Getting the goods

Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be a chore. Get the kids involved and make it a fun and healthy learning experience

By Edie Shaw-Ewald

“Adventure” may not be the word that comes to mind when you think of grocery shopping with your child. But with the right preparation and attitude, a grocery store can be a wonderland of learning, challenges, and fun. 

A visit to the grocery store can help develop a child’s vocabulary, math skills, social skills, knowledge of world geography, biology, nutrition, and cooking. It’s like a museum, classroom, and social scene all rolled into one.

Prep work
Before you head out, plan your meals and write out your grocery list so you can focus on the fun side of grocery shopping with your children. Put some of the items that you need on a separate list. A child can be responsible for finding those items. Older children can choose a recipe, make their own list, find the ingredients in the store, and prepare the recipe when they get home.

At the store
Most grocery stores have a basket of fruit in the produce department so children can choose a free piece of fruit to enjoy while you shop.

Ask young children to name the colours they see in the rows of bountiful produce. Name the vegetables and fruits as you go through this section. Be sure to ask them if they would like to choose something new to try at home.

Show your school-aged children how to find out where the food is grown. Look at the price label for the name of the country. If you bring a small map, locate the country on the map.

Talk about the foods that are grown in Nova Scotia and why we should buy local produce when possible.

The produce department is also a great place to talk about nutrition. Discuss how half of our plates should be made up of vegetables and fruit of all different kinds and colours. 

Your children can also practise math skills such as measuring size, weight, and price. For example, let them hold and compare the weights of a turnip and then a cabbage. Ask them to guess which one weighs more. Then weigh the produce on the scale to find out how accurate they were in their estimates.

Older children can calculate the price of loose produce based on the price per kilogram and using the scale, the weight of the items.

The deli is a great place to experiment with new flavours. Ask for a sample of two different cheeses. Talk about the taste. Is it sharp or mild? Creamy or crumbly?

Drop by the seafood department and look at the many kinds of shellfish and fish. Ask the seafood expert to show you the difference between a male and female lobster. Children might even be permitted to touch the lobster. 

In the meat department, ask children if they know what animal the different cuts of meat are from. You can also discuss the nutrients we get from meat, chicken, and fish. Discuss non-animal-based foods such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and tofu, which also have protein. 

In the aisles where there are more processed foods, explain to your child that the front of the food packaging is the advertisement for the product. You can tell them products with cartoon characters or heroes are usually not healthy. 

Spread these activities over your many trips to the grocery store and progress the level of challenge as your child develops and grows. But don’t get too distracted with the fun and forget to pick up the groceries on your list.