Double Aisle Duty (Part 1)

While financial experts swear up and down, “Leave your children at home when you shop,” how many parents really have that luxury? I know I often don’t. Admittedly not the best tactic, I’ve been known a time or two to placate my young boys with a snack or sucker while I make a mad dash throw the aisles. Then it dawned on me. I was missing a multitude of wonderful teaching opportunities – not to mention fun. Gone are tasty treats used to bribe compliance, my boys love learning and participating in any grocery store outing with these activities. Your little ones—and your budget as a result—will, too!

Alphabet Game through the Aisles

Environmental print is everywhere – including in the grocery store. So it makes perfect sense to get your child looking at it in a critical and educational way. Arm each child with list of the alphabet and a crayon. Ask the children to circle each letter as they find it in the grocery store. Encourage them to share their found letters (and words) with you. Encourages letter identification, an early literacy skill, and fine motor skills as they practice making small circles.


Colors of the Rainbow in the Cart

Designers and advertising professionals get paid big bucks to design the plethora of product packaging found in today’s grocery stores. Start capitalizing on it for the benefit of your child. How many colors of the rainbow can you find inside your shopping cart? Have the children figure out which color appears the most frequently? The least? Promotes color identification, counting skills and an introduction to statistics.

Pounds of Fun in Produce

With the careful help of a parent of course (no one wants to buy bruised produce), help children make predictions about different types of produce. For example, after you’ve bagged the produce you’ll be purchasing show the bags to your kids. Ask them to vote on which bag of fruits or veggies will weigh the most and the least. Don’t just accept a pat answer, either. Depending upon your child’s abilities, stretch them a bit past their comfort zone and ask them to share why they think they’re answer will be correct. Gives kids a great way to practice estimation and critical thinking.

Light or Heavy Load?

Identify 2 different things in the cart. Ask your child to look at each. Don’t let he or she pick up or hold either of them. Ask your child which item he or she thinks is heavier. Have them not only choose one, but also explain why. Is there another item in the cart that may be even heavier? Keep the questions and answers going by asking things such as, “Is the product heavy? Or just the container it’s in?” Depending upon your child’s age, you can also include more indepth questions such as which one item in the cart has the best packaging for the environment? Which one doesn’t it? Fosters mental math and approximation and critical thinking skills and encourages your child to articulate and effectively express their thoughts.

Photo credit: AlwaysBreaking

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Author Info

This post was written by Shannon M. Medisky. Shannon is an educator turned parent turned writer and focuses on sharing new and innovative ways to not just survive, but thrive on empty. Visit to learn more. Her newest book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Stretching Your Dollar is available in bookstores now.

3 Responses to “Double Aisle Duty (Part 1)”

  1. Gwen |  Jun 07, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Great article!
    I saw someone post on this same subject yesterday and was a little surprised. Do the “experts” not consider that children can be taught to think about purchases reasonably? Leaving children at home seems a little unfair… a tactic to avoid potential bad behavior (item grabbiness, demands), rather than address it and hopefully teach children something valuable.

    My mother always took me to the store with her, but I didn’t badger her because I knew which things were reasonable requests. If we couldn’t avoid going to the store hungry, we first planned what would be made once we got home. We did play the “weighing game” with fruits and veggies, but the alphabet game you mention sounds like a great idea as well.

  2. lester |  Jun 08, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    I am one of those parents who always needs to bring my child with me grocery shopping. I love the ideas and suggestions you have made to make my shopping trips more productive and educational. 2 birds with one stone. Thank you!

  3. GILBERT |  Jun 10, 2012 at 10:57 am

    It is very interesting article regarding the development of critical thinking in our children. trenuie to apply in practice