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November 17th, 2017

Kids + Grocery Shopping = Engaged Minds

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Today we are welcoming guest author, Kristin Van de Water, a mom from NYC who, like you, is always looking for ways to engage her child in learning!

Kids are natural scientists, constantly exploring the world. One of the greatest gifts a parent can give these budding brains is the vocabulary they need to make sense of their surroundings. Exposing children, babies included, to as many words as possible is a great way to boost their academic success later in life.

But it’s easy to let the busyness of life get in the way. Thankfully, language exposure doesn’t have to be relegated to specific “learning time.” Learning, especially for these little sponges we call kids, happens 24/7.

And so, it seems, does grocery shopping. (How are we already out of milk? Who finished that jar of peanut butter?)

At least three times a week I walk a block to the corner store and load the stroller with supplies to feed my family of six. Sometimes I dash in without kids, but normally I have at least one of my four children tagging along. Instead of seeing this as a burden, I look for ways to use our shopping excursions as an avenue of learning.

Here are some questions to ask as you meander the aisles. For big kids, let them answer. For babies, answer your own questions out loud (and ignore the curious looks of fellow shoppers!)

  • What’s on our shopping list today? How many items do we need? Will those fit in a basket or should we grab a cart?
  • It’s 3:00 p.m. now. What time do you think it will be when we’re finished?
  • What aisle number are we in? What do the items in this aisle have in common?
  • Look at all these pasta shapes! Who can find a cylinder shape? Spirals? Straight lines? Shells?
  • Which loaf of bread has more slices? Which loaf says 100% whole wheat?
  • Burr…it’s cold. Why do you think the temperature dropped suddenly?
  • Which package of meat is heavier?
  • Which can of beans is more expensive?
  • The cheese is 2/$5. So how much does each block of cheese cost?
  • How many half-gallons of milk would you need to fill up a gallon?
  • Let’s look for some green vegetables. Should we pick broccoli, beans, or spinach?
  • Which vegetables should we pick for our salad?
  • Who can find three different types of melon? Let’s put the smallest melon in our basket first and the largest second.
  • These bananas are too ripe and brown. Where are some yellow bananas?
  • Let’s buy apples for each member of our family. How many apples do we need? If we eat ours on the way home, how many apples will be left when we unpack the groceries?
  • Can you estimate how many peanuts are in this jar? The label says there are 20 peanuts per servings and 5 servings in the jar, so there’s probably around 100!

Big kids can be your helper:

  • Search for items using the shopping list like a scavenger hunt.
  • Count and estimate the total cost of the items in your cart.
  • Push the cart or hold the basket.
  • Load food onto the conveyor belt at checkout.
  • Carry bags to the stroller/car.
  • Put food into the fridge, freezer, cupboard.

At home, use your shopping trip as inspiration for pretend play:

  • Create a shopping list with pictures.
  • Set up a “store” with play food and boxes.
  • Create play “money” to “buy” the food and count out change.

Pick a few ideas that resonate with you and try them out next time the supermarket beckons. Your trip may take longer, but the investment in your kids’ learning is worth it.

Kristin Van de Water is a mother of twins in PS 198’s gifted and talented program in New York City. Raising four kids in a two-bedroom apartment, Kristin is always on the lookout for life hacks to save time, space, money, and her sanity. Visit her blog at Carnegie Hill Mom.

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