Grocery Shopping With Your Kids - 7 Ways to Build Literacy and Keep Them Busy

Why is it so hard to go into Target and buy just one item?

The other day we went in for orange juice and came out with about ten things. That’s how it usually goes. Who else has this problem?

I typically stayed away from allowing my kids to bring devices into stores. They had slim to none anyway.  Plus, there were so many easy learning opportunities right before our eyes that I wanted to take advantage of every moment. Here are seven ways you can turn your regular grocery shopping into learning and literacy experiences with your kids.

1. Create a visual shopping list – Great for more visual learners and preschoolers.  Have them cut out items from the store’s circulars that you get in the mail and glue them to paper.

2. Enlist your child as your shopping helper – Let them help you find items on your list. For example, “Can you find the Cheerios for me?” Depending on whether or not it’s a staple item you get regularly, they’ll easily be able to locate it because of the color of the box, the brand’s font, or any other familiar character or graphics. When they find it, praise that they “did it.” Then, take it one step further and talk casually about how Cheerios begin with the /ch/ sound. Be sure to say the sound not the letters -c -h. If you know someone whose name starts with /ch/ sound, talk about it.

3. Aisle finder – Have them help you find the aisle number you’re looking for.  For your k – 3 kiddos, tell them what you’re looking for and see if they can locate the aisle by the descriptors on the signs.

4. Read the labels and Name Items – Talk about the items you pick up and describe how you’re going to use it. They’ll add some interesting and fun words to their vocabulary and maybe clear up some confusing terms. Think about butternut squash, kiwi, elbow macaroni,  or thyme.  They could definitely leave kids with a little question mark dangling over their heads without some explanation.


5. Bring a favorite book – Kids get bored quickly and want out of the cart (which isn’t the best idea if you want your shopping trip to go smoothly and peacefully). Choose books that are interactive like touchy-feely books and ones with flaps to open and close and push and pull for your infants and toddlers. I would avoid books that make sounds. They will never-ne-ver tire of pushing that button just for the simple cause and effect. For your k -3 kiddos, bring highly engaging books like riddles, funny books, or part of a favorite series.

6. Write the grocery list – Have them help you handwrite the grocery list. Being as descriptive as possible helps kids pay attention to detail and learn that they matter. This is helpful for them in writing and knowing how to add detail to their sentences, paragraphs, and stories.
For your kindergarteners who aren’t proficient spellers yet, dictate the list to them and help them sound out the words. Encourage inventive spelling. If they’re trying to spell butter, they might write btr on their own or butr. They are developing phonics skills. Celebrate their efforts and keep it moving. You might even have them cut out pictures to go with the words to help them remember what they wrote.

7. List Reader and Checker – In the store, give them the list you or they wrote and have them read it to you as you shop. Make them responsible for checking off each item as you get them. And, they can help retrieve the items too.

These are just a few and you don’t need to do it every single time. But, they’re great at keeping your kids occupied during grocery shopping, adding in literacy and making shopping fun and more productive for you. That’s a win all the way around

Here are my favorite product round ups for your kids to use before and/or during your next shopping trip:

  •  Preschool Training Scissors for 3-5 year-olds – Color coded handles easily helps kids to remember how to properly hold scissors and open and close.  
  • Preschool Scissors for kids that have experience cutting.  
  •  Fiskar Big Kid Soft Grip scissors for kids 5+. Rubberized handles keeps them from slipping as kids cut.
  •  Squeezable Glue for little and big hands. Elmer’s squeezable glue was the standard for my kids. It’s great for building fine motor skills used for writing. It surprised me when I taught preschool how many kids seemed averse to glue but loved using it. They couldn’t wait to wash their hands whenever the slightest bit of glue touched their hands. Don’t be afraid to allow your three-year-olds to use glue. When supervised (carefully) and taught how to use glue, they do well at regulating themselves (but don’t dare turn your back).
  •  Construction paper. Color makes everything better in kid’s eyes.
  •  Regular copy paper. It gets the job done when construction paper isn’t available. Little creatives will create on practically any medium when given the opportunity.
  •  Jumbo Crayons for preschoolers or Regular Crayons for older kids. From copying product names from grocery store ads to drawing the list, these artistic writing tools accomplish the task at hand.
  •  Markers.  Kids go bananas for markers! Teaching your child how to listen for the click to ensure the markers are closed (and prevent drying out) goes a long way in preserving the markers and your sanity (or is it just me?).
  •  Crayola Colored Pencils for the win!  Perfect for everyday drawing, writing, and doodling.

Let me know in the comment section below if you tried any of these tips or maybe you’ve tried something I didn’t include.

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Happy (And Much Successful) Reading!, 

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