Cooking with Kids: Grocery Shopping as a Learning Tool

| March 8, 2010 | 3 Comments

When I was a kid, I had an aha moment at dinner one night. See, my family always spelled out words and names when I wasn’t supposed to understand what they were saying. It’s a good technique … as long as your child doesn’t catch on. As I ate my bread and hid my peas beneath my mashed potatoes (yes, I really did that – don’t tell my kids), I heard H-U-G-O and immediately knew who my family was speaking about. It was a first for me. I could spell (if only my uncle’s name).

Smartly, I kept my newfound knowledge to myself for awhile so that I could eavesdrop with ease.

This weekend, we were in the grocery store when Will had a big aha moment himself. We were looking at salsa, and I was trying to decide which one to buy for the kids. They only eat mild, so it really is their salsa. Will was trying to help, but kept selecting medium or hot varieties. Finally, I told him that he needed to find one that said M-I-L-D on it because they aren’t fans of spiciness like I am. He scanned the shelves with urgent attention. You could just see him thinking, deciphering, learning … then he found it and selected a bottle.

I totally high-fived him for that one. He’s four! And found the mild! Yay!

Spelling isn’t the only way that you can turn your grocery shopping into a learning adventure though. Here are a few more ideas on how to harness the grocery store as a learning tool for your kids:

  • Find the [insert fruit or vegetable] - This teaches kids to recognize produce in its raw state.
  • Count with me – Need three lemons? Two apples? Have your kids count with you to ensure you get the right number … or have them select however many you need for you
  • Weight/size understanding – Heavier and lighter and smaller and bigger can be hard concepts to grasp. But using different containers, it’s easy to demonstrate. Quiz your kids on which milk container has the most in it. Or hand them two things you are buying (for instance, a container of mustard and a loaf of bread and have them feel why one is heavier (even if it is smaller).

What teaching moments have you found in the grocery store?

Photo credit: Alvimann from

Category: Cooking with Kids

About the Author ()

Sarah Walker Caron is a writer, editor and recipe developer who loves to create delicious recipes the whole family can enjoy together. Her work has appeared in countless publications including iVillage, BELLA NYC Magazine, Yum for Kids magazine and more. She lives in Maine with her two food-loving kids.

Comments (3)

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  1. zoe p. says:

    I think that this is why we love shopping in foreign languages; it allows us to practice the basics!
    .-= zoe p.´s last blog ..a short stack o’ news, with maple syrup =-.

  2. Ellen says:

    As they get older, comparison shopping of course. Also seasonal stuff… Which fruit and vegetables are in season now where we live? Where does that fruit come from? why can’t we grow bananas here? So a bit of geography.
    .-= Ellen´s last blog ..Tostados with Refried Beans Borracho =-.

  3. Excellent tips! There are so many teeny instances for learning, and they don’t always have to “feel” like learning. Way to go, Will!

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