I spend the majority of my time running our household. Often, I feel guilty for not playing with our three kids more frequently. Then it dawned on me: We can combine our commitment to sustainable food and need to get chores done with some good, old-fashioned fun. Instead of tackling the whole supply chain, I simply targeted our healthy grocery shopping trips, since this is the one transaction my kids get to witness regularly.
We developed a handful of educational grocery store games. Some have delighted our kids consistently, all while instilling our family’s particular values.
Let’s jump in. Here are four educational activities kids can do to enjoy the grocery store.
This game was originally called “Find ROYGBIV,” but our middle child shortened it to “Roy” and the name stuck. The concept couldn’t be easier. We task each child with finding one produce item of each color in the rainbow. Since the produce section is the first one we hit, this is always the first game we play. The most challenging aspect is not finding the items, but buying and using them. This activity has stretched my culinary limits—a benefit I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Yes, there’s a risk of being unable to use an item once home, but at least we try! Fresh produce is worth the possibility of a failed recipe attempt. The reward is a lesson in colorful consumption for my kids (plus tons of interesting new dishes).
Ditch your linear shopping list for a grid format and have your kids play healthy grocery shopping bingo. Start by replacing your usual notepad in the kitchen with a stack of paper that has a bingo grid. As you run out of healthy items at home, write them in a square of the grid. For little kids, doodle a picture instead. When it’s time to hit the store, hand each child a sheet and marker. Let them fill your cart with healthy things to ease your workload. Whoever scores five-in-a-row wins the game. You may find they enjoy the hunt and don’t want to stop, even after winning!
Unhealthy ingredients can be tricky. My family cut processed sugar from our diets years ago, but it takes a pretty serious effort to keep it out of our house. That’s because of sneaky ingredient names. Refined corn derivatives can take over a dozen different names. And that’s just corn!
We can avoid the candy aisle, but keeping sweeteners out of our pasta sauces, cereals, and nut butters takes a trained eye. Or six, making this is the perfect activity for kids. I simply hand my little sleuth a list of sneaky sugar ingredients and a magnifying glass (mostly for dramatic effect) and let her do the dirty work. She alerts me of any masked offenders as I navigate the store. This is especially fun when her legs are tired and she prefers to ride in the cart.
This last game is totally unfair. And that’s the point! When you get home from the store, reward the child who picked up anything with a guarantee of ethical production. In other words, give a special privilege to the family member who scored farmer-friendly coffee, cruelty-free personal care items, fair-trade rice, or ethically sourced chocolate.
Together, you can visit the interactive website of nonprofit Anti-Slavery to see what percentage of goods sold come from child workers in forced labor lifestyles. Explain how the health of these producers can enhance (or inhibit) your own family’s health. See whether the topic comes up organically next time you shop together.
Don’t get discouraged grocery shopping with kids. Regular trips to the store mean you have a constant opportunity to teach. With a few fun activities like these, you can get your work done, connect with the kids, and stock up on healthy products all at once.
What do your kids enjoy most about grocery shopping? Let us know on Twitter.
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.