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The supermarket

A visit to the shops with Jean Evans turns into an early years learning experience

Supermarkets are full of stimulating experiences for young children. This project is based around a supermarket visit and suggests two activities for each of the six areas of the foundation stage curriculum and the early learning goals they support.


Encourage children's anticipation of the visit and allay anxieties. Start with the familiar and introduce short link activities or discussions to extend the children's experience. Use follow-up activities to reinforce learning.

Arrange for a member of staff to take photographs of a local supermarket. Include entrance, exit and various sections, such as frozen food, cold meats, fresh fruit and toiletries. Display the prints to stimulate discussion.

Create a wall and table display with books, photographs and examples of non-perishable goods that children can handle and talk about before the project begins.

Invite children to help write or illustrate a letter requesting a look behind the scenes and asking about the possibility of free resources for role-play, such as posters and paper hats.

Ask if a supermarket staff member could come and talk to the children about their job before the visit, wearing uniform if possible.

Send a letter to parents and carers asking for volunteers to help with the visit and for the loan of extra resources if needed.

Personal, social and emotional development

Follow the rules

Early learning goal

To work as part of a group, understanding that there must be agreed values and codes of behaviour for groups of people to work together.


With the children, create a code of behaviour for the visit, including rules for crossing the road, using public transport and conduct in the supermarket - for example, not touching goods without permission.


Rules; safe; traffic island; listen.

Use your loaf

Early learning goal

To understand that people have different needs, views, cultures and beliefs that need to be treated with respect.


You will need: shopping bags; toppings such as honey or spread; a world map.

Buy a selection of breads on your visit. Ask the assistant to tell the children which countries the breads are from and write them down.

After the visit, put the breads on clean plates on a table and find the countries of origin on a world map. Talk about children's experiences or knowledge of these countries.

Cut small pieces for them to sample and discuss similarities and differences. What is their favourite, and why? Try different spreads (always check for allergies before letting children taste foods).

Vocabulary Names of breads (baguette, cob, ciabatta, etc); names of countries (France, Italy, England, etc).

Communication, language and literacy

Matching words and letters

Early learning goal

To explore and experiment with sounds, words and texts.


You will need: empty cereal boxes (two of each brand).

Cut the brand name from the front of one of each kind of box. Invite the children to explore the print and try to identify different letters, lower and upper case, and words. Turn the names upside-down and mix them up. Ask the children to take turns to select a card and put it into the correct box.


Cereal; same; different; word; letter; capital letter; match.

Budding authors

Early learning goals

To use language to imagine and recreate roles and experiences.

To speak clearly and audibly with confidence and control and show awareness of the listener.


You will need: a mail order catalogue; magazines; small lengths of dowelling.

Encourage children to make up a story about a supermarket visit. Cut but characters from the mail-order catalogue and pictures of goods from magazines. Glue the pictures to card and attach dowelling. Invite children to tell their stories to others using the hand-held props.


Character; story; author; prop.

Mathematical development

Come and buy

Early learning goals

To say and use number names in familiar contexts.

To count reliably up to 10 everyday objects.


You will need: child-size trolleys and baskets; cash register with digital display; balance, dial and digital scales; play cash; plastic food; empty packets, cartons and plastic bottles; paper bags; price lists; aprons.

Set up a role-play supermarket with goods arranged on tables.

Encourage the children to count coins and objects, find numbers on packaging and coins, and weigh objects using the different scales.


Add; count out; altogether; left over; matching; weigh; scales; balance; heavier; lighter; full; empty; container; money; coin; penny; pence; pound; price; cost; spend; change.

Matter of taste

Early learning goals

To recognise numerals 1 to 9.

To use language such as "more" or "less" to compare two numbers.


You will need: a "tasting table" with different fruits. Prepare a block graph outline from a sheet of card.

Ask children to cut up a range of fruits, and to cut out coloured paper shapes of the same fruits.

Invite them to taste the fruits before choosing the outline of their favourite and sticking it to the appropriate column on your graph.

Discuss the finished graph and decide which are the "most popular" and "least popular" fruits.


More; most; less; least; larger; greater; same as; popular.

Young designers

Knowledge amp; understanding of the world

Early learning goals

To ask questions about why things happen and how things work.

To build and construct with a wide range of objects, selecting appropriate resources, and adapting their work where necessary.


You will need: a supermarket trolley or child-sized version; tins.

Examine the trolley, talk about how it works and then design shopping trolleys for dolls using recycled food containers, such as boxes and lids. Ask children to consider what materials they might need and how they will attach the wheels. Encourage them to try out their ideas rather than telling them what to do. Use tins to test their trolleys for strength.


Supermarket trolley; strong; fragile; plastic; metal; paper; card; join; axle.

All wrapped up

Early learning goals

To look closely at similarities and differences.

To ask questions about why things happen and how things work.


You will need: tinned, fresh, frozen, packaged and dried foods, including peas.

Discuss how food is packaged and pass around the different peas. Do they all look the same? Soak the dried peas overnight. What happens? Cook the peas. Do they all taste the same? Freezing, tinning and drying are different ways to preserve food.


Temperature; preserve; frozen; refrigerated; plastic; solid; flexible.

Physical development

Supermarket trolley

Early learning goal

To move with confidence and imagination, and in safety.


You will need: child-size trolleys and baskets; thick pavement chalk.

Draw parallel chalk lines on a hard surface outdoors to represent supermarket aisles and deposit beanbag "items" along the edge. Children pick up "shopping" and take it to a table-and-chair "checkout".


Steer; avoid; between; follow.

Baking experts

Early learning goals

Handle tools, objects, construction and malleable materials safely and with increasing control.

Move with control and co-ordination.


You will need: plastic or barbecue tongs; disposable gloves; paper protective baker's hat; white apron; baking trays.

Make salt-dough breads and cakes to serve in a role-play bakery. Encourage children to wash their hands and put on protective clothing. Ask them to mix together equal quantities of plain flour and salt and add water to form a stiff dough. Roll out the dough and mould it into different bread shapes. Arrange on baking trays and bake slowly on a low setting until hard. Paint and varnish with PVA glue before arranging the breads on the bakery stall. Encourage children to use tongs and to wear disposable gloves.


Bend; stretch; tongs; disposable; delicate; grip; around; oven; bake; varnish.

Creative development

Fresh produce

Early learning goals

To explore colour, texture, shape, form and space in two and three dimensions.

To use their imagination in art and design, imaginative play and role-play.


Invite the children to make a range of fruit and vegetables to stock their role-play supermarket, using papier mache. Mix some cold-water paste in a large washing-up bowl. Ask children to tear newspaper into strips and mix it into the paste until it has a thick malleable consistency. Squeeze out the excess paste and mould the papier mache into fruit and vegetable shapes. When dry, paint the items and varnish them with PVA glue.


Names of common and unusual fruits and vegetables; papier mache; mould.

Miniature supermarkets

Early learning goals

To express and communicate their ideas, thoughts and feelings by using a widening range of materials, suitable tools, imaginative play and role-play, designing and making.


You will need: recycled boxes; lentils; small recycled materials such as buttons and fabric scraps.

Invite the children to create a "small world" supermarket on a large sheet of card. Draw the aisles with a thick felt pen and line them with small recycled boxes glued to the base to create different sections. Stand some boxes upright, cut out one side and line with shelves made from strips of card. Use scraps of recycled materials and clay for goods and "small world" characters as customers and staff.


Baker; butcher; frozen foods; dairy products; freezer; aisles; checkout; entrance; exit.

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