Shopping for groceries is a routine activity that is sometimes boring for children. You can make it interesting by asking your child to help you pick out items, put them in the cart, and check them out at the register.
Make a List. Make a shopping list as your child sits with you. Name each item you need out loud and then write it down. Explain that you have to make a list of what you need so you don’t forget anything. Ask for your toddler’s help and get him involved. “We need cereal. Let’s get__.” Write it down slowly. If he is interested, spell it out loud.
Describing Food. Talk out loud to your child as you select items and put them in the cart. Use new words to describe the food. “These bananas are so yellow and ripe. We can have these for lunch.” Invite your child into the conversation. “You love nice ripe bananas don’t you?” Ask your toddler to help. Show him how to place items in the cart. “Remember to put those ripe bananas down gently so they don’t get bruised.”
Checking Out. Invite your toddler to help at the check out. “We need to put each item gently onto the conveyor belt.” Ask her to help you name each item to be sure you got everything. This is a good way to practice any new food names she learned. “Pineapple?” “ Pineapple!”; “Melon?” “Melon!” Talk about how you will use the items. “These fruits will be delicious in fruit salad.”
Make a List. Your child can help you make a shopping list by writing the names of some items. As you say the name of the item out loud, say each sound slowly, for example “M-I-L-K.” Ask your child “What letter do you think starts the word milk?” “What letter do you think comes next?” It is not important for your child to spell the word exactly right. The idea is to help your child make a connection between the letter and the sound it makes. “Yes, MMM, the letter ‘M’ makes that sound.”
Food Rhymes. In the produce section your child can learn the names for many foods. It’s fun to learn the names for some fruits and vegetables he may not know. “This is called bok choy.” You can help your child learn new words by playing a rhyming game. “What are some words that sound like bok CHOY?” Have fun making up rhymes like bok toy and bok boy. Compare the new food to a food your child is familiar with. For example, “It’s a type of cabbage.” Then take home the new food and try it!
How Heavy is It? Ask your child to help you weigh fruits and other produce and teach her some related words. Your child will also learn about how scales work. “Let’s weigh these peapods on the scale.” As you place the items on the scale, show your child how the arrow moves to show the weight. “The arrow moves to the number that shows how heavy the peapods are.” Remind your child of other experiences with scales. “Remember how the nurse weighed you on the scale at the doctor’s office?”
How Many? Food shopping is a good time to learn vocabulary about how much and how many. As you select items that interest your child, use vocabulary like a lot, many, some, a few, fewer, more, less, and enough. “We have a lot of beans! Do you think we need that many? I think fewer will be enough. Let’s put some back.”
Describing Food. The grocery store is a good place to learn specific names and words that describe things. For example, many children love pasta and there is rigatoni, linguini, macaroni, spaghetti, tortellini, and many more. Talk with your child about what is the same and what is different, using descriptive words. “The spaghetti and linguini are long and skinny compared to the macaroni. The macaroni is like a small tube.” It’s also a fun way to practice rhyming. “Macaroni and rigatoni are rhyming words; so are linguini and tortellini.”
Food Labels. Help your child choose items by reading the labels on the containers. “We need low-fat milk. Let’s see which one says low-fat on the label.” As your child has practice, let him try it. “We need light mayonnaise. Can you get it for me?” Explain that the label also gives nutrition information about the food inside. Show your child the list of ingredients on the label. “This has too much sugar. Let’s find one with less sugar in it.”
Is It on the List? Let your child carry the shopping list as you shop. She can read off the names for items you need. If you give her a pen, she can also cross items off the list as you put them in the cart. If you don’t have a shopping list, your child can use the receipt in the same way. While you put each item away at home, ask your child to find the name of the item on the receipt and cross it out.