Doing your weekly shopping can be a great opportunity for incidental learning and fun. A lot can be achieved through simple conversations and interactions. Here is an activity that encourages your child to help you with the shopping, all the while learning a set of invaluable skills.

Start by choosing a way in which you’d like your child to categorise the items in your trolley. Next decide on two to four categories into which they can sort your shopping.

Depending on your child’s age your groups can be as simple as hard versus soft or separating into big, medium and small items. You could also group by colour or by shape.

Other categories which require more thought include:

  • Meal type: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks

  • Area of the house: kitchen, laundry, bathroom and garden

  • Type of food: fruit/vegetables, dairy, meat and canned/packaged

  • Price: under $2, between $2 and $8 and over $8

Decide which part of the trolley is for each group and ask your child to decide which group the items go into. Alternatively you can ask your child to sort your shopping as you unpack it at home.

Grouping ‘like’ things together is about noticing if something is the same or different and ‘sorting things’ is about classifying. These skills help children develop the ability to describe the differences between things rather than to simply describe how things look.

They will begin to compare objects, deciding what they have in common in order to link them together.

Sorting and classifying supports children being able to describe, notice differences and learn new vocabulary. It is also the first stage of mathematical thinking and problem solving.

One of the foundational algebraic skills which children are introduced to in early high school is grouping ‘like’ things together. Mastering this skill is essential to all further algebraic development and is merely an abstract version of sorting the weekly shopping into groups. Knowing that you are introducing your child to algebraic concepts can help break down the barrier that many adults have built when they hear the word “algebra”. If we can start our children off with the foundations and the belief that algebra is not a scary word then we can do wonders for their future Mathematics education and engagement.

Your children will enjoy this shopping activity because they will be engaged in conversation with you. Conversations are a powerful learning tool so while you’re busy doing your weekly shop why not add a conversation to spark your little one’s mind?

 Photo credit: x-ray delta one / / CC BY-SA