Grocery Shopping: A Field Trip Packed With Learning

A store sure doesn’t seem like a classroom, but grocery shopping is packed with learning opportunities.

Child helping with Grocery Shopping: a field trip packed with learning

Child Helping with Grocery Shopping by photographer LightField Studios on BigStockPhoto.com

Grocery Shopping is All About Math & Finances

Money and math are one of the big, obvious areas of learning when you take a trip to the grocery store.  So many of the things in a store are valued by weight: produce, deli meats, even boxes of cereal and cookies! There is even a scale in most produce section of the store, so your child can help load it up to see exactly how much the fruits or vegetables that you are buying weigh. Being able to figure out the weight and then figure out how much that pile will cost based on the sale price is a great way to practice real-life math.

Most labels on the grocery store shelves have a small set of numbers between the name of the product and the price. This small text breaks down the price per unit. So, for example, if you were to buy a 4-litre jug of apple juice, it might cost $0.97 a litre, but the 2L bottle would cost $1.23 a litre. Teaching your kids to evaluate the value for the price is a really great skill for them to have.

Grocery shopping often involves needing to use a budget and making sure that you don’t go over that budget. This means you have a chance to show your kids how to budget – what is a budget, why should you have one and how to keep track of the money you spend.  Learning to estimate how much you are spending is important – so this is a chance to teach rounding and mental math for estimation, or even how to use a calculator to total it up as you shop.

Understanding sales deals, coupons, and price matching might not seem like math, but it’s all part of helping understand budgets and getting the best price for your money. Allowing your child to see how much money they can save by shopping around it a great skill for them to develop.

At the cash register, lots of learning about math can take place. Often, you get to see the total of your purchase accumulating as the items are scanned or entered in. This is the perfect opportunity to see if you are on target with your budget or if your estimations are correct. If you are paying with cash, your child can learn about the bills you are using, how they total up, how much money they should get back as change.  If you pay with a credit card or interact, discussions about how these plastic cards work instead of money (and giving kids the opportunity to see how to use them) is a great step to discussions related to finances.

Nutrition

Nutrition is another natural and expected learning area when you are at the grocery store. Food in the store are naturally organized by food groups, like produce, dairy, meat, breads, frozen, etc. It’s an easy way to learn about the different kinds of food groups we eat. Plus, you can observe with your kids how typically the perishable foods are all placed around the outside walls of the store while the processed foods / shelf foods are on the rows in the middle.

Being at the store is a perfect time to teach your kids how to read the labels on foods and to explain what all the different items listed mean, along with how much you should or shouldn’t be eating of each. This teaches our kids to evaluate critically the food that they are putting in their body and giving them the knowledge to understand what they are eating.

Our world has food easily accessible at our fingertips simply by going to the store. The concepts of where food comes from is easily lost or confusing for our kids as the process of farm to store is blurred. Being able to have conversations while at the store about how various foods arrived there is important for them to see that it’s not just magic and convenience, but actually hard work on behalf of many people – especially farmers.

Social Skills

The grocery store is a wonderful place to work on developing and using those highly valued socialization skills. It’s rife with opportunities to interact with other people: from the shoppers that you pass, to the employees on the floor, to the cashier on your way out the door. Giving your children chances to hold conversations with others is important – especially with you there to help guide and teach them what is appropriate and what isn’t. It’s a great opportunity for them to learn how to ask employees for help (like how to order 250g of sliced turkey meat.)

Language Skills

Grocery shopping also is full of language development: you usually make a shopping list before you go, right? Get your child to help write the list, and to be in charge of crossing things off as you put them in the cart. Very young children can look at the signs and point out letters they recognize. Older kids can read signs about what is on sale, read through flyers, or look through coupons to match items to the deal, check expiry dates, and that you’ve fulfilled the requirements to use it.

Other Things To Learn While Grocery Shopping

There are many other ways that a grocery store can involve learning – such as teaching the difference between needs vs. wants, how marketing works (where are the deals positioned in the store and why? Why is the milk always in the farthest corner of the store from the door? checking out the various pop up displays for branded products), and the ability and willingness to try new and different things.

You can even learn about different cultures through food. Reading the signs in the produce department will show your kids that it comes from around the world. Check out some of the exotic fruits that are available. Walk down the international foods row and see what is popular foods / condiments for various cultures.

Grocery shopping is just one step in the bigger development of life skills revolving food: Meal planning, shopping, organizing the fridge and pantry, and cooking.

Although it just seems like another errand we have to run every week in order to keep our family fed and happy, there is so much more available at the grocery store than just food.


This post is part of a 10 day series all about learning through every experience.  Join me as we look at different ways kids learn outside of a textbook and workbook – just by experiencing life.

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