learning outside the home

Learning outside the home

play ideas for preschoolers

What I love about learning is that you can find opportunities to improve children’s learning and development in everyday tasks and experiences.

We don’t need to sit children down at a table and plan specific learning tasks, in order to help children with their independence, play, literacy and numeracy skills.


Let’s follow the example of a trip to the supermarket experience…

  1. Plan a trip to the supermarket on a day when you’re not rushed to pick up other children from school or start your shift at work.

  2. Before going to the supermarket encourage your child/ren to look through the pantry and fridge and see what food items you need
    1. Encourage toddlers to use one or two word sentences about what you need to write on your shopping list - eg. yellow bananas, squeeze yoghurt, crunchy crackers
    2. Encourage preschoolers to tell you how many bananas, apples, yoghurts, muesli bars you need to put on the shopping list
    3. Encourage school aged children to talk about the starting letter sound of the items that you need to write on your shopping list - eg. ‘we need milk’, ‘mmmm milk’, ‘what letter do I write down for milk?”
    4. Encourage older primary school children to write down the shopping list for you

  3. As you get organised for going to the supermarket, ask your child to choose one or two toys to come along for the ride in the trolley. Ideally this won’t include a toy that involves technology.

    play ideas for toddlers

  4. As you arrive at the supermarket, provide the shopping list to the child and talk about what is on the list
    1. For infants, create their own ‘pretend’ shopping list so that they don’t suck on, or lose your real list

      play ideas at the supermarket

    2. For preschoolers, help them to cross off each item with a pencil as you work through your shopping list

  5. Talk to children about the different colours for apples, yoghurts, cheese packets, grapes, etc.

    play ideas for learning

  6. If safe to do so, encourage children to pick up the fruits and vegetables that you’re purchasing so they can experience the different textures and senses of the fruit and vegetables. This is a time to chat about how fluffy a peach is, how a banana can be used as a pretend phone, or how spikey a pineapple is. How frozen vegetables are really cold, and a cheese block is just a little bit cold.

    play ideas for 4 year olds

  7. In the fruit aisle also talk to children about how many apples you’re placing in the bag. Which apple is the smallest? Which apple is the largest? What fruit is the shiniest, furriest, heaviest?

    play learning ideas

  8. In the yoghurt aisle ask children to identify objects like “cheese”, “milk”, “dip”

    Extend their language and chat about how cold it is, whether it’s grated or slices, whether the container is circle or square

  9. If you're doing a quick shop, encourage children to build up their core strength and gross motor skill development by carrying some of the non-fragile items.

    learning activities with mum

  10. Encourage fine motor skill development by encouraging children to reach and grasp some of your shopping list items.

    family learning ideas

As you get to the checkout, encourage children to greet the staff member with a smile and say hello to develop their social skills. If children feel too nervous that’s ok. Don’t push them to say hello, just encourage it once and if they don’t want to, then just model this social behaviour yourself.

easy learning activities

At the checkout also encourage toddlers to place simple items onto the bench. This encourages their reaching skills (gross motor skill development) and getting them to gently release the object onto the bench will help their fine motor skills. 


Preschool aged children could help to stack simple cereal boxes or chip packets. By reaching their arms above their head and placing the items onto the bench, your child is building up their balance and core strength skills.

Count items with the children as they go up on the bench. Talk about the different categories of the food while you’re waiting - fruits go with fruits, milks and cheese go with the cold fridge category, etc.

Gross motor skills can also be practiced as children get home from the supermarket, including:

  • Building up core strength and balance by carrying one of the light weight shopping bags from the car to the house
  • Improving shoulder stabilisation and reaching by placing cereal boxes onto the chest height shelf, then developing vestibular balance and core strength by placing potatoes or muesli bar boxes onto the lowest shelf (bending upside down to place items onto ground level).


learning at home ideas


Further advance this weekly experience by asking children to sort common food items into your storage tubs or fruit bowls. For example, my children open the large assorted chip packets and place them in a clear plastic tub for our small chip packets. This task helps my children to develop their fine motor skills by opening the large variety child packet, then also encouraging categorising and spatial awareness skills by placing the small chip packets into our pantry storage tub.


Share your favourite supermarket tip for children below, or tag a friend who would benefit from these ideas.





Image references:


Family supermarket photo created by prostooleh - www.freepik.com Kids shopping photo created by diana.grytsku - www.freepik.com Mother and daughter photo created by pvproductions - www.freepik.com
Family supermarket photo created by prostooleh - www.freepik.com Covid kids photo created by pvproductions - www.freepik.com Kids dream photo created by lookstudio - www.freepik.com Supermarket cashier photo created by drobotdean - www.freepik.com
Mom Putting Away Groceries With Kids High-Res Stock Photo - Getty Images


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