Exposing your children to the world around them and talking about what they observe helps build their early literacy skills while going about your daily routine: driving in the car, waiting for appointments, and even at the grocery store!  The grocery store is chock full of opportunities to build your child’s print awareness, vocabulary, phonological awareness and narrative and letter knowledge skills. Here are some fun activities and games to do with your child on your next trip to the store.

Mom and baby

Ideas for Babies

Bring board books for baby to play with while riding around in the shopping cart. Skill: Print Motivation

We recommend: Black on White and White on Black by Tana Hoban; Global Babies by Global Fund for Children; Where is Baby’s Belly Button by Karen Katz; and I Like It When by Mary Murphy

  • Point out what you’re buying and tell your baby what it is. “Bananas! Your favorite” Skill: Vocabulary

Girl holding 2 apples Dreamstime

Ideas for Toddlers

  • Point out word and picture relationship on cans, signs, etc. “See the picture of peas? This words says peas. The picture and word tell us what’s inside” Skill: Print Awareness

Some great toddler books for building print awareness are: My Car by Byron Barton; Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh; The Big Red Bus by Judy Hindley; and Clip-Clop by Nicola Smee

  • Make ‘his’ shopping list with pictures of a few items for him to look for in the store. Skill: Vocabulary, matching skills and visual discrimination- Letter Knowledge
  • Talk about how you’re going to use the grocery items. “We have some peanut butter, bread, and apples. When we get home, we’re going to make sandwiches and slice the apples. Then we’re going to eat them for lunch.” Skill: sequencing- Narrative Skills
  • Play a guessing game for a grocery item by giving your child hints. “The next thing on the list is something we drink. We have it at breakfast. We put it on cereal.” Skill: Vocabulary
  • Point out and describe something in the produce section, then look for other things that fit that word. “I see tomatoes- they’re red. Can you see anything else that’s red?” Give her the name of red items she doesn’t know. (Buy one and have it for lunch). Skill: Vocabulary

Mom and daughter in grocery store cropped

Ideas for Preschoolers

‘Her’ shopping list: Let her scribble a list while you’re making yours (children copy the actions of the grownups in their lives). Share the shopping list. Let her have a few items on her list to look for, and check them off when you find them in the store. Skill: Print Awareness

Recommended books for preschoolers that show how print is useful: Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells; Put It On the List! by Kristen Darbyshire; and Polly Jean Pyjama Queen by Steve Webb

  • Play “I Spy” with the sound of the letter in your child’s first name. “I spy something that starts with the sound ‘puh’ like Paul.” “Yeah- potatoes!” Let’s see how many other things we can spy that start with your sound.” Skill: Phonological Awareness
  • Let her pick the sound you’ll look for in the store that day. On the trip home, see how many things she remembers. Skill: Phonological Awareness
  • Rhyming “I Spy”: “I spy with my little eye something that rhymes with silk” Give another hint if necessary for success. “It goes on cereal.” Take turns being the person spying and the person guessing. Skill: Phonological Awareness, Vocabulary
  • Shop the alphabet. Starting with an ‘a’, see how far up the alphabet he can spot the letters sequentially. Or find all the letters in a word you choose- like his name. Skill: Letter Knowledge

Happy Shopping! Do you have your own favorite early literacy tips for the grocery store? We’d love to hear from you. -Marianne