show them a few different products on the shelf and have them round the prices to the nearest dollar.
- Give older kids a couple of items and have them estimate the total price.
- Have kids add up the products in the cart, or count items as you add them to the cart.
Shopping for Dinner – Have kids come up with a meal that they would like for dinner. Show them how to find a recipe and figure out the ingredients that they would need to create it. Make a list and take them shopping. Have them set a budget and do their best to stay within it. This process gives kids a variety of learning opportunities, while also allowing them to create something on their own. Kids will feel proud and responsible when they create a meal for the family from start to finish!
Learning opportunities can be found anywhere. From a very young age, you can teach kids about the world by talking to them. Share your observations about the foods in the grocery store, and they will grow to do the same. If you dread the task of grocery shopping, turn it into a fun learning experience instead!