Planning: Our trip to the grocery store

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Your child has, no doubt, accompanied you to the local grocery store before… on multiple occasions. Shopping together might be a part of your weekly routine, or it might be a welcome childless outing for you most of the time.

This week, your child will take an active role in the shopping. You might want to plan accordingly… this is not a shopping trip during which you should expect to stock a months worth of groceries. You might also give some consideration to the choice of grocery store – your child will navigate a smaller grocer (we love Trader Joe’s) much more easily than a mega store like Costco. A store that doesn’t feature a major toy or candy aisle will make it much easier for your student to focus on the task at hand. Finally, you might want to time your visit to avoid crowds. A weekday morning is ideal, if the weekends are your best option you might find the store less busy first thing in the morning when much of the childless world is still snoozing.

Book Recommendations:

Your family’s cookbooks

Your child will be tasked with planning a meal, and perhaps a daily or weekly menu. Make your cookbook collection available for him or her to look through. Books with lots of colorful images are ideal; my family owns, and frequently uses, both cookbooks by The Food Allergy Mama, and I can highly recommend these for both their great photographs and easy to follow recipes. (The author’s son John, who inspired her website and books, was a student in my preschool class. Taste testing some of her baked goods in the early days of being a food allergy mama was a major perk of my job!) If you have some, this week would also be a great time to pull out old family recipe cards and share stories of foods that are special to your family.      

Maisy Goes Shopping by Lucy Cousins

B just loves the Maisy series, as you’ve probably realized by Maisy’s frequent appearances on this list. The simple stories and illustrations really capture her attention and allow her to “read” independently after listening to each story only a handful of times. In this book, Maisy goes for lunch at her friend Charlie’s house but they find the fridge bare. They head to the store to pick up staples and then return home to enjoy them.   

Just Shopping with Mom by Mercer Mayer

Have you read Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter series? These books are so fun! The stories are simple and sweet, with a little bit of mischief mixed in; the illustrations are my favorite part. There are lots of subtle jokes hidden throughout the illustrations that will give both adults and kiddos a chuckle. In this book, Little Critter, his siblings and his mom take a trip to the grocery store. Everything that might go wrong does… begging for candy & toys, a missing sister (who is quickly found!), displays crashing to the floor. There are several opportunities to discuss the common grocery store refrain of “I want” and why mom might say no throughout the book. Finally, the shopping is finished – in the end everyone gets an ice cream treat.

Bebe Goes Shopping by Susan Middleton Elya

This book tells a simple story about a mother and baby’s shopping trip using both English and Spanish words. The Spanish words are easy to translate using context cues and illustrations. This story has a strong rhythm and lots of rhymes, which make it very fun to read. It introduces the shopping cart, a list, interacting with other customers, a snack of animal cookies while shopping, paying for groceries, choosing a bag (paper or plastic), and finally receiving a balloon from the manager – the routine of this shopping trip will likely be familiar to most families with young children, although some of the details may be different.    

Suggested activities:

Planning a Meal: The primary planning activity this week will be deciding what to purchase at the grocery store. Depending on your family routines, you might lead your student through planning a meal or perhaps a larger menu (for a day or the week). Including a meal, or parts of a meal, that your student enjoys and can assist in preparing is ideal. If you can incorporate foods that are important or special to your family, that’s even better!

My husband, Tony has a “gravy” (marinara) recipe that was handed down from his Sicilian grandmother. This week he and B will prepare some “Panno Gravy” together (it’s a secret recipe… I sit that activity out!). Then we’ll make pizzas with some of our favorite ingredients. Yum!

In preparation for this B and I will (1) look at recipes, (2) choose the pizza toppings we’d like, (3) list the needed ingredients, (4) assess what we need to purchase (pizza toppings, cheese, etc) and what we already have (flour). (5) Finally, we’ll each write a grocery list.

Shopping: While at the grocery store, we’ll seek out the ingredients we need. We’ll take time to explore the many foods available, to notice features like the scales in the produce section, and to notice the organization of the store – foods sorted by type. I may take the opportunity to have a conversation about healthy foods vs. treats. We’ll certainly discuss foods we like, foods we don’t care for right now, and foods we might like to try.

When you get home: Put things away, pointing out how foods are organized. What goes in the fridge? The pantry? The fruit bowl?

Get cooking! Help your child to prepare the foods he or she shopped for and enjoy eating together. And, as always, journal about your tour of the grocery store. Encourage your student to draw about what you did and dictate their experiences to you. Your student might choose to write about the shopping trip, the cooking experience, or both. I also plan to affix B’s grocery list into her journal this week.

Notes about your child’s learning:

Social Studies:

Food is such an important cultural touchstone – the foods we eat, the ways we prepare them, the rituals that families’ hold around mealtimes – all of these contribute to your child’s understanding of your family culture. Social studies is learning about the world around us… to understand other cultures and ways of living, we must first understand our own. Drawing attention to the way your family eats is a beginning step in teaching your child to understand commonalities amongst all people, as well as some of the many ways that each of us are unique.


Discussions about nutrition are inherent in a trip to the grocery store. Without these conversations, your child might fill a cart with favorite treats, which may or may not be healthy. We often talk of “eating the rainbow” and encourage B to choose produce in a variety of colors during each visit to the grocery store.


Looking through cookbooks together illustrates the functionality of reading to your student. We hope that our children will read for enjoyment, but it’s also important for them to recognize that we use reading to learn and to find out. Additionally, you’ll use writing this week as you prepare a list to be referenced during the shopping trip. Encourage your student to create his or her own list by drawing or writing – if your child chooses to write, you might notice some pre-writing, strokes that look like letters or words but aren’t yet.


Dealing with money is inherent in any shopping trip. Most preschool students aren’t yet ready to for the details of finance, but you might consider paying with cash on this trip and talking about the various bills and coins. Also look for opportunities to count and compare throughout your trip – How many bananas do you need? Would you like to purchase the larger container of yogurt or the smaller one?


Eat the rainbow! Notice the colors of the various items at the store. Move beyond simply labeling an apple as “red” and encourage your student to describe the variations in tone that he or she sees.

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