Coles’ Little Shop 2 includes a cardboard shop.
Coles’ Little Shop 2 includes a cardboard shop.

How Coles minis can help your child with maths

Coles' Little Shop collectables might be sending mixed messages about saving the planet and exposing harried parents to even more pester power but they could be a valuable learning tool.

The founder of Number Doctors, an online maths program linking home and school maths, says that parents can use the plastic grocery replicas to complement classroom teaching.

Dr Ange Rogers, who is passionate about encouraging parents to get involved in their children's maths education, said the promotion could assist parents in supporting their child's mathematical development.

Dr Rogers, a primary school teacher and RMIT University lecturer, said while there were fun activities in which to employ the controversial mini groceries, older children will be able to understand a lesson about marketing targeted to families and children.

While some schools are monitoring if they are causing disruption between students, Blackburn Primary School has asked for spares, saying they come in handy for maths lessons.

"Learning about money and being financially literate is a critical life skill for us to help our children develop," she said.

"I think it is really important to have a discussion with your children about the marketing behind the Coles Little Shop 2 campaign. We want our children to be savvy enough to recognise how and why companies market to us. Have a discussion about why Coles chose the 30 products they featured and why they ran the campaign."

When they were introduced last year a number of schools had to intervene and even ban them because swapping was causing so much distress in the playground. Some schools put the call out for spare Little Shop minis to be donated so they could be used as a teaching resource.

This time around the launch, coinciding with Plastic Free July, prompted a Change.org petition calling for a ban. The petition has been signed by up to 70,000 people at last count.

Dr Rogers, a mother of four, said parents and carers could use the plastic minis in a variety of ways.

She said parents often wonder how they can assist their children at maths at home.

"The answer is play and have fun with numbers and mathematical ideas," she said.

"As soon as I saw them and saw how much hysteria there was, I thought if the kids are excited about them let's use them as a fun learning tool," she said.

Dr Rogers suggests the following things to do with Little Shop minis.

MATCHING and counting: When you get the Little Shop packet there is a checklist you can mark off as you collect the items. Children love marking items off. The process leads to many counting related questions.

How many have you got now? How many have you got to go? How many doubles have you got?

She said children were counting and calculating without knowing.

YOUNGER children may be able to use the accompanying checklist to match the Little Shops pictures with the plastic figures.

PROPORTION, ratio and estimation: Compare the real grocery items with the mini replicas. How many times smaller are the Little Shop minis?

SORTING and Classifying: Children can sort and label items under a range of categories they can make up. These might include healthy/unhealthy items, or occasional/everyday food, edible/non-edible, pantry/fridge, laundry/bathroom, food/drink and so on.

COST of Little Shop minis: For older children it might be worth sitting down and talking about how much money needs to be spent to claim one Little Shop mini.

"We knew that for each $30 spent you got one Little Shop - so to get 10 you would have spent 10 x $30 is $300," she said.

AT the supermarket: When you are shopping, the children, armed with the information that each Little Shop mini costs $30, will be able to estimate how many they will receive at the checkout.

PLAY supermarkets: Prices can be put on the mini items to create a "real shop". Pretend money can be exchanged.

Children can take turns being the shop keeper, adding up the prices and working out the total.

"Children can talk about change, dollars, cents. You can have prices that are only combinations of dollars and 50 cents but you could make the game more complicated or simpler by the prices you choose. Also think about buying multiple items.

"I'll have 4 Chobani". "How much will it cost?" "How much change will you get?" This encourages children to use multiplication.

claire.heaney@news.com.au