The grocery store is the perfect place to help kids develop important skills like planning, time management, communication, and completing tasks. Every aspect of grocery shopping – from making a list to cooking a meal with your purchases – touches on important skills your child needs to develop.
Question & Answer
There’s a lot to communicate about while grocery shopping! When placing food in your cart, describe it – what it tastes like, its texture, and how you’ll use it for cooking. You can also ask your child to do the describing by asking them questions like, What do strawberries taste like?
Chat with the Cashier
Interacting with the cashier can also be a great way to help kids practice communication skills. Let them hand the money to the cashier and receive the change before giving it to you. Have them ask the cashier how their day is going or let them decide between paper or plastic bags.
Talk About What’s Good for Them
Remember that grocery shopping is also a great time to teach your kids about nutrition and healthy eating! You can talk to them about the benefits of a well-balanced diet and teach them to read food labels. When you get home, you can tell them about your cooking process and show how the ingredients you bought together turn into a tasty meal.
Every time your child wants to put a sugary snack into the cart and they hold themselves back, or listen to you when you say “no,” they are exhibiting self-control. You can also help children learn the concept of self-control by telling them they’re only allowed to buy the items on the list.
Make Them Use Their Memory
Grocery shopping helps kids improve working memory. When you’re in the baking aisle, for example, tell your preschooler three items they need to place in the cart (e.g. flour, baking powder, chocolate chips). As they search the aisle, see if they can remember all three items you asked for. Every time you ask your child to remember and collect a short list of items, you are helping them build working memory!
Learn About Flexibility
Sometimes, the grocery store will be out of an item you need. Use this scenario to teach your child how to adapt and find replacement options! If the store does not have ham for sandwiches one day, ask your child to help you find a substitute for ham. Maybe turkey? Tell them it’s okay to eat something different once in a while.
Add, Subtract, Multiply, Divide
Budgeting and calculating the price of items is a great way to turn grocery shopping into a math lesson. It improves math skills and teaches kids practical life skills at the same time!
Grocery shopping teaches kids social rules, like not eating cookies the minute they put the box in the cart. While they might see their favorite box of cookies and want to open it right there in the store, teaching them how to wait until you get home to open the box and eat a few cookies will help them learn to apply executive function and cognitive skills to real life social settings!
Grocery shopping also teaches kids how to plan and execute a task. From helping you write the list, to gathering the items, to watching and/or helping you cook a meal with ingredients purchased, kids are sure to learn a lot from shopping with you!
Remember, kids’ ages will impact how much they can help you at the grocery store. Take into account how old your child is and make adjustments when trying out any of the tips above. For example, two year olds can help put items in the cart, but might not be able to interact with the cashier. Three year olds can take items off the shelf and put them in the cart, but they might not be able to do a math lesson while grocery shopping. Four and five year olds can remember 2 to 3 items, get them, and put them in the cart. As they grow, they’ll be able to do more!
Make grocery shopping fun and safe by reminding kids to stay near you in the store at all times and hold your hand in the parking lot.
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