Want to upgrade your weekly shopping trip from family struggle time to — at least on a good day — an educational experience? We have four easy-to-use ways to keep your children (fingers crossed!) calm, curious and connected on your next trip to the grocery store.
Before you head to the store, work together to create a shopping list. For toddlers, ask questions about what fruit, vegetables or other foods they want. Two-year-olds and up can help make the list. They can either say items they want for adults to write or draw them. Then, when you head to the store, use the list like a set of directions. All of these actions build language arts skills!
Location, location, location:
On your way to the store, talk about what part of your community the store is in. Is it north? Right around the corner? Downtown? In town? All of these terms help your child explore geography, which is a part of social studies. For preschool and beyond, you can use maps to talk about location. You can use kid-created maps, paper maps or apps with maps.
Going on a food hunt:
As you shop, talk about the colors, shapes and location (under, over, beside, above) of each food item on your list. For toddlers, simply sharing those descriptions helps build math and science vocabulary. For preschool and beyond, you can invite your child to help you find each item with a grocery store version of “I Spy.” “I spy a white vegetable. It’s as big as your head and next to the broccoli.” Cauliflower is more fun if it’s part of a game!
Delicious AND nutritious?
Build your child’s health skills by discussing what is healthy about items on your shopping list. Here are some easy ways to help your child explore food and nutrition by age.
- One- and two-year-olds: Ask if a food is new or one they’ve had before. Then, together, use words to describe the color, texture or time of day for each food. “This apple is shiny, red and gold. Would you want to eat this for a snack or with a meal?”
- Preschoolers: Talk about which foods are more nutritious (vegetables, lean proteins, fruit and whole grains are all great options) and which are perhaps better for treats (nearly the snack aisle!). “Those carrots and plums are really healthy, so we can eat them all the time. If we get these cookies, let’s make sure to just have one each. Sweet treats like these have a lot of sugar.”
- Pre-K: Discuss the link between a food and your child’s health. Encourage your little one to consider which drinks, foods and serving sizes are healthiest for them.
Taking the time to encourage children to help plan your trip, staying engaged during travel time, and talking about foods makes the most of your grocery trip. As parents, we also love taking that time to connect. It makes a chore a little more fun, and helps us explore our children’s favorite flavors!
Do you have any tips on making grocery shopping with little eaters more fun? Share them below!
Build Your Child’s Brighter Future!
Want to dive deeper into the health your little one? Check out our Play and Learning guidance about Physical Health and Growth for:
- Babies — Your baby is exploring with all five senses and figuring out both her big and small muscles work.
- One-year-olds — She’s developing a sense of independence – with the fine and gross motor skills to match!
- Two-year-olds — When you take your toddler for a check-up, he’s learning all about the importance of good health and self-care.
- Three-year-olds — Your child is growing into a taller, bigger, stronger body that can do more new things every day.
- Pre-K learners — Caring for his health and knowing what foods and beverages are good for him are important milestones.
Cover image by Flickr user USACE Europe District, Creative Commons license.
Kirsten Eamon-Shine directs Early Learning Indiana’s communications efforts, including the Brighter Futures Indiana website. She loves telling stories that help adults nurture the curiosity and potential of children. She spent over a decade in the youth development field at IUPUI, the Marion County Commission on Youth and Peace Learning Center, and has diverse experience as a digital communications manager and strategist with community-focused organizations and businesses. Kirsten holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Indiana University. She spends her free time reading children’s and grown-ups’ books, enjoying Indianapolis’ cultural and food scenes, and listening to music with her husband and son Emerson, who is somehow old enough to be in kindergarten.