Make your shopping time count—there are math ideas to talk about in every aisle. Here’s where to start with children under three.
- Point out the signs hanging from the ceiling that show numbers for the different aisles—focus on 1, 2, 3 to start.
- Count items that you put in your cart. Focus on numbers up to 3.
1 carton of eggs, 2 boxes of cereal, 3 bananas in the bunch.
- Count how many there are if you add one more item to your cart: We had 2 boxes of tissues, but I am going to buy 1 more. That makes 1, 2, 3!
- Use the word more: Let’s buy more apples. Compare using more: Look at our bag of onions and our bag of peppers. We bought more onions.
- Describe items using color names: Red and green apples, a yellow box of cereal, or brown bread.
- Compare temperature. Use warm when you get to the rotisserie chicken, and cold on the ice cream aisle.
- Compare sizes of fruits and vegetables. Big grapefruit, small blueberries. Big broccoli, small green beans.
- When carrying groceries, talk about which bags are light and which are heavy.
- Notice the shape of cheese! Can you find cheese in the shape of a circle, square, and triangle? Name each one!
- Notice the shapes of objects in the supermarket: floor tiles may be squares, wheels on grocery cart look like circles, and more.
- In the paper goods aisle, point out square napkins and paper plates that are circles.
- In the frozen foods, can you find a square box or a frozen pizza shaped like a circle? Point to and each and name its shape.
- Use position words as you shop: Next to, on top, behind, in, out. Our cereal is on the top shelf. The bread is next to the peanut butter.
- Starting at 24-26 months, ask your child to show you where a specific item is. Then describe the location: That’s right, your cereal is on the middle shelf.
- When you check out, use the position words in and out: The cookies are in the cart. Let’s take them out and put them on the belt.
- When you put items away at home, talk about where each one goes: The oatmeal goes on top of the counter. The meat goes into the freezer.
- Point out how items are sorted by color—red peppers in one bin, orange in another. Red cans of soup on one shelf, blue on another.
- Starting at about 24 months, hold up an item, like a tissue box or can of tomatoes. Ask your child to find a match on the shelf or in your cart.
- Look at the salad bar together and notice how all the items are sorted carefully into their own bins. Name each item and describe its color or taste.
- Explain the pattern of your day. Talk with your child about what will happen next: pay for the groceries, put them in a bag, and then…?
Check out more early math resources from ZERO TO THREE for more ideas on how to make everyday moments count.