We have all seen them, and far too many of us have been them... one harried and busy parent, one 18-month old child in the shopping trolley.  The child is bored and restless.  The parent is stressed and impatient. Everyone is looking on. It’s not looking too promising….

How could this very familiar shopping experience for parents with young children be changed to become a more pleasant, stress free experience for both parent and child and a positive learning experience too?

How could shopping with your toddler be better?

  • Talk to your child as you shop. This will help them to stay interested, will be building their visual skills and will be helping them to learn language too as you name different items. For example, point out things that you see along the aisles…Ask your child to name them even if they can’t talk yet, and leave a gap for them to fill in the blank. Either praise them for trying to say the word correctly or just say the word for them.


  • Ask questions. You could ask them what colour the milk is. Wait for your child to respond, and then tell them that the milk is white.  Ask them if they can see anything red, and then point out something red to them. This involves more labelling and colour recognition as well as matching.


  • Involve them as much as you can. All of us get bored just watching!  Children want to touch and get stuck in! You could let them feel the vegetables, explaining what colour they are and describing the different textures that they can feel. Feeling different textures encourages sensory development as well as language development and auditory and visual stimulation.


  • Look out for any numbers around you. Talk about them with your child. For example, show them what two apples look like, or find the number 2 on a display. This will help with number recognition and using maths in real life.


  • Ask your child for help – obviously, make this age appropriate! I have vivid memories of asking my 2 year old to hold a box of eggs for me!  What was I thinking?!!  You can imagine the outcome… More sensibly, you could ask your child to hold the broccoli while you choose the potatoes, or even put something appropriate in the basket for you. This will help with language skills as well as giving your little one responsibility and something to do!

Cartons of eggs


  • Take the opportunity to teach your child good manners Encourage your child to greet the checkout assistant, and to thank them when you leave. It’s never too early to teach good manners and this will be helping your child’s understanding of routine and awareness of others.


Life skills

All these activities will be helping your child to learn important life skills and skills that will help them as they prepare for school and more formal education.  This may seem a long way ahead, but it is never too early to start helping your child acquire these skills.  So, next time you go shopping, have a go at one of them and give your child’s brain a boost!