Cereal provides a sound place to start on a strong foundation of prior knowledge. Most children know plenty about it besides just eating one brand or another, and many can recite television commercials, sing jingles, or identify mascots. One of the first things we discuss is what it means to be a consumer. We relate it to eating and how they consume food. Then we take it a step further to talk about consuming information, and lastly how a consumer buys goods and services. It’s easy then to transition into what to look for as a consumer when buying something such as cereal. In our school library, we have a bookshelf full of cereal boxes to use as examples, but three of our favorites to start with are the original, Honey Nut, and Fruity Cheerios brands, a mere three of the eleven brands made by General Mills. This exercise can also be done with other products, using multiple types of a single brand.
|Source: General Mills|
|Source: PBS Don't Buy It|
|Source: Media Literacy Project|
Kids get it once they learn what to look for and come away with a whole new level of understanding. They also willingly report back to us on what they have in their own pantries or what they noticed shopping with parents. By paying more attention, they become visually astute at picking up the nuances in branding. We emphasize how important it is to be a “smart consumer” and not to be fooled by advertizing tricks. In other words, kids feel proud and a little more empowered, thinking that they have one up on the marketers.