I know personally that food shopping is something I dread. It’s busy and I hate the way supermarkets move things around so you can’t find them! I also know that for many parents the idea of taking children with you is even worse! But, sometimes if you can involve your children in the activity you can make it fun and less of a chore. You can also include a number of speech and language activities in your shopping trip.
There are a number of things you can do before you leave for the shops or after you get back. It’s also a great way to get children thinking about what they are eating and how to plan in advance for something. Also, if taking your child shopping would really be too much right now, you can still involve them.
- Like/Dislikes: Nearly all children will have an idea about which foods they like and which they don’t! It’s one of the first opinions we form. You could look through recipe books and talk about the ingredients. Would they like that food? If you have a picky eater, they may be more likely to try something new if they have picked it themselves!
- Planning: This may be one for older children, but encourage them to think about what you might need for the next few days. You could get them to check if you have run out of certain items and then make a list. You can discuss if you need more of a particular item this week or if it can wait until next week. This is a great way to introduce forward planning and thinking.
- Vocabulary: Even if your child won’t come to the shops, you can still involve them in unpacking the bags when you get back. This is a great time to talk about the food, say what it is called, talk about the colour, texture or smell.
- Categories: Whilst you are unpacking the items, you can talk about different categories of food. Now, I do not advise starting with fruit vs. vegetable as this is a minefield and far too complicated! Many of the things we think of as vegetables are actually fruit. So unless you have an older child, who wants to talk about the biology of plants, maybe start with something simpler! Where food is kept may be safer e.g. in the fridge vs in the cupboard.
At the shops:
- Following instructions: A great way to keep children amused is to get them involved. Ask them to find a certain item of food. Even younger children can find you an apple or some milk. You might need to make sure you are close to it so they can find it. Then you could extend this and ask them to find you 2 or 3 items and see if they can remember all of them.
- General knowledge/vocabulary: Many children do not know where food comes from. We don’t often see bananas growing on trees in this country so your child might not know that’s where they start – not in a supermarket. You can keep this appropriate for your child’s level. You could talk about carrots growing under ground and apples growing on trees. Milk can come from cows, but also goats and sheep. Look at the milk packages and see what you can find out. What about almond milk?! What animal gives us bacon? Yes, crisps are made from potatoes but some are made from wheat!
- Adjectives: As you put each item in the trolley, see if everyone can think of a different adjective to describe it. Is the apple smooth or red? Is the tin bumpy or maybe rigid. This gives you the opportunity to feed in words at an appropriate level for you child.
- Likes/dislikes: You could set a challenge that your child can pick an item of food that they have never tried before and then everyone can have some when you get home. This may be easier with a fruit or vegetable, but you could try cheese or juice. You can then talk about the texture and taste. Is it sweet or savoury? Do you like it or not?!
- Speech/ listening for sounds: If you are practising a certain sound you can try and find items with that sound in. Equally you could try and listen for the first sound of each item you put in the trolley. You can say the word, sometimes you will need to do this slowly and emphasis the first sound! See if your child can tell you the first sound. If they find this hard you could say the word and then give them a choice of 2 sounds. For example, mmmmilk – does that start with a m or a d? Remember to use the sound not the letter name so its mmmm not em.