Toddlers and preschoolers love to pretend play. We’ve all seen a three-year-old play with dolls and have conversations with them or a group of five-year-olds pretend to be their favorite princesses or super heroes. Role play is a big part of dramatic play, an essential part of childhood. By engaging in pretend play, also known as imaginative play, children learn about themselves and the world around them. It has benefits for children in various areas of development – cognitive skills, socio-emotional skills, and language skills.
One fun way to encourage and incorporate more pretend play into a child’s everyday activities is through a pretend play grocery store. Kids love to imitate their parents and going to the supermarket is something they see their parents or caregivers do on a regular basis. It’s no wonder many children love to go to a pretend market, shop for grocery items, and do “store checkout.” We all have memories accompanying our parents to the supermarket and it’s the same for our kids. There are a number of playsets that offer this fun experience. Here are some of the best play grocery stores available:
Best Pretend Play Grocery Stores
Melissa & Doug Grocery Store
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Melissa and Doug is a great brand that offers many toys that help encourage and nurture a child’s creativity. One of these is the Melissa & Doug Grocery Store – a kid-sized grocery store that comes with a conveyor belt, bagging area, scanner, cash drawer, and card swipe machine. It also includes a number of shelves and other areas that allow the “seller” to display the items for sale – from fruit shelves, flat shelves for boxes, and a “refrigerator” for chilled or frozen products. This is a free standing wooden play center that allows kids to role play the whole shopping experience – from buying groceries to store checkout.
Constructive Playthings Wooden Easy-Shop Market Stall
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This pretend market is the perfect blank slate to spur a child’s imagination. Simple wooden shelves with a wooden counter allow children to create their own stories and scenarios about buying and selling just about anything, not just groceries. This kiosk-type playset is made with solid wood, comes with a stool for the “seller”, and features a chalkboard marquee. The Wooden Easy-Shop Market Stall is built to be played with for a long time and provide many hours of pretend play.
Teamson Kids Cashier Austin Play Market Stand
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This Teamson Kids playset would be a great addition to any kids’ room or play area. It is a play grocery store with a conveyor belt that also comes with other features like a scanner that beeps, cash drawer, card swipe machine, and a shelf to display food. It has 5 modes – free play, shopping list, checkout counter, speed scanner, and a scanner with beeping sounds. It also has a cute blackboard where daily specials for featured products can be highlighted, a magazine holder, shelves, and cabinet to display grocery items. This pretend market stand is sure to be a hit with all kids.
Little Tikes Shop N’ Learn Smart Checkout
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Little Tikes is a brand that all parents are familiar with. The Shop N’ Learn Smart Checkout is an attractive pretend play grocery store that comes with an electronic conveyor belt, cash register, scanner and aisle light. It has five play modes – 1) free play, 2) shopping list, 3) checkout counter, 4) speed scanner, and 5) music mode. This play center also comes with a free downloadable app that adds to the different play options of this toy. The toy has a space where a table or smart phone can be attached. It also includes 36 unique and scannable food and accessories.
Sven Wooden Farmers Market Stand
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The Sven Wooden Farmers Market Stand compact kiosk-type play market is made for children 3 years old and above. It features a wooden market stand where you can display fruits and vegetables with a cute striped awning. It also comes with a 25-piece accessory set, including well-painted and attractive wooden fruits and vegetables, a chalk board, and cash register. It’s a great option for parents who want a play center that won’t take up too much space in their homes.
Bigjigs Toys Wooden Grocery Store
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Bigjigs Toys focuses on creating high quality toys for playrooms. The Wooden Grocery Store is a lively and detailed store front that will keep kids entertained for hours. It includes a chalkboard where you can write store hours and daily specials, a clock with moveable hands, and a canvas side basket for extra storage. This is a great piece that can serve as the main play area in a playroom or kids’ room. This is big enough for more than one child to play at a time.
Pretend Grocery Store Accessories
It’s always more fun to play with pretend play grocery stores when you have grocery store accessories or play food to go with them. Here are a few choices for parents looking to add accessories to their kids’ playsets, or just want to buy toy food to play with on their own.
Melissa & Doug Fridge Food Set
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The Fridge Food Set from Melissa & Doug ranks high on our list of attractive and fun toys for both parents and kids. This set includes pantry products like cereal, pasta and ketchup, canned good like pineapple slices and peaches, and fridge food like waffles and milk. We love the colorful and well-designed labels. This is a terrific toy that all kids will love to play with.
Learning Resources New Sprouts Healthy Foods Basket Bundle
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The New Sprouts Basket Bundle is a toy food accessory set with 3 baskets, one with breakfast food, one with lunch food, and the last with dinner food. Each basket contains different kinds of healthy food, a welcome change from other food toys that sometimes encourage not-so-healthy choices. This is a terrific toy for parents who want to add food accessories to a grocery play set that they already have, but it’s also a lot of fun to play with this toy on its own. Some of the food included are fruits like banana and strawberry, a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries, yogurt, and grilled chicken.
Funerica Toy Cash Register with Scanner
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For parents who don’t have enough space for a whole play grocery store or market, the Funerica Toy Cash Register is a good alternative. This comes with a cash register, a mini shopping basket, play money, mini-stove and a play food set. Sliceable carrots, eggplant and corn are included, which all kids will enjoy cutting. After cutting, the food can be cooked in pots on the mini-stove. This is a good all-in-one play set that will spark your child’s imagination and provide lots of fun.
Melissa & Doug Bundle
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This bundle includes a metal toy shopping cart and the Fresh Mart Grocery Store Food and Role Play set. This has everything a kid needs to start role playing – from doing the groceries to store checkout. Boxed toy food from cereals to broccoli, a grocery bag, and a shopping cart are part of this complete set. It also includes an employee apron and store signs. Definitely, the Melissa & Doug bundle is all you need for a complete shopping experience.
Juvale Play Money for Kids
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A great accessory to add to any pretend play grocery store and add to the fun of pretend shopping and checking out is the Juvale Play Money for Kids. This set comes with 300 double-sided bills of $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 each (50 pieces per denomination). The bills measure 5” x 2.3”, smaller than real American bills. It arrives packed in a small canvas bag, which helps keep the money organized and helps with easy packing away after using them. Play money can also help Math skills like counting, recognizing numbers, addition, and subtraction. It’s always good to teach your child financial literacy skills even at a young age.
Ultimate Guide on Pretend Play Grocery Stores
How long does a pretend play grocery store take to assemble?
The answer to this varies from playset to playset, depending on the brand and type. Most of them require some assembly, while others come in parts and need to be completely assembled. Those that come partially assembled can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours to assemble. Others might take up longer than 2 hours, with some parents reporting 3 to 4 hours for assembly. Among the play grocery stores mentioned above, the Little Tikes is the quickest and easiest to assemble. Based on parents’ feedback of assembling these types of toys, putting them together always goes faster when an electric drill is used, compared to a regular screwdriver. The speed of assembly also depends on the clarity of instructions included, some have instructions which are very easy to understand, while others only come with pictures that may need to be interpreted. Other parents have also reported that some models often come with missing parts. In this aspect, the Melissa & Doug grocery play set is reported to have very clear instructions with extra screws already included in the original package. These reasons are why there is a wide range of assembly times for play grocery stores.
How to make a pretend grocery store?
It’s easy to turn an area of your child’s bedroom or playroom into their very own pretend grocery store. If you have the space and your budget permits it, the best way is to purchase a ready-made playset that already includes everything you need – a cash register, shelves for storage, checkout counter, grocery accessory set, and conveyor belt. Some examples of these all-in-one play grocery stores are the ones from Teamson Kids and Little Tikes mentioned above. These are terrific set-up-and-play pretend grocery stores. Once you’re done assembling these playsets, your child can start “going to the supermarket” immediately. You can add an extra shelf to display more grocery items that your child can shop for. This will definitely be worth the time and effort it takes to set it up as it will keep your child entertained for hours.
If you lack the extra space to set up a full-blown pretend grocery store, another way to make a pretend grocery store is to set up a small table in one area of your home and put a play cash register and a few grocery items accessories nearby. They can be placed on another table or share the same table as the register. Kids have wonderful imaginations and it won’t take much for them to get into the role of buying and selling even in this type of smaller set up. A number of toy cash registers also come with a mini conveyor belt and some small grocery items and accessories. You can just place this on a table and your child’s play grocery store is all set.
If you have a little more space at home, you can add more play grocery set items and accessories (like the Melissa & Doug bundle) to make it an even more realistic and fun pretend grocery store. Kids love the act of choosing grocery items (Do I want an apple, a cereal box, or a box of milk today?) then placing them into a shopping cart or basket, heading to the checkout and having their items scanned. Children also love being the cashier, scanning items one by one, pressing the numbers on the cash register, collecting payment and giving change, and finally bagging the groceries.
How to pretend play using a grocery store?
Any of the pretend play grocery stores above will help your child in various and important areas of his or her development. This type of play center will help increase their vocabulary, encourage working together, exercise critical thinking skills, and nurture creativity and imagination. How can a parent encourage more pretend play?
One way to dramatic play with this toy is by role-playing. For example, your child can be the seller in the market stand, and you can be the customer. You can encourage the development of language and teach respect and good manners by getting into your role and encouraging your child to take on his own role and act appropriately – “Good morning!” “Good morning, how may I help you?” “Please tell me what you have on sale today.”
The dialogues you can create with your child are endless. Older kids playing together can also take on different roles (for example, buyer and seller or seller and a supplier of fruits) and practice speaking to each other with respect. When they get into arguments (which they most probably will), playing together and taking on each specific roles will encourage them to problem solve on their own, exercising their critical thinking skills as well. They will learn to put themselves in another person’s position – “Oh, she wanted to get the apple also. That’s why she got angry. But I want it to! What should we do?” This also teaches empathy.
Other specific skills like Math skills and vocabulary can also be developed when playing with a pretend play store or pretend market. You can ask your child different questions about the items on sale – “What kind of vegetables do you have available?” “How much is this apple?” “How many oranges do you have available?” “Can you give me five pears and 4 bananas?” This back-and-forth dialogue with you will require your child to count (count the pears and the bananas), classify items (fruits vs. vegetables), think of numbers (give a price for the apple). What may seem like simple role-playing games can reap endless benefits.
Of course, children should also be allowed to have free play. This means time on their own with the toy, without any instructions from a parent or grownup. Playing on their own also has many benefits. It teaches independence, creativity, and allows them to discover things on their own. When a child examines and learns the difference between an apple and an orange by himself versus a parent pointing out the differences, the long-term effects are more beneficial. He learns to discover things independently and develop extended stretches of concentration, an important skill to master.
All parents and children will love having a play grocery store at home, either big or small, wooden or plastic. Pretend cooking, slicing, mixing, serving, and eating, the possibilities for pretend play are endless with this type of fun toy. Whether you are looking for a toy for your own child, or as a gift for another child, you can never go wrong with any of these wonderful toys.