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Learning Through Experiences: Turning Errands Into Educational Opportunities

By Jessa McClure
By Jessa McClure

woman with man and child choosing melon fruit during shopping atThe grocery store had become a dreaded place of turmoil and frustration. Every trip seemed to leave me distraught, stressed out and vowing never to return.


My four-year-old daughter had a lot to do with these feelings. Even after explaining what was expected of her in the store, it seemed like nothing helped. She was bored. Her legs were tired. She wanted this cereal and that cereal. Her affinity for pushing my buttons at the store turned me into a controlling nightmare. Don't touch that. Sit down. You can't have those.  Nobody was having fun.

So, in an effort to soothe the savage beast and focus on what I was putting in my cart, I decided to try something new. After writing down the items I needed to get at the store, I got out another piece of paper and titled it, "Ady's List." I wrote down several things that she would recognize like apples and bananas, and had her cut out pictures from the grocery store sales paper and glue them next to the words.

Now, she had her own list and items she was responsible for putting in the cart. It worked like a charm. She was pointing out letters, learning how to weigh produce and finding pleasure in this once "boring" errand.

What I didn't realize is that children learn through their experiences, and keeping my daughter from being involved in our shopping excursion was not only making her frustrated and bored, but was keeping her from learning.

Renowned Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, says that children do much of their learning in the first few years of life through their senses and through first-hand experiences.

Here are a few more ideas for incorporating learning experiences into your errands:

  1. Talk about your environment. If you are cruising through the produce section of the grocery store, ask your child what colors they see and if they can name any of the fruits and vegetables around them.

  2. Make up a game. Challenge your child to find all of the letter A's in a store sign. Or if you have older children, give them each a list of items to find and see who can get to the checkout first.

  3. Let them use their senses. Whether you're in a grocery store a department store, there are always things to feel, hear, smell and even taste. Try a cheese sample and ask your child to describe the taste, or ask them what they smell as you walk past the bakery or deli.

  4. Use the car ride to test their knowledge. Traveling from one store to another can be a tiresome part of the errand journey. Try playing "I Spy" or asking the child to identify signs on the road.

  5. Look at labels. If you're trying to limit the amount of sugar in your child's diet or avoid a certain ingredient like peanuts or wheat, have your little one search for these items on food labels. This is especially handy when you are trying to explain to your peanut-allergic kid why they can't have peanut butter crackers.


So, if running errands with your children has become the worst part of your week, try some of these ideas or create some of your own. Back To Top



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