Grocery Shopping…and Learning, too

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Let’s switch the grocery store from a chore to a fun, meaningful learning experience!

Fun read aloud about the Grocery store-we love Pete!

I hope that you got a chance to read through part one of this series, “Grocery Shopping…with Kids” as well as some time to try out the tips provided in order to get your kids in an open, attentive state at the store. The goal here is to get to a place where both you and your children are comfortable and stress levels are low. Children learn best when they’re feeling secure, and we adults have more patience when we’re in a calm state of mind.

The process of changing behaviors takes time. I’m talking weeks of practice. If you need more time, please allow yourself all the time you need. Re-read part 1 of the series as many times as needed and try out the educational tips I’m providing today whenever you feel ready. We’re not looking for perfection either, just enough time where your child is attentive and you’re feeling patient to do some teaching and learning!

Laid back with my mind on my Mommy and my Mommy on my mind. Left the cart cover at home on accident (facepalm)

Imperfect but attentive children and imperfect but patient parent? Let’s go!! Did I try these tips myself? Absolutely! Were Jack or I perfect? Absolutely not! At one point he ran instead of walking and another point he almost got nailed by my cart (ok a few times). Apparently playing, “The 5 D’s of cart dodge-dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge” is quite stimulating. Luckily he didn’t get hit by the cart (this trip). Did Jack benefit from meaningful life learning experiences regardless and we all come out alive? Yes!! Today I’m taking a mathematical focus with grocery store learning and give you three separate activities to try. Check out the bottom of the post where I share links to some of my family favorite recipes we used this week, too!

Math activity #1: Cognitive mapping

We’re really at the root of mathematical thinking with this activity, which focuses on spatial awareness. A good grasp on spatial awareness helps with mental math, fractions, reading charts/graphs, geometric awareness, and more.

Your Child’s Growing Mind by Jane M. Healy

How to do it: Tell your child to go find an object for you, bring it back, and set it in the cart. If this is the first time they’ve tried this, pick an object within eyesight. If you’re confident that they can go further and make it back, try it out! Consider how many other shoppers are around, how far your child can go with you still being able to see/hear them, etc. Use your best judgement. I had Jack get some garlic for me but didn’t send him out too far because there were a lot of other shoppers around at the time. That’s it! Your child is creating a mental map of how to get to the food and how to return to you! Feel free to repeat this as many times as you’d like during the trip.

Counting avocados

Math activity #2: 1:1 Correspondence

Basic number understanding stems from being cognizant of the concept of “1”. Many preschoolers, when asked to count, may count an object more than one time, skip an object, etc. Here we’re going to get some great real-world practice of the concept of “1”.

How to do it: Ask your child to help you count produce as you drop it in the bag. Say something like, “Jackson, I need five avocados. Please help me get the amount I need and put them in the bag for me.” Having your child touch the items is ideal because it’s more hands-on and therefore requires upmost active participation, which uses more areas of the brain. I had to remind Jack to be gentle with the items, but after modeling my expectation he was happy to oblige. Ain’t nobody got time for bruised avocados! Each time your child adds an item to the bag, count with them up to the # of items you need. Again, this activity can be repeated as much as you’d like! I typically save it for tougher produce for my own peace of mind but if you’re feeling brave, go for it!

Math activity # 3: Sorting and Classifying

Another concept that we need for mathematical success is to comprehend relationships. How are things alike? How are they different? How can they be grouped? With preschoolers, this looks like sorting and classifying objects.

How to do it: This activity happens when you get home from the store. Ask your child to help you sort the groceries as you unload them in the kitchen. You can sort items by color, by type of food (fruits, vegetables, breads), by size, by shape… there are many options! Giving your child a prompt on how to sort the items will get them started the fastest and be least overwhelming. Say something like, “Let’s sort by color!” Allow your child to do the majority of the sorting while you act as a narrator. That way they’ll see that you’re interested but they are still doing the thinking and problem solving, and you’re not taking over like the type A person you are (oh, just me?).

If your child wants a challenge (and you aren’t worried about foods getting warm), try an even more open ended question like, “How can we group these items?” There’s not really a right or wrong answer here, so don’t expect them to sort noodles together, chips together, etc. They may sort by size, shape, flavor, like/dislike…it’s about the process of problem solving. Actually, there is a wrong answer. If they put chips or any kind of cheesy, crunchy food in the “dislike” pile, I’ll be personally offended.

Despite what many of us think about math (I avoid it at all costs), learning math can be fun! Well, unfortunately nobody told my university stats teacher that…

Check out some of my favorite family recipes that we cooked with our groceries below!

Helping prep the Tuscan Bean Soup; kid friendly knife linked-highly recommend!

Our family meals this and last week (with links):

  • Pasta with vodka sauce and lemony green beans-both from Pioneer Woman’s Dinnertime cookbook
    • I made the kid friendly option with broth instead of vodka
  • Chicken tortilla soup topped with avocado; chips and salsa as a side
    • I use 1 tsp jarred jalapeños in place of fresh to keep the spice level down
  • Cashew chicken from Pioneer Woman’s Dinnertime cookbook; served with rice and edamame
  • Tuscan bean soup served with crusty Italian bread (from bakery at grocery store)
    • I only use a small pinch of red pepper flakes as opposed to the 1/4 tsp
  • Make your own pizza night using naan bread as pizza crust; salad as a side
  • Steak fajitas; Mexican rice and beans as a side
  • Tilapia with roasted cauliflower, kale chips, and rice pilaf
    • Used pre marinated fish from store
    • Roasted cauliflower in oven at 425 for 30 minutes, tossed halfway through (seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper)
    • Toss kale, stems removed, in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 around 10 minutes-watch it so it doesn’t brown.
  • Chili with cornbread
  • Korean lentils with roasted green beans (this one’s a new one for us but it has great reviews)!
  • Minestrone soup with crusty Italian bread
  • Chicken nachos from Pioneer Woman’s Dinnertime cookbook with Southwest Salad kit from grocery store
    • Also chopping up peppers and adding salsa as toppings for nachos

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I’m a stay at home mom of two little boys, Jackson and Sawyer. I have a degree in Early Childhood Education and a masters degree in the education field as well. I have experience teaching a variety of ages from birth through grade 12! I’m passionate about child development, gentle parenting, and learning through play. I’ve spent the last few months developing a preschool curriculum for my 4 year old son and would love for you to follow along for inspiration in your own home!

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