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6 math games to play at the grocery store with your toddler

A trip to the grocery store with your toddler might mean stocking up on milk and fending off repeated requests for cookies. But it's also an opportunity to talk about math.

Yes, math! Everyday activities like food shopping are ideal for helping your child explore basic math concepts—like amounts, sizes, numbers and shapes. And it's never too early to start. In fact, introducing these ideas in baby- or toddlerhood can help kids succeed at school-age math.

Don't worry about turning your shopping trip into a formal lesson. Instead, simply point things out and invite your toddler to join in. These ideas can help you get started:

  • Count together. When you add items to your cart, count them. Start by focusing on numbers up to 3.
  • Notice shapes or numbers. Point out the square floor tiles, the round oranges or the numbers on the aisle signs. Ask your child about what shapes and numbers they spot.
  • Compare sizes and amounts. Say things like, "This tomato is big, but this lime is small," or "Let's buy more cheese."
  • Give the position play-by-play. Point out when you're putting an item in your cart—or taking it out of the cart and placing it on the checkout belt.
  • Ask for input. Invite your child to figure out how much of an item you need and why. An older toddler or preschooler might say you need four apples so everyone in the family can have one with lunch, for instance.
  • Sort at home. Your child can put all of the fruit in a bowl or gather up all of the vegetables that are green.

Helpful hint: Keep it casual and low pressure—think game or chat, not quiz. Let your child set their own pace, and offer lots of encouragement and praise. Who knows? You could end up having so much fun that your little one forgets about those cookies altogether. (Well, maybe!)

Sources: National Association for the Education of Young Children; Zero to Three

Reviewed 8/22/2022

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