Grocery Shopping - Supporting Your Child's Development

Bananas, chips, tomatoes, pasta – the list goes on and on when it comes to all of the different items to see at the shops!

Grocery shopping is an important part of the weekly routine for lots of families. Although it happens often, it doesn’t always mean it’s easy! Little ones can become tired quickly and can feel like the trip is lasting forever.

Luckily, there’s lots of ways shopping can be made fun and it can be a great time to encourage the development of your child’s language skills!


Talk to your child about what you’re doing and seeing! Using a wide range of words around your child (simple or complex) is a great way to help them build their vocabulary. You can point to and feel different items when your child is learning about new words to make things interesting!

Nouns (objects/places/names): Talk about the name of items when you’re out in the shops (e.g. “there’s apples… pears… lemons… strawberries”). You can point to each item as you name it.

Verbs (doing words): Talk about what you’re doing when you’re at the shops. Some great verbs for at the shops include walk, hold, carry, get, look, pull, pay, queue and reach.

Adjectives (describing words): Describe what you’re doing and talk about how each food smells, looks, tastes and feels. You can talk about size, colours, textures, shapes, amounts and taste.

Concepts: Help your child to understand time, order and positional concepts. Some concepts you can use at the shops include in, out, on, under, above, off, next to, before and after.


Reading and writing are important skills to have for children so that they can do well in school. Encourage reading and writing at the shops by asking your child to read items on your list, items that they see, as well as prices and amounts of money. They can also write the shopping list before you head off!

Social Skills

Good social skills are important for children so that they can build positive relationships with others.

Turn taking: encourage turn taking with multiple children by letting them take turns to read items off the list or collect items from the shelves. Help your child understand whose turn it is by pointing and/or by saying whose turn it is (e.g. “Mary just had her turn, now it’s… Elizabeth’s turn!”).

Requesting items: Encourage your child to ask for something that they’d like. If they state what they want, encourage them to rephrase it as a question (e.g. “You say ‘can I please have some chips?’”).

Following Instructions

There are so many items at the shops which make it an excellent place to practise following instructions! In your instructions, use different vocabulary and concepts. Children can also practise their turn taking skills by taking turns at following and giving instructions to you or their siblings.

Make instructions easier or harder by changing the amount of information in the instruction:

2 key words

  • get the watermelon
  • push the trolley

3 key words

  • “put the mushrooms in the bag
  • “find the shampoo, then the soap

4 key words

  • smell the chocolate after the biscuits
  • give me the apples, then get the oranges

Activity Ideas

20 Questions

One person selects an object in the shop and the other person has 20 questions to find out what it is! This game is great for encouraging your children to use vocabulary that’s specific about a variety of items (e.g. big, smooth, yellow, curved, has a peel, is a fruit, tastes sweet).


Your child is a detective and needs to find the items on their list! Write, draw or print the items out (depending on your child’s ability level) that you want them to find. You can put the items in a grid to make it more interesting than a simple list. Your child can make a magnifying glass and bring it along with them. This activity provides you with lots of opportunities to model words and gives your children opportunities to read and use their own language!

Be sure to give these activities a go next time you’re at the shops to help keep your child busy and to encourage the development of their language skills!

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