Make Food Shopping Educational!

Going grocery shopping with your children ranks right up there with “Things I Would Rather NOT Do”. Ever.     I bet if you asked your kids, they would say the same thing!   It’s a shame, though, to take away this great learning activity just because it is boring for your little ones.   With just a little thought ahead of time, you can create engaging ways for your children to help at the supermarket (you can ease your stress AND  sneak in some great learning together along the way too!)

Case in point…I took my 8 year old to the grocery store with me today.   Usually, he gets to stay home with Dad while I shop because it’s just so boring (and frankly, I am just so lucky!)  .   We had to be out from the house this morning, so we gave him the option…work on school at Corner Bakery, or skip school and go grocery shopping with Mom.

Of course he picked skipping school, but little did he know I had a plan 🙂

We made our normal rounds, and just when he was about to burst from the horrible-ness that is grocery shopping, we came to the produce section.

The colors! The smells!   The scales!

Since my son has been a toddler, he has been fascinated by the scales. He loved to put a vegetable on the scale’s plate & watch the arm bob up and down until it settled on a number.

When he was younger, I kept my questions simple.

::Can you count how many apples are in our bag?

::What number is the scale arm closest to?

::What color are the papayas?

::How does the watermelon rind feel?   The orange peel?   A coconut?

::Why do they spray water over the vegetables?   Why are they kept cold?

::Which fruit feels heavier in your hand, the lime in one hand or the apple in the other?

::Can you smell the citrus smell in an orange?

Now that he is older, we can really work on reading the scale.   Here’s some things you can do with older kids in the produce department!

::Read the empty scale.   Is it set at zero to begin?   Why is that important?

::Let your child weigh anything and everything they want to!   Help them practice reading the scale.   Talk about how many ounces in a pound & how to skip count the hash marks between pounds.   Discuss the metric set of numbers.   Did you know that the United States is the only industrialized country that does not use the metric system?

::Have your child name the mixed number (two and one-half pounds).   Which part represents the whole and which part represents the fractional part?

::Look at prepackaged items, like bagged salad, strawberries, or a bag of apples.   Help your child find the weight listed on the packaging, then weigh the items to see if they are correct.   We did this with about twenty different things!   My son had the best time deciding what produce package he was going to weigh next.   Let kids weigh things you won’t buy (they can put it back when they’re done weighing).   If it’s an unfamiliar item, have them sound out the name on the package.

::Pick a bag of oranges & find the weight listed on the bag.   Weigh your oranges, then see if you can find another bag that is heavier.   When produce is priced “by the bag”, the heavier your bag, the better deal it is!

::Math skills are everywhere.   Bananas were 52 cents/lb today, and he weighed out 2lbs of bananas.   I had him figure out what that will cost.

::They had baby watermelons today, so we went through the bin weighing melons until we found one that matched his birth weight!

::We weighed avocados that looked to be the same size, but weren’t the same weight.   Why might that be?

::If you are planning ahead, you could really have fun with these blank world maps.   Print out your favorite version and bring along a marker or small stickers.   Look on the labels stuck to the produce…can your older child find either that country or the continent it came from?   See which continent is most represented in the produce at the store.   Which continent or country is most represented by the produce in your cart?

:: Do you have bananas from Guatemala but aren’t sure where that is yourself?   That’s OK!   Show your kids how to do research on your smart phone & find out together!

::Talk about how the produce reached your local market.   Plane?   Train?   Truck?   Cargo ship?   We’ve seen quite a few Del Monte cargo ships when vising ports in Mexico.   Model how to do research and find answers!

::Pick up some different foods, such as whole pineapples, papayas, beets, lettuce, green beans, & broccoli.   See if you kids can figure out how each one grows.   On a tree?   On the ground?   Under the ground?   On a stalk?

::Let your child pick one new fruit or vegetable and buy it…no matter how strange.   Today, we came home with this:


It is an Apple Pear.   My son chose it because it was wrapped like a present…and I know I got off easy with this one!   We’re going to try it for breakfast tomorrow and see what we think.   He determined it feels like a pear, but looks like an apple.     If your child chooses something you’ve never cooked, have them help you look up recipes & prepare it.   I vividly remember bringing home a grocery sack full of okra that I picked as a camper at Camp Doublecreek, and bless my Dad, he cooked it.   I don’t remember if I ate it or liked it, but I still remember how proud I was to bring this strange, new thing home!

I hope that the next time you bring your kids to the store with you, young or old, you can use this post as a springboard for talking points.   There is a world (literally!) of interesting food out there if you just give yourself a chance to stop and look.

As we left the grocery store today, my son triumphantly declared “I’m SO glad I chose the grocery store over school today!”   Little did he realize that we spent 20 minutes doing math & geography!

5 Comments

  1. I enjoyed your post. I always have my two little ones (3 &1) at the grocery store. Yes, it is easier without them, but it is a learning experience. Also, I find my oldest eats the fruits he gets to pick out with more fervor than others. What a great example you are setting for your kids!

  2. Good idea to use grocery shopping as an educational teaching moment. In my preschool class we often set up a grocery store in dramatic play. The students always want to gather everything from the shelf. We have to constantly explain they can’t buy all the items at once. Good to teach them how to shop for only a few things they need.

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