Setting Up a Supermarket Center
Begin by asking the children if they have been to the supermarket with their parents or caregivers. Help them to think about what a supermarket is and what they do there. Read them books about the grocery store, ask if an employee can visit to speak with the class, and bring in ads from the newspaper for the children to explore.
To set up your own center, find an area where you can place shelves like rows in the grocery store. A couple small bookcases would work well. Ask parents to send in empty boxes and food containers to place on the shelves. Make sure they are clean, with no sharp edges. Bring in plastic play food to represent produce and meats. Invite the children to line the shelves with the play food. Let them sort the empty containers according to categories, such as fruits, vegetables, cereals, dairy, pasta, etc.
Think up a name for your market and together make a sign to post in this dramatic play area. Use newspaper ads to cut pictures of food products and have the children glue these pictures to squares of construction paper. You can even put a price on each product if you wish. Attach these signs at each type product on the shelves.
Child-size grocery carts are excellent toys to use in this learning center or wicker baskets with handles could be used as an alternative. On a table, place a toy cash register or even an old adding machine or calculator will do. Preschool children cannot truly absorb the concept of money exchange, but the pretend play is the important learning skill. Speaking of money, you can use play money or make your own from cut index cards or construction paper. Coins can be made from cardboard circles covered in aluminum foil. In today's world, a child may mention credit cards, see if you can obtain expired business cards to use (of course nothing with personal information).
Grocery stores will probably donate some paper bags for you to use, but why not go 'green' and bring in some cloth bags to use. It's never too early to teach the children to become eco-friendly.
Divide the class into workers and shoppers. Aprons from home could be used for the workers.
Before you begin to play, decide who will be workers and who will become shoppers. Use the play money accordingly where the shoppers pay for the food to the check out person with the register. Workers will stock the shelves again and help the shoppers find the food. Make sure to change roles throughout the play period so all children have a chance to play each role.