My big “plan” back in 2010 was to stop working full-time to focus on family. Or more precisely, to focus on having a family. My husband and I had been married for four years and still no kids.
In hindsight, it wasn’t the greatest plan, since I was then working only part-time from home with too little to keep my mind occupied, thus feeding my growing obsession over whether I would ever be a mother.
When the summer of 2011 rolled around, I was starting to get a little kooky. My older sister, best friend, first cousin, and two of my closest friends ALL had beautiful newborn baby girls, and my husband and I were just beginning the very first step in the adoption process — parenting classes, where we were reminded weekly that it was a lengthy process that could involve years of waiting.
Sure, I was a still a few rungs down the crazy ladder from “delusional lady pushing an empty baby stroller around the neighborhood” but looking back, I can clearly see I must have had a screw or two loose. (You moms will understand how nuts this sounds.) That summer, I started a free Math Camp, at my house, for my nieces, nephews, friends, and neighbors.
Each week, I would voluntarily welcome six to 10 kids (ages 3 to 7) to my home to have fun with math, while their mothers went for walks, shopped, and sipped ice tea, while their babies napped on my back deck.
If I had known that my son had already been born (we just hadn’t found him yet) and that before the end of the summer, I, too, would have a beautiful baby girl of my own, I would have shaken some sense into my kid-free self and told her, “Get a grip and a good book! Sit on the beach and enjoy every free moment because you will never, ever have another one again for the next 18 years!”
Luckily for the first (and only) Math Campers, I didn’t know any better. We all had a fun, mathematical summer. And, the following activity, the Grocery Game, was by far the camp favorite!
It was also a favorite for my own kids when we visited the Westfield, Holyoke, and Boston Childrens’ Museums, over the past year or so. And, it is so easy and simple to set up at home, you’ll wish you tried it sooner. It is the perfect activity for multiple kids of different ages or a playdate for kids close in age. It’s guaranteed to eat up a rainy/snowy morning or afternoon. (You may even have to keep it set up for days.) If they tire of the groceries, restock your pantry and ask them to set up a toy store, clothes store, restaurant, shoe store, book store … the sky’s the limit.
Grocery Games: The Science of Shopping
This Activity Can Help to Enhance:
- Number Recognition
- Sorting skills
- Inquiry skills
- Matching/Observation skills
- Social & spacial skills
- General nutrition and shopping knowledge
- Grocery items from fridge & pantry (unopened & unbreakable)
- Calculator and/or toy cash register
- Spare change or play money
- Container with dividers or individual small containers, for sorting change
- Mailing labels or scrap paper for “price tags”
- Canvas shopping bags or toy shopping cart (or toy baby stroller)
- Label grocery items with price tags
- Arrange items in a line or throughout play area
- Set up cashier/check-out counter
Have the kids (or you and your child) take turns playing cashier. Practice sorting spare change or play money. Even very young kids can work on separating “rectangle/paper” money from “circle/shiny” money. For little ones, you can also make your own currency by cutting paper and simply labeling it with “1”, “2”, “3” or by cutting it into to shapes (circle, square, triangle) or colors (red, yellow, blue).
Older cashiers can practice number recognition by matching the buttons on the cash register or calculator to the corresponding numbers on the price tags. Some may even be able to add the prices together and total the order. Test their spacial skills by challenging them to pack the shopping bags and carts efficiently or provide them with a large cardboard box and ask them to see how many groceries they can fit inside.
Both cashiers and shoppers can be asked to separate food items into categories, be it nutritional (food groups), material (can, box, plastic), content (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack), or taste (yummy, yucky). More experienced shoppers can line up items according to increasing or decreasing price, match up items with identical prices, and search for items from each nutritional food group.
Exercise social skills by reminding them to speak politely to customers and say “please” and “thank you” to shop employees. Ask them to sort through Sunday’s fliers and coupons to find pictures of items matching those in your store. The possibilities are endless!
The Next Time You Shop:
– What do you think costs more; two apples or four apples?
– Can you guess how many eggs are in this box?
– Do you think there more juice in this container or this container?
– What shapes can you find on the shelves? Let’s find four rectangles/circles!
– Do you think the carrots will be near the ice cream or the lettuce?
Future Check-Out Chats:
– Let’s count how many things we bought today.
– Which thing do you think is the most/least expensive?
– What do you think is the heaviest?
– Can you find the coupon with a picture of this (food item) on it?
– Should the watermelon go on top of the bread or under the bread, in the bag?
– When we get home, should the milk go in the refrigerator or the cupboard?
Read All About It:
Book Ideas for Parents and Young Shopping Enthusiasts
Maisy Goes Shopping, by Lucy Cousins
Shopping With Dad, by Matt Harvey
The Berenstain Bears: Dollars and Sense,by Stan and Jan Berenstain
At the Supermarket, by Anne Rockwell
Just Shopping with Mom, by Mercer Mayer
Put It On The List, by Kristen Darbyshire
Max Goes to the Grocery Store, by Adria F Klein