Playing shops: why it’s good for children
Setting up a play shop at home is a great way to develop your child’s money management skills and financial literacy.
Playing shops introduces children to basic concepts like money, price and change, as well as activities like buying, shopping, budgeting and saving. It helps children start to understand the value of money and how to tell the difference between needs and wants.
Playing shops can also be good for children’s thinking, numeracy and social skills.
Learning about money and developing financial literacy from a young age can help children develop responsible money habits and attitudes for later in life.
What you need for a play shop activity
You can set up a play shop using items from around your home. For example, your child could ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ things like:
- empty food cartons or packets
- household items like tissue boxes and toilet paper
- small toys or puzzles
- books, newspapers or magazines
- fruit and vegetables
- plastic flowers
- sports equipment.
Your child can use realistic play money, or you and your child could make some play money together. Get your child to copy the colours, pictures and symbols from real notes, coins and cards. If you’re making play money, you might need:
- marker pens, pencils or thick crayons
Other things you might need to set up a play shop include:
- sticky labels, sticky notes or tags for sticking prices to items
- a tray or box for using as the ‘cash register’
- a notepad for writing receipts or shopping lists
- a wallet or purse for carrying money and cards
- a shelf, bookcase, table or baskets for displaying shop items
- reusable shopping bags.
How to do a play shop activity
Setting up the play shop
- Set up the play shop where you have enough space to lay out all the items.
- Ask your child what type of shop they want – a grocery shop with food items or a pet shop with stuffed animals?
- Encourage your child to display shop items however they like.
- Talk about how much each shop item might cost. Which items might be cheaper? Which items might be more expensive? Maybe some items are on sale.
- Get your child to write the prices down on labels and stick them on.
Buying and selling in the play shop
- Take turns playing shopkeeper and shopper so your child can practise buying as well as selling.
- If you’re the shopper, ask simple questions like, ‘I’m looking for a puzzle. How much do your puzzles cost?’ or ‘Which costs more – apples or oranges?’
- Give your child a shopping list with different items and quantities – or get them to come up with their own list of things they ‘want’ and ‘need’.
Using money in the play shop
- Count items, money and change out loud. Use common money terms like ‘dollars’, ‘cents’, ‘amount’, ‘total’ and ‘spending’.
- Act out and explain different paying scenarios. For example, you or your child could pay cash one time, and use eftpos,‘tap and go’ or gift cards the next time. Make sure to explain that using your card is still using real money.
Sometimes your child might want to play shops alone. This is OK – play shops are a lot of fun. They give your child the opportunity to copy things they’ve seen you do and explore and practise their new skills.
Adapting the play shop for children at different stages
It’s best to keep item quantities and prices simple for younger children. For example, items might cost $1 or $2. Younger children might also need your help with writing and counting.
You can make things more challenging for older children by using higher quantities and prices. You can also encourage them to write and count themselves. And for this age group, you can introduce simple maths and budgeting concepts and activities. For example, ‘How many toys can you buy with $10?’ or ‘Good job, you got 3 muesli boxes and didn’t spend more than your budget’.
All children learn and develop through play. Our articles on play and autistic children and play and children with disability are great starting points for adapting this activity guide for children with diverse abilities.