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Science at the Market: Babies & Toddlers

marketA visit to the market—whether a supermarket, a local grocery store or a farmer’s market—fills the senses with sights, sounds and smells. The market is a place to build math, science and language skills. Looking carefully at and discussing the array of produce leads to interesting new words as well as discoveries about diversity and variation of plants. Comparing fresh herbs in the produce section with the same dried herbs in the spices aisle provides some experience with how plants change after they’ve been picked from the ground.

So much language can be learned at the market! There are many different types of scientific language to use with young children, such as physical descriptions of foods. By using descriptive language, you are providing your child with information which can be used later to classify various foods. Positional language and names of objects are also useful for science. As you stroll down the various aisles, use these different categories with your child, and encourage her to talk as she practices her growing vocabulary. Take these tips on your next shopping trip and try some market science with your little shopper.

Descriptive language: Describe the things you see by color, shape, size, smell, etc. “Grapefruits and oranges are both round, but they are different. The grapefruits are yellow and bigger than the oranges.” Or, “Lemons and grapefruit are both yellow, but the lemons aren’t really round and are so much smaller.” Encourage your child to consider weight as well: “Which do you think is heavier—the lime or the potato? Let’s compare!”

Positional Language: There are positional words like in front of, next to, etc., which can be used to describe what you both see. For example, “We’re going to buy some potatoes. Look how the potatoes are placed on top of each other. And the potatoes are right next to the apples.” This language is useful for describing the physical science of position and motion.

Names of various foods and their packaging: There are names for all of the things you’ll find at the market: the different kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, etc. How the foods are packaged can lead to later understanding of why certain materials benefit from certain kinds of packaging: “Here are cans of corn. Remember that we saw corn with the fresh fruits and vegetables? That wasn’t in a can. I wonder why sometimes corn is in a can and sometimes it isn’t?”

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