Supermarket Speak


Supermarket Speak

The supermarket can be so much more than a place to buy food.  There’s learning in those aisles. Filled with labels and signs, numbers on aisles and cash registers, this project was designed as a low cost intervention to spark adult-child conversations.  Since conversations are the golden foundation for learning, Supermarket Speak becomes a vehicle for enriching language in our everyday spaces.  The Too Small To Fail initiative even tried this technique in laundromats and in playgrounds.


photo: Saxum

The Learning Goal

Supermarket Speak aims to spark conversations and parent-child interactions in the aisles of grocery stores – a place where families naturally go. This enhances Communication and Critical Thinking about the characteristics of food items.


The Design

We turned walking through the grocery store into a learning adventure. We put up playful signs in supermarkets in low-and middle-income neighborhoods in Philadelphia. The idea caught on and spread to South Africa and Tulsa, Oklahoma!

The Team

The Philadelphia installation was conceived by the Temple Infant and Child Lab, in partnership with Child’s Play, Learning & Development Lab at the University of Delaware. Additional installations were part of the Talking is Teaching campaign, designed in partnership with Saxum, a marketing firm.


The Supporters

Early installations in Philadelphia were installed for a budget of $60 per supermarket, funded through the Temple Infant and Child Lab. Further iterations were supported by the Too Small to Fail initiative of the Clinton Foundation and the Kaiser Family Foundation and were rolled out to a wider audience.

The Science

There was a 33% increase in parent-child talk in the Philadelphia project when the signs were posted. Children asked about fruits and vegetables, adults shared knowledge, and families explored new food items together. Key takeaways were to post signs in aisles that are popular with families, use multilingual signs for diverse communities, and add math questions to get kids talking about numbers.





photo: Saxum