My daughter V has recently begun to play a game she calls “Grocery Store”or “Shop N’Go” (which I think, incidentally was the brand name of her play shopping cart). Any parent of a toddler knows that grocery shopping with said toddler can be a challenging experience. Role playing grocery shopping experiences can help a little one become familiar with the routines and expectations of a shopping trip in a fun manner. There are many wonderful learning opportunities that arise during play shopping and I hope to share some of them with you through this post.
To play grocery store, V and I take turns being the cashier/shopkeeper and the shopper.
The shopkeeper/cashier sets out play fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy items.
This is a great opportunity to have your little one sort the items by food group or color. If you have more than one of an item, you can play counting games by asking your child how many of each item they are putting in your play store.
The shopper (as we play it) takes a mini shopping cart and visits the store, selecting items for the basket. As the shopper, I like to talk about what I am buying, and sometimes talk about why I am “buying” a certain item (ex: “I want to make a pie; oh, look, there are some apples for my pie!”). The shopper proceeds to the cash register (we use V’s baby piano) and sets the items on the counter. (Here again is another opportunity for sorting or counting items.)
We have a little fake scanner (the faucet from V’s play kitchen) that we use to scan each item. V loves to make a scanning sound “BOOP!” when each item is “scanned.” As a shopkeeper, V then puts the items in a reusable bag for the customer.
The shopper then takes out a play wallet(I bought a brand new wallet for a dollar at the Goodwill to use during play). We have play money (coins and bills) and also old fake credit cards (old, used gift cards and fake credit cards that come with offers) that we use to pay. V likes to slide the credit card through our credit card reader (the space between the piano keys) and hand it back to me. We also use this as an opportunity to learn about money. I show V the different types of coins and that five pennies is the same as one nickel. We talk about which coins are worth more money and that the bigger coins aren’t always the ones worth the most money. I don’t expect her to grasp all of these concepts at two, but she is learning the names of the coins and will gradually add knowledge through our continued play.
We also practice courtesy by saying, “Thank you! Have a nice day!” when we part company at the register.
Recently, V and I had an awful shopping experience when our wills collided down aisle 5. After the dust had settled from our trip, we role played a similar experience with her baby dolls who just didn’t want to listen in our play grocery store. I pretended that the baby wouldn’t get in her cart, was running in different directions, climbing out of the cart, and grabbing things she shouldn’t. I asked V what she thought we should do in each of the situations. She problem solved, “Put the baby in the cart;” “Give the baby a snack;” “Strap her in.” All of these ideas were great solutions and I could tell it got her wheels turning as she thought about what to do with unruly Baby. When I asked her what we should do when Baby wouldn’t listen to our choices, I said, “I’m so frustrated! I can’t get Baby to listen! What should we do with Baby?” V looked at me with an understanding grin. Our next shopping experience was a bit more peaceful, but I know the learning will be part of an ongoing process. Involving her in solution finding for challenging behavior gave her an opportunity to experience the situation from my perspective.
We try to carry over V’s learning to real life store experiences, allowing her to help us put items in the basket, scan our card at the register, and take the receipt. She loves to select produce and always reminds me to buy eggs. Recently, I recited a list of items we needed to remember to buy at the grocery store and she felt really proud to remind Mommy that we needed to purchase pens and Kleenex! And I had one less thing to remember by myself!
For supplemental learning, try reading the following titles with your child:
At The Supermarket by Anne Rockwell (This sweet title was read over and over by my little gal who loved the story line of the mom and son buying ingredients for a birthday cake that they make at the end of the book.)
A Day at the Market by Sara Anderson (This one is a little quirky, including names of people that are specific to a particular farmer’s market, dumpster divers, and exotic ingredients but it is still a helpful read for kids and captures the excitement that a child might feel at a large marketplace.)
Maisy Goes Shopping by Lucy Cousins (Who doesn’t love a Maisy book?)
Eating The Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables From A To Z by Lois Ehlert: (Even I learned some new fruit/veggie names from this title.)