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How to Make Grocery Shopping a Learning Experience

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Grocery shopping with preschoolers isn’t easy. We get goal-oriented about shopping and feel frustrated that our kids are slowing us down. But grocery stores offer a wealth of stimuli for a child’s brain, and shopping is a great opportunity to help your little one learn and grow. Below are some ways you can engage your child while getting your shopping done.

Name everything. Everything you buy, hold it up and name it. Let your child hold, feel, and smell items. This will help your child’s vocabulary explode.

Work on colors. Once your child knows lots of nouns, you can begin to work on colors. Hold up a banana and say, “Yellow. Yellow banana.” Do this with anything that has a clear color. Show your child something red, and then say, “Can you find anything red?” Let them name everything they can find that’s red. Play “I Spy.” Keep in mind that kids under 3 probably won’t remember what they picked, so they may say no to everything you guess!

Play word games. Say a word and together come up with words that rhyme. They can even be nonsense words. Have fun with it. Play opposites. Say a word and let your child name the opposite. You may have to give some examples before they get the hang of this.

Use coupons for matching. Give your child a coupon with a picture of an item and see if they can hunt down the item that matches the picture.

Count. Say, “I need three cans of soup. Can you get three?” Let your child hold the bag for produce and count apples and oranges as they go in the bag.

Explore and experiment. In the veggie and fruit aisle, find the weirdest looking item you can. Find out what it is. Try to purchase one or two unusual items just to let your kids try something new. Cut it open (at home), see what it’s like inside and what it smells and tastes like.

Let them imitate you. See if they can push a kiddie cart and put some items in their cart. Give them some paper and a pencil to make a “shopping list.” Let them cross things off their list.

They key to your sanity on these shopping trips is to hold dual goals in your mind. You are trying to get your shopping done, but you are also trying to help your child learn and grow and enjoy having time with you. Keeping both goals in mind will help you stay patient with distractions. Enjoy the time together that shopping provides!

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Photo by Doug Waldron

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