Pretend Play Grocery Store

pretend play grocery storeThis isn’t the first time we have made a grocery store for pretend play, but it was the first time with both kids and because it was such a hit the 2nd time around I thought I may as well post about what made it so much fun.

I started by clearing out some of our toys from the playroom. In the past, I have done this in a bedroom and kitchen. In a bedroom, I used the low bed for main aisles/ produce section. In the kitchen, I used a shelf on an island. It doesn’t matter what you use it matters if it’s in their line of sight.  My son reached for the grocery items on the windowsill, and my daughter went straight for the ones on the shelf ( well after the baby in the cart ).  If you don’t have a shopping cart grab a basket or small bag for your shoppers to put their purchases in.

For food and grocery items just raid your pantry. Last time I used real produce but my son was old enough to tell him not to eat it while playing ( which you could encourage also depending on if you need the fruit or vegetable later for a meal), my daughter is a muncher, and I knew if I put any real produce out each and every piece would have baby girl bites out of them, so I opted for our play food.

For an added layer of learning, I placed the produce/ fresh food in food groups. My son has been interested in this lately and immediately when my daughter would place an egg into the vegetable basket he’d correct her. Play like this is a natural opportunity to talk about nutrition too.

We added an old lap top and a desk for the checkout, one of our cloth grocery bags and a simple sign on the door – then the kids!

They had a blast!  Especially my daughter who went shopping multiple times yesterday.

This time, I added some labels and other print like this weekly specials board for my son to read, but both children benefit from a print rich environment so even if your child is not starting to read don’t skip them.

 Labels are a great way to boost print awareness and help show children how people use reading skills in everything we do not just reading stories.  We were crunched for time, so I threw it all together but guess what things don’t need to be perfect for the play to be fantastic! Please remember that, so often I see wonderful, beautiful things on Pinterest and think that as pretty as those things are for the average parent trying to manage a family and throw together some fun things for their kids those perfect pretty things might not be attainable. Perfect isn’t the goal, play is.

 Now play!

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  1. Debbie says

    This is great and definitely something I will replicate. But, as I sent in a comment to you earlier in the week, when do you do all the prep? I promise I won’t ask again, but if you have any tips on how to organize the day/evening to accommodate for this type of amazing activity and also keep a clean and tidy home and have and clean three healthy meals for the family I really would appreciate the help. Break it down for me!!! thanks again for a great activity that I know my toddler will love.

    • admin says

      I eat standing up most of the time, I don’t shower nearly as much as I probably should, looking at my carpet you “tidy” might be correct but clean would probably not be a good descripton tonight.

      Seriously – I get asked this all the time and never know how to answer because like all parents no matter what fills my to do list , it’s full.

      I do better being busy, I am more creative, more organized and happier if I am busy. I am always brainstorming, my iphone is never far from me and I keep lists of lists of lists of activities and themes. I don’t generally plan our activities especially now that my son is in preschool, instead I get an idea and suggest we do it. I am lucky in that over the years my stash of materials and tools is pretty big. Prep time is while they play , this store was thrown together in 20 minutes with my daughter on my hip… which is what I was trying to get at in the post saying perfect is so not the goal. I skipped my after hiking shower to get it done, my 3 friends all showed up at preschool with clean wet hair to gather their kids, I was still in my hat and yoga pants. I am sure you know that when you are a parent it’s all about trade offs .

      My tips would be to find a time early in the week and make a list of activities you want to do and materials you need. Then using zip locks prep the materials ( like cutting paper etc…) that you are going to be prepping not having your kids do. Pop them in the bag with a label saying what other tools you need like glue, scissors, crayons and as the week progresses pull the zip lock out and you will have a craft ready when you have time to do it .

  2. says

    So much fun! I did this when my middle daughter was younger (now 21!) and thats how I taught her to count money too (of course she was bigger at the time) but we put price tags on everything. It was so fun. I do this now with my 3 year old we have a blast, she is my personal shopper and I send her for all kinds of items. Thanks for sharing your fun with us!

  3. says

    Hi Ali! I’ve been working in a toy boutique a bit for the last year and I can ATTEST, that the display shopping cart, much like the one in your post, is THE THING that littlest shoppers naturally run to.

    Without seeing an example of each other, these new walkers up to about 2 1/2, will grab the cart and then start “play shopping” filling it will carefully selected store items. They don’t expect their parents to buy the items, it is just about pretending to do what their parents are doing.

    My favorite part is when they put a little baby doll into the cart’s seat, feet out, just like their own experience in a grocery store. I can see how “pretend play grocery store” would work for most all kids of toddler age!

  4. Mary Kay says

    I lost my daughter when my grandson was 13 mons.old so I had him quite a bit and we played ” Food ” had a kitchen and all the trimmings, we shopped and of course had the grocery cart…If I were to do it over I would have added cut out coupons, we had the cash register, play money and the weekly was a really fun time for both of us…since I was limited in walking and doing more physical things with him this type of play was ideal..well he learned how to cook,iron and to take care of himself, one needs to learn to be able to take care of them selves especially the male child..he is now 22 and in the Army so I don’t think that letting him do girl stuff had any negative effects on him…this was a concern with many of my friends.. I was very impressed with all your ideas..It does not take a lot of money to do stuff, we also hit the yard sales every Saturday. I have saved every little item and one day he may have a family,if not he can donate all of it…Keep those ideas going…I found your site when I was looking at the dying of Easter eggs…


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