What is it about pretend grocery shopping that toddlers love so much? On a recent visit to the Portland Children's Museum, the miniature sized grocery store inside the museum had all of the toddlers elated and captivated. They were gleefully loading play food into their tiny shopping carts and wheeling them to the checkout where they found beeping scanners, rolling conveyor belts and realistic registers that nearly put them over the joyful edge. Olivia even pulled a stool up to the register after she exhausted of loading and unloading her cart for the twentieth time, where she helped other kids 'buy' their groceries.
Whenever my husband and I consider purchasing play food, we're put off by one reason or another... is it BPA, phthalate and lead free? Why is it so darn expensive? Do we really want meat grouped into the set when Olivia doesn't eat meat? And as a friend of mine noted, "Why would people buy an imitation of what they already have in their cupboards?" So...
I had a stroke of very green inspiration when I was cleaning out our kitchen cabinets 2 days ago. Use what you have. Kids will love the familiarity of pretend shopping for their favorite foods! Simply keep cereal, cracker and energy bar boxes, wash out plastic apple sauce canisters, save toothpaste boxes, vitamin containers, etc. so you can set up different sections of a fabulous grocery store in your home and make the shopping venture more realistic.
To really up the ante on the pretend play, Olivia 'drives' her used, but very reliable, hand me down play car to the store.
We also have a hand me down shopping cart that she puts her baby in while she shops.
We 'ring up' all of her items at the end, and pack them all into a reusable shopping bag. I even have stickers to give her baby at checkout, since Olivia now thinks every grocery checker, librarian, gas station attendant, doctor or nurse exists only to dispense stickers.
There are endless opportunities for learning via green grocery store playtime. Toddlers will feel empowered to make choices, selecting what they want to put in their cart. They learn mindfulness of what they are purchasing, the value of a dollar, an introduction to math skills when the groceries are rung up, the eco-conscious concept of taking along a reusable bag... the sky is the limit!