Why Pretend Play is so Important

We have had our little play kitchen for three years now and it's still played with regularly by both of the kids. Little Man loves to chop the fruit and make coffees, while Miss M feeds her dolls. Pretend play is such an important part of early childhood development for so many reasons (which I'll get into later in the post).

After a while though, it's always good to change things around and provide different play opportunities. We were lucky enough to be gifted this Large Retro Grocery Store thanks to Tiny Tiny Shop Shop. So we've relocated the play kitchen to another part of the family room to make room for the shop and to provide some new play opportunities. The kids are absolutely loving it and they are surprisingly playing really well together!

Gifted for the purpose of this review. 

So on the first day that they were playing with it, I wrote down everything that they said (it reminded me of back in my uni days when I would take running record notes on the children I was observing). And it was really interesting to watch them interact and especially to see how much Little Man was learning from Miss M. (So Little Man's words are in italics and quotes, and Miss M's are in plain text. Hopefully you can follow along!).


Do you want me to put some food in there for you?
“Pop in here”
Alright. I’ve got some things for you in here. Ooh looks what’s Inside
“I tip in there”
What have you got in here?
“Maybe those"
You’ve got some carrots don’t you?
“Let’s buy it”
Alright. I’ll do it. I’ll pop your credit card in and I’ll put your number in. 1475868
Now you can buy it. There you go. Bye bye

Would you like to buy some more food?
“Yep please. Buy That one.”
Would you like to buy some milk?
“Pop some those in there. Pop some these in there”
Alright alright alright. Let’s get another one.
There you go, would you like to buy it?
Alright I’ll do your number. 147568
“I buy this one.
I buy that one”
“Buy it M”
Alright I’ll buy it.

* Roles reversed based on who had credit card machine.

“Want some food M?
Buy it now M. Buy that M”
I would like to buy this carrot
And another carrot and one of these, three sausages. I want one apple
One banana . No I already had an Apple.
I want one mushroom and one of these.
Now my bag is full I need to get another bag to put my groceries in.

* Little Man started saying the numbers on the credit card machine.

Can I buy all of these? I’ve got lots of money.
Let M put her special numbers in.
E can M buy all of this now?
“Um yep”
Can you do my number in?
“Um no”
Do you want me to tell you my number? Pop the card in.
Put 1 in.
Where is 1?
Good boy. Now can M go pop it in her house.
“Um yep.”

“Want buy something else?”
*and the play continued...


So how can "shop play" be an educational experience for young children?

Literacy Development

  • As you can see from the above conversation and interaction between the two kids, shop play provides a great opportunity for language development. 
  • Older children can write a shopping list of things they’d like to buy at the store
  • They can also try to create labels for the items in the grocery store

Numeracy Development

  • Counting coins and money (adding up money for older children). 
  • Counting how many of each item they would like to buy, eg two apples and three bananas.
  • Writing price tags on food items. 

Social Skills

  • Negotiating and turn taking, who will be the shopkeeper and who will be the customer. 
  • Using manners; please and thank you when making your purchases
  • Host a tea party and share out the food evenly


  • Sorting the food into healthy food/sometimes food or sort the food into food group categories. This can include how you set up the grocery store. 

The vintage grocery store itself is really cute! It has little shelves for all of the products to go on and a window opening for the shop keeper to stand behind. The little chalkboard is perfect for writing the daily specials and my kids favourite part is the card reader!! (I love how they’ve made it modern). The wooden food is of a beautiful quality, I can tell from experience that it’s the kind that will last. And the set also comes with some sturdy cardboard box products as well with easily identifiable pictures. There are heaps more kitchen accessories available to compliment the grocery store here.


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