All parents know that a trip to the grocery store with a little one in tow can be a struggle. However, when we involve our toddler or preschooler in our shopping, and work to keep him engaged as we walk the aisles, what used to be a stressful experience evolves into something not only bearable, but educational.
The grocery store is a phenomenal place to help your child practice literacy and math skills. With an abundance of environmental print, and boundless opportunities for teachable moments, the supermarket is an ideal place to work with your child on the basics. The next time your little learner starts to fuss at the grocery store, try one of these ideas. Not only will your child stay busy and feel involved, he/she will be learning.
Count It Out
The grocery store is a great place to help your child practice counting and one-to-one correspondence. As you shop, ask your child to help you grab the correct number of items needed. Ask, "Harry, can you put seven oranges in the bag for me?" Then, help your child count aloud as he places the oranges into the bag.
Other counting questions include things like, "How many different types of apples do you see?" or "How many wheels are on our shopping cart?"
My children love to go on a letter hunt at the store. Asking children to search for letters helps them become more aware of print, and can pique an interest in reading. Younger learners can be asked to look for letters or words in general, while preschoolers or children who have learned to recognize letters can be asked to find a specific letter. A fun variation for older kids is to ask them to find something that starts with a specific letter.
While at the deli counter, ask your young child, "Show me where you see letters."
While in the cereal aisle, ask your preschooler, "Can you find the letter 'B' on one of these boxes?"
While in the produce section, ask your elementary schooler, "Can you find a fruit or vegetable that starts with 'P'?"
Two other fun variations include a "Shape Hunt" and a "Color Hunt." Your child will have fun searching for items that are green or looking for a rectangle on the shelf. You may even have the opportunity to teach a few new words like cylinder or tangerine. Be creative and have fun with it!
My kids always feel so grown-up when they get to carry my shopping list. I've started preparing a small list for my preschooler to carry. He is responsible for finding the items on his list and crossing them off once he has put them in the cart. This task helps develop responsibility, helps introduce some new vocabulary, and is an exercise in early reading.
Since my preschooler is not yet reading, I will draw pictures of around 5 items. I label each drawing. As he "reads" the picture words, he is beginning to connect and associate the written word with that item. He's reading, he's helping, and he's happy.
The next time you're at the grocery store, seize the opportunity and implement a learning activity or two. Even if none of these ideas work for you, use the time you have with your child to have an intentional conversation. Chat about what you're buying. Talk about the cost of items. Allow your child to choose something new to try. Point out colors and shapes. Keep your child engaged and involved in what you're doing, and your next trip to the store will be pleasant and full of learning.