Practice Money Skills (and More) by Setting Up a Pretend Store

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Pretend stores are amazing! Here's what your child can learn in the process.

Practice Money Skills (and More) by Setting Up a Pretend Store

Your kids can learn so much by setting up a pretend store. It’s one of our favorite creative play games.

A pretend store doesn’t need to be complicated, or beautiful, to be educational.

How to Set Up a Quick Pretend Store

When I set up a pretend store with my kids, we take the super simple approach. Here’s what we need:

  • Stuff to sell (my kids gather toys or clothes or books or canned food from the cupboard). I’ve found 25 items is a good number to keep it from being too overwhelming or complicated.
  • A place to sell. We use the living room furniture.
  • Fake or real money. (Monopoly money works well!)
  • A cash register. (Before we got one we used a shallow cardboard box!)
  • Paper and a pen for making price tags.

Once we’ve gathered what we need, it’s time to set up the store. We just arrange things on the desk, couch, and coffee table in the living room. I usually let the kids do this, because then they can practice skills like facing merchandise and grouping like items.

And while they’re setting up the store, I can totally get something small knocked off my to-do list! 😀

Price Items

We don’t get complicated with prices. If we’re using Monopoly money, we stick with whole dollar amounts. Sometimes I’ll break out the coins and then we’ll add cents to prices.

When it’s time to price, we take a piece of printer paper and fold it several times. Then we cut on the lines to get our price tags.

Depending on what we’re selling that day, we’ll either use tape to stick tags on, or just put the tags down in front of the item.

Open for Business

After our set-up is done, it’s time to open the store. We pick one person to be the first storekeeper. This person turns on the lights in the living room, and greets customers as they come to the store.

The rest of us browse the aisle, and pick a couple things to buy. When we’re done shopping, we take our merchandise to the storekeeper.

She adds up all the price tags (having extra pen and paper nearby helps!) and then tells us how much we owe. We shell out some of our money to pay, and get any change if needed.

Then we leave the store and someone else can checkout. Once everyone has checked out, we switch store keepers and play some more.

When we’re done, we close the shop by putting everything away.

What Your Child Is Learning with a Pretend Store

Money skills are an obvious learning lesson from a pretend store.Your child will be:

  • Adding money to find a total.
  • Subtracting money to figure out how much change is needed.
  • Counting back change.
  • Learning budgeting skills–knowing what can be purchased with the amount of money they have
  • Gaining confidence in money handling

But, money math skills aren’t the only things learned with a pretend store. Here are eight other skills your child can practice:

1. Customer Service Skills

Treating others kindly is so important. As the shopkeeper, your child has the opportunity to build her customer service skills. She can work on speaking politely, saying please and thank you, and greeting you with a smile.

2. Assigning Value

Every object at your store is worth something. Helping price items helps your child to assign value to objects. They’ll learn that they need to pay for what they want.

This helps them learn that things cost money, and help them understand why they can’t always get what they want.

3. Marketing

Setting up a store is strategic. As the shopkeeper, your child will begin to see a pattern for what is selling. She might discover that setting up her wares in a different way changes the pattern of selling.

How items are displayed play an important role in their appeal, and their sellability.

4. Facing Money

Handing the cashier a big wad of crumpled money isn’t the best way to make a purchase. I make my kids face their money before handing it over. (We get it ready while waiting in line.)

Have your child make sure the paper money is uncrumpled, and that the president’s are all facing the same way. Now their money is faced, and it’s much easier on the cashier to count.

5. Confidence

Going into a store to make a purchase can be intimidating for some kids. Practicing at home makes it a safe environment where your child can gain confidence.

You can have your child ensure he has the money needed to purchase what he wants, learn to verify the price, and speak kindly to the cashier.

Occasionally if I’m the cashier, I’ll tell the wrong price for an item purposefully. I want my kids to have the confined to speak up about the mistake, and question it. This is the perfect opportunity for a teachable moment!

6. Prioritizing

As the shopkeeper, your child will have to figure out how to add up the price tags and how to keep the money organized in the cash register. She’s in charge of making sure the merchandise stays nice, and that the customers are taken care of.

When you have multiple responsibilities occurring at the same time, you have to prioritize them. Your child will need to decide what needs immediate attention (like the customer waiting to check out) and what can wait a few minutes.

7. Improving Vocabulary

There’s a vocabulary learned while shopping, and you can help your child learn to use these words appropriately. Here are some examples:

  • Aisle
  • Price
  • Sale
  • BOGO
  • Cashier
  • Cash Register (or till)
  • Bargain
  • Clearance

You might decide to have a Clearance Rack or a Bargain Bin in your store. Or run a BOGO sale. Using these words at home will help your child master the vocabulary.

8. Patience

If someone else is checking out before you, it’s hard to wait in line. It’s a great opportunity to learn patience. At the real grocery store, we use this time to play games.

At home, it’s a great time to teach some solo things to do while waiting:

  • Counting floor or ceiling tiles
  • Searching for all the colors of the rainbow without running around
  • Thinking about a story read recently
  • Making a picture in your mind
  • People watching

What Can You Add?

I know there are plenty of other benefits from setting up a pretend store. What can you add to my list? Do you enjoy playing store with your kids?

Photo credit: Fabian Blank via Unsplash

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