Paper or Plastic? Or Pre-Reading?

One of the best ways to prepare children to read is to familiarize them with the need for reading and writing in everyday life. Sometimes, it can be hard to come up with ways to connect written words to real life in a way that a toddler can understand and get excited about, but I stumbled across a way to incorporate this pre-reading concept into one of Beach Girl’s favorite activities – pretend shopping.

Beach Girl will pretend shop ’til we both drop… or at least until I drop. And, honestly, I get a kick out of it too.  I have fond memories of pretend shopping as a kid and, to this day, I still choose the self-checkout lane whenever possible.

Before we start pretend shopping, she loves to make a list of what we need to buy. She carefully sounds out the words as she “writes” them and then proudly reads her list to me.

I sometimes will make a list of items that we want to “buy”. I draw a (very rough) picture of the item and then write the word while sounding out the letters to her. When she writes her own list, it’s fun to see how much detail she notices on her own. For example, see all these lines she drew across the page under her squiggles?

When I asked her to tell me about the lines, she said “I put lines under my words just like you do” and pointed to where I had underlined under the words “Shopping List”.  I hadn’t even noticed I’d done that, but she picked up on it. A couple days later, she showed me where she had carefully underlined her name after she “wrote” it on our wall. Kids certainly don’t miss a thing!

After we’ve made our lists, one of us goes shopping while the other waits by the cash register (which is a keyboard and mouse set up on our coffee table). When we’re done making our selections, we practice excellent customer service by asking things like “did you find what you’re looking for?” and “what’s your phone number?“. (Notice how Beach Girl is – complete coincidentally – wearing her Piggly Wiggly pajama shirt? We’re Big on The Pig!) Then, we scan and bag the purchases. (Yes, that is a mini light saber that we use as our scanner!)


As we pay, we either hand each other a piece of paper to swipe like a debit card or an empty handful of imaginary money. When she is older, I’ll buy/make her some play money that we can use to introduce math concepts like how much things cost, the values of different coins, and how to make change. But, for now, it’s all imaginary and the most mathematical we get is making up an amount for the items’ totals like “$75.54”.

She always makes sure we sign the receipt (another need for knowing how to write!) and we wish each other a nice day as we walk the purchases to “the car” (also known as a piano bench) and start all over again.


Do you have any other tips for introducing pre-reading into everyday games? How about games that you enjoy (almost) as much as your kids do? We always love fun ideas!

One thought on “Paper or Plastic? Or Pre-Reading?

  1. MP July 27, 2012 / 3:10 pm

    I think that sunglasses are essential for effective shopping.


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