Last week a mom asked me for suggestions for toys that teach the ABC’s. My response was that the ABC’s as with other “academic concepts” such as numbers and colors are best learned through experience and you don’t necessarily need a toy.

Well, this weekend I was observing in one of the best classrooms–the grocery store! As I was waiting at the fish counter, I watched a dad manage his three little children, ages 2, 4 and 5. Mom strategically, left the cart full of kids and dad parked at the counter while she ran around picking up items on her own. Suddenly I heard, “I see an S.” and “I see a W.” Across the plexiglass covering the fish were specials written in bold colors of magic marker. These little kids were calling out letters in the “Previously Frozen Swordfish” sign and making a game of it. See how learning can be fun? Letters make a lot more sense when they are useful, not just remembered in a toy whose electronic voice calls them out when you push a button. Don’t get me wrong, some of those toys can be fun as children are learning to name letters, like the LeapFrog Fridge Phonics, but the swordfish sign links letters to life.

After a long wait in line, I stepped up to order and I heard the cart leaving behind me with voices saying, “Goodbye blue, goodbye purple,” calling out the colors in the sign.