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"We need to go down aisle six. Can you find it?" I asked my four-year-old, Chloe, as we cruised through the grocery store one recent afternoon. Chloe stepped through the crowd in her gait trainer, peaked up at the signs hanging over each aisle, and then confidently turned into aisle six.
"Nice job!" I said. "Now can you help me find the chocolate chips?"
Grocery shopping, admittedly, isn't my favorite activity. It's especially tough when I'm racing against the clock between work deadlines and school runs, or struggling to plan meals for the week.
Chloe might try to slip rogue items into our shopping cart once in a while ("Put back the flan mix, please!"), but hitting the grocery store with her makes the chore a lot more fun. And when we're not in a rush, I've found that grocery shopping with Chloe also provides lots of opportunities for practical learning. Here are a few:
- Numbers: From finding aisle numbers, to weighing produce, to looking at prices, there are numbers to find all over the grocery store.
- Math: Chloe helps count items as we place them into produce bags or our shopping cart. We also do simple addition with what we're counting. For instance, I might ask her, "If we have three apples in the bag and we need five, how many more do we need?"
- Directions: "Turn left" is a statement that has stumped many a preschooler, but the grocery store provides ample opportunities for practicing.
- Spelling: For kids who are beginning to learn to read, finding words at the grocery can be a fun way to practice. I've asked Chloe to find a jar of cumin in a wall of spices, for example, by spelling it for her and just letting her search. (Like I said before, we do this when we're not in a rush!)
- Choosing smart packaging: We spend a lot of time, especially in the produce section, trying to find foods with the least amount of packaging, opting, for instance, for a loose bunch of greens rather than the prewashed, bagged variety.
And sometimes, the lesson-teaching goes both ways.
"Mama, that has a lot of plastic on it," Chloe once reminded me gently as I contemplated a package of pre-sliced watermelon. "Why don't we just get a big watermelon instead?"
Schooled. Thanks, Chloe.
What opportunities for practical learning have you discovered with your kids?
About Alexandra Pecci
Alex is a freelance lifestyle writer and sometimes-blogger at http://burningdownmykitchen.blogspot.com/. She loves spending time with her husband and four-year-old daughter, who are always willing to sample her kitchen successes (homemade taco seasoning) and failures (homemade mozzarella). She also loves to write, travel, cook, eat, and laugh loudly with friends.