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 pre-schooler 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:
Colours, Shapes & Sizes
As you stroll along the rows and rows of products, ask your child if he can identify different colours. The fruit section is a good place to carry out this activity. By his responses, you can ascertain how extensive his colour vocabulary is. For instance, he may recognise colours like red, blue, yellow and green. But can he identity pink, purple, orange and brown?
Together with your precious tot, have fun spotting different shapes. Pick up a rectangular cereal box, a round box of chocolates or a cylindrical can of soup and show him how objects can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Is a watermelon bigger than a pear? Is a carton of milk smaller than a packet of biscuits? By placing two or more items side by side, you can teach him about comparing sizes: big, small, bigger than, smaller than, and so forth.
How Does It Feel?
Let your child touch an apple; let him handle a crinkled vegetable leaf or gently press a bag of flour. Can he describe the different sensations? Smooth, rough, and firm are just some textures he might experience. Learning about textures requires a hands-on approach, so with your supervision, let little hands touch, feel and explore — without damaging any produce or merchandise, of course. And don’t forget to wash his hands once your lesson is done!
What Does It Say?
Read the labels of the products you are buying - milk, cheese, bread etc. Draw your child’s attention to the different types of bread on the supermarket shelves. Point out their differences.
Make It Fresh!
While placing items into your shopping trolley, stress the importance of eating fresh food. Walk around the fruits and vegetables section followed by a stroll through the areas displaying fresh seafood, meats and poultry to show him what you mean by fresh food. Point out the difference between raw (fresh) food and processed food such as canned items.
While your child may not be ready to deal with an overload of information about fresh versus processed foods, you can share with him the main idea: fresh food (with minimal stages of processing) is better in quality, and therefore healthier, than canned or packaged food which may contain ingredients like food additives and preservatives. Show him, by example, how to make healthier food choices. Sure, that packet of chips may be deliciously crunchy, but so is an apple! This is why that juicy fruit is going straight into your shopping cart.
Welcome to the Community
Whether you shop at a large supermarket, neighbourhood provision store or the wet market, you will interact with people, notably the cashiers or individual stallholders (if you frequent a wet market). Explain to your child that you are all members of a community or neighbourhood, and these are the group of people you will come across on a regular basis. A smile or polite greeting is an appropriate way to build relationships with others. By fostering cordial relations, friendships can be formed, making one’s involvement with the community a pleasant and rewarding experience.
Before Setting Off...
Consider these points before you head out with your child:
- Choose a time when the supermarket is least likely to be crowded; early weekday mornings might be a good time. If the supermarket is too crowded, you’ll be jostling with other shoppers, which could be distracting and stressful.
- Don’t overwhelm (or bore) your child by packing in too much information in one visit. Decide on a colour theme one week, fresh foods on your next visit and so on.
- Supermarkets can be cold, especially in the chilled dairy sections. Pack an extra tee or light sweater in case your child feels uncomfortable.
- A wet market or provision store may be able to provide some of the above learning opportunities, but for comfort and ease of navigation, a supermarket is probably the better option.
Remember make the trip to the supermarket a fun and enjoyable experience for you and your child!