Fresh food and aisles of products, all in an eye-catching array of colours, shapes, and textures. Supermarkets offer all of the above, giving parents the opportunity to introduce a child to a variety of concepts in a comfortable, clean setting. Plus, it is a great language development tool. Take your preschooler along with you to the supermarket, and you’ll be amazed at the number of things you can impart to a curious mind. Try these for starters:
Colour, shape and size
When you are amongst the aisles, ask your child to identify the colours. Seeing and naming them reinforces learning. Similarly, get your child to identify and name the fruits when you get to the fruits section. Your child will also get to touch and smell the fruits identified to experience to know how they smell, feel and weigh. These simple exercise will let you quickly determine the learning difficulties your child has when there is trouble naming a colour, smell or shape, for example.
Learn about shapes as well. Spot and name the various shapes with your child. Pick a rectangular cereal box, a round box of chocolates or a cylindrical can of soup to illustrate how objects can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Perform comparisons too. Is a watermelon bigger than a pear? Is a carton of milk smaller than a packet of biscuits? Place two or more items side by side to teach your child about differences in size and shape for example.
How does it feel?
Teach your child the feeling of things. Let your child touch an apple; a vegetable leaf, or a bag of flour. Tactile learning requires hands-on experience, so with your supervision, let little hands touch, feel and explore — without damaging the merchandise, of course. And do not forget the washing of hands after that.
What does it say?
Read the product labels to your child to build vocabulary and pronunciation. When similar products are placed together, read the labels off them to teach your child how to differentiate one from the other.
Make it fresh!
While loading up your shopping trolley with purchases, stress to your child the importance of eating fresh. Walk around the fruits and vegetables sections, and seafood, meats and poultry sections, to illustrate what ‘fresh’ is. Compare canned items to fresh items to reinforce the learning.
Though your child may not readily digest such a load of new information, you can still illustrate the difference between fresh food and processed food. Explain how fresh food needs few steps to come to the supermarket and how processed foods require way more steps to do the same with food additives and preservatives included. Show, by example, how to make healthier food choices, like why an apple would be healthier than a bag of chips.
Welcome to the community
Whether it is the supermarket, neighborhood provision store or the wet market, you and your child will meet new people like cashiers, store managers, and market stall holders. Explain who they are to your child and that they are part of the community, to be seen and heard from regularly. A smile or polite greeting is an appropriate way to build relationships with those in the community and fostering cordial relations can form friendships, making community involvement a pleasant and rewarding experience.
Before setting off...
Make these considerations before you and child head out:
- Pick a time, like a weekday morning, when the supermarket is least crowded. Crowds are not always helpful when you want to take the time to let your child learn.
- Do not overwhelm, or bore, your child by packing too much information in one visit. Decide on colour theme one week, fresh foods next and so on.
- Supermarkets can be cold, especially in the chilled section, so pack an extra tee or light sweater to keep your child comfortable.
Just remember, make the supermarket visit fun and enjoyable for you and child.