Food PECs – A Trip to the Market to Buy Fruits and Veggies

Grocery shopping with a child with special needs is often on the top ten list of things parents dread.  Come to think of it, it’s probably on the top ten list of things most parents dread.  It doesn’t have to be that way, and I’m hoping we can turn that around.  This is an activity appropriate for all children, special needs or not.  Mapping is another skill you could tack on to this – make a rough map of the aisles at the grocery store, label each aisle, and have your child figure out which aisle will hold the items on his list.  Many grocery stores have a layout of the store available to take home.  Ask for it at the customer service desk.

The grocery store is a great place to work on PECs and signs.  Most children, especially those with Down syndrome find food to be a great motivator, so what better place to encourage communication than the grocery store!!!!  Here are some free Grocery Store Boards Along with Fruit and Vegetable PECs to add to your collection.   Editable files can be found at   Thanks, for another great board.  Whenever possible, I have used images of what is inside the packaging to aid recognition.  It will be of little value if your child knows a pasta box is a pasta box if he doesn’t realize that the box contains pasta, KWIM?


  • 1.  Laminate each page.
  • 2.  Use the boards with the “in” and “cart” cards as your list.  Place a velcro hook (scratchy) dot in the middle of each blank square and in the middle of each “cart” square.
  • 3.  Cut out each food PEC and place a velcro loop (soft) dot in the middle of the back of each card.
  • 4.  Place food PECs to buy on your board in the blank spaces in the order you’ll be finding them in the store.
  • 5.  At the grocery store, use words like “right, left, more, like, don’t like, in, off, find, eat,” etc. as well as colors and numbers as you shop.  As you find the food item represented by each PEC, have your child hold up the PEC to the food item.  Talk about the item, say, “Yes, you found the banana (for example).  Banana (pointing to PEC), banana (pointing to real food), same.  Okay.  Put the banana in the cart.”  Then have your child move the PEC from the blank square over to the cart square.  “Banana in cart.”

Skills Practiced:  Left to right visual progression, matching, vocabulary, sequencing, color identification, counting, visual discretion.

By the way, this is a great activity to help any child behave at the grocery store.  Heck, y ou might even make it through your shopping without buying anything that wasn’t on your list.  It will be hard for your kids to be saying “I want” when they are busy thinking “where is?”

These PECs and boards are designed to optimize your child’s shopping experience.  In the coming weeks, I’ll be adding cards for the other food groups.  In the meantime, if I missed a fruit or a vegetable you’d like to have, leave me a comment and I’ll be sure to add it in.

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