How to Set up a Pretend Grocery Store Dramatic Play Center


When you are considering dramatic play ideas for your kids, a grocery store is a great theme. Find the best tips & ideas to set up a fun grocery store dramatic play area. Get directions for food, props, printables, literacy & math elements for play-based learning through pretend play.

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What Can Kids Learn in a Pretend Grocery Store?

Dramatic play provides an opportunity for young children to learn through play.  When kids bring their grocery list and shop a pretend grocery store, they can learn social skills, language skills and problem solving skills. Through imaginative play, they can also learn about people, jobs, and places in their community.

Pretend frozen food for a grocery dramatic play center

I love that a grocery store dramatic play center is also a sneaky way to teach math skills, literacy skills, fine motor skills, vocabulary, and language development in a developmentally appropriate (DAP) way. I’m going to show you lots of ideas to set up your own grocery store dramatic play area in your preschool, pre-k, or kindergarten classroom or at home.

The full color printables featured in this post are available in my store. I also added several Amazon links throughout this post. Use the links and ideas to help you shop for props to add to your center. There will be no additional cost to you when you purchase an item featured, but a small portion of your purchase will be used towards maintaining this website.

Props for a Grocery Store Dramatic Play Center

If you are into it, you can create a massive set-up, but your little learners will also have LOTS of fun with a “store” made from just a few props.  The best thing to do is use your imagination and take your budget and space into consideration when transforming your dramatic play center into a pretend play grocery store.

A toy cash register and plastic bread in a grocery store dramatic play center

Basic Props for a Grocery Store

Here are the basics that you probably need:

  • a cash register – Use a toy cash register, make one by adding some buttons to a box, use a device or a printable
  • food items – From plastic fruit to packaged items, you will need to stock the shelves. This is also the perfect opportunity to discuss healthy eating options. Be sure to supply your store with lots of healthy foods.
  • grocery bags
  • a place to store food – shelves or tables

How to Get Pretend Food For Your Grocery Store

Why do you go to a grocery store?  To get food, of course.  So, one of the key components of these dramatic play theme is food props. Here are some creative ways to stock your play store with food items for your kids to sell.

Where to Find Food

Most classrooms and toy rooms have a supply of plastic play food.  Below are some affiliate links for some good options. Think about the different departments that you see in the store when you go grocery shopping. You may want to create a produce section, a canned goods section, and a refrigerator section.

Ask your kids to help you with ideas for food. Use it as a literacy opportunity and make an inventory list with them.

If you want to find more food, but it’s not in your budget….don’t worry.  There are plenty of ways to find food to use without breaking the bank.

Check with your friends, neighbors, parents.  Many people will happily donate plastic food when their kids finish playing with it.  You can also find inexpensive supplies of pretend food by frequenting garage sales and thrift stores. Be sure to select play food that is age appropriate and avoid food or props with small parts.

How to Recycle Food Containers

In addition to using toy food, a fantastic way to add items to your store is to add real food containers.  Let friends, parents, and other teachers know that you need containers.  Parents might be able to help you with some of their kids favorites or cultural foods. Before you know it, you will have a pretty good supply.  Please remember to take precautions for allergens that might cause a problem in your class.

Empty pasta boxes and canned food to use as props for a grocery store dramatic play area.

Here are some things that you can ask parents and friends to save for you. Send a note home or post a note at the door to let them know.

  • empty pasta boxes
  • empty frozen food containers
  • plastic containers (yogurt, sour cream, milk)
  • ice cream tubs
  • empty cans
  • cereal boxes
  • empty frozen food bags
  • clean foam meat trays – you might even be able to get some of these from local stores if you ask.

Teacher Tip: This is a great environmental print lesson!

Tips & Tricks for Recycled Food Containers

Empty Cans

Here is a trick to help you prepare empty cans for use.  I have this great can-opener (I think that I picked it up at IKEA) that removes the top of a can without leaving sharp edges.

How to glue lids to empty cans to make props for a grocery store dramatic play center.

I removed the top, used the contents, cleaned out the can, and then hot glued the top back on. Tip: I had more success when I added glue to the inside rim of the can rather than to the lid

How to glue lids to empty cans to make props for a grocery store dramatic play center.

If you don’t have this type of can opener, you can hot-glue a circle of cardboard to the top of a cleaned out can.  You can also use cans with open tops…..just make sure there are no sharp edges that will cut your kids.

Frozen Food Bags

Want to add some frozen veggies to your grocery store shelves?  I cleaned out frozen food bags after using the contents.  Then, I added packing peanuts to the bags to give them some bulk and TADA…..I had some frozen food.

How to use empty frozen vegetable bags for a grocery store dramatic play area.

You can also add crumbled up paper, cotton balls, or whatever you can find to the bags to make them feel more lifelike.

Frozen food containers to use for grocery store dramatic play center

Meat Trays

Create packages of meat by thoroughly cleaning a foam meat tray.  Place yarn, pom-poms, shredded paper, strips of felt, etc. on the tray and then wrap it with plastic wrap…..TADA….your meat department is ready.

A meat tray prop for a dramatic play grocery store

How to Make Food Props for Your Grocery Store

If you are crafty, you can make food.

You can get all fancy and sew some DIY food from felt.  Here are some adorable fruits and veggies from Apple Green Cottage

If you are not crafty, don’t worry.  Kids have a pretty good imagination.  You can use balls of colored paper, crumbled pipe cleaners, sponges, or colored blocks to represent food.

You can even get your kids to help you find ways to make food.  They will enjoy creating with clay or painting rocks, etc.

Cultural Considerations

As you set up a dramatic play area in a classroom setting, be sure to take the cultures of your children and community into consideration.  Are there particular food items that you can add to represent the different cultures within your community?  Consult your children and their families.

Seasonal Considerations

Are there any seasonal items that you can add to your store?  If you are setting up your grocery store play area in the fall, you might want to include pumpkin items.  I know that pumpkin and pumpkin-related foods are all over the grocery stores in my community in the fall.

Dress-Up Clothing Ideas

nametags and a green apron with a grocery store logo. 
 Examples of dress up clothes for a grocery store dramatic play cneter

Special clothing isn’t necessary for your grocery store set up, but kids sure do LOVE dressing up to get into their roles. Here are a few things suggested props that you can provide:

  • aprons, vests, t-shirts, or polo shirts for employees
  • hats
  • purses, wallets, keys
  • face masks – new reality at the post-Covid-19 grocery store

Additional Props for Your Grocery Store

a toy shopping basket, a play carton of milk, and a plastic banana used in a grocery store dramatic play set up.

Here are some additional props that you can use as you create your market:

  • baskets – You need shopping baskets to hold grocery items while your kids shop. You can use other baskets to organize food
  • shopping bags – paper, plastic, or reusable
  • cars or wagons – for delivery services or curbside pickup
  • scales
  • grocery store ads and grocery promotional signs
  • play grocery cart
  • play cash register and money
  • tongs – to pick up baker items
  • Aisle signs listing different food groups (dairy, fruit, vegetables, meat, etc)
  • empty gift cards and pretend credit cards

Sections of a Dramatic Play Grocery Store

Remember, you can make a grocery store as simple or complex as you like.  Here are some ideas for areas or departments that you can include.  Have conversations with your kids to see which areas they want in their store.

Grocery Store Departments You Can Add

Toy bakery items in a basket with pretend price tags as part of a grocery store dramatic play center.

Produce Department

Gather your fruits and vegetables together to create a produce department.  Add a scale so that kids can weigh the items.  Playing with healthy foods is also an easy way to start conversations about healthy foods with your kids.


My favorite area of the grocery store is the bakery area.  Add bread, rolls, donuts, cakes, and fresh tortillas to your bakery area.

Dairy & Meat

Include milk, yogurt, cheese, and butter containers in your dairy department.

Frozen Food

A frozen food area can consist of a shelf filled with frozen food boxes and bags.

Canned Food & Pantry Items

See the above prop tips to learn how to use empty cans from your own pantry.


Do you have pretend sandwich-making supplies?  Your kids may want to add a deli area to your store.


My grocery store has a floral department that I see when I enter.  You can add flowers to your store too.

Grocery Checkout Area

Create a checkout area with a cash register or a money box.  Kids love stuffing their wallets with play money.  Include some credit cards, gift cards, and loyalty cards too.

Cash register, credit card scanner, money, and play credit cards for a grocery store dramatic play area.

Self Checkout Area

The self-checkout area is also an essential part of a modern store.  You can create a touch screen by attaching food photos to a piece of cardboard or foam core…..or use a printable screen.  A scanner is super easy to create.  I created one by cutting a square piece of black construction paper and placing a smaller white square of paper in its center.

A printable self-checkout screen, scanner, and toy grocery basket for a dramatic play grocery store

Curbside Pickup area

When my son was little, a curbside pickup area didn’t exist in stores.  Today, every grocery store has a curbside pickup area.  Kids can pretend to order food on their computers or phone so that instore shoppers can get it ready.  Create a space where shoppers can pull up a wagon or car to get their food.

Literacy Elements

One of the best things about a dramatic play area is that you can use it to introduce literacy learning in a fun, play-based, developmentally appropriate way.  Here are some ways to add literacy elements to your store.  Also, note that you can add some of these elements into a writing center. 


Label everything in the grocery store.  Labeling is a great way to develop vocabulary and awareness of letters and sounds.

printable signs and price tags in a grocery store dramatic play area

Labels also promote conversations about literacy concepts.

  • “Look, Breonna, banana starts with a “b” just like your name!”
  • “I see that carrots and cauliflower both start with a “c”.  Can you hear the “c” sound?”
  • “Do you see any more words that have a “c” in them?

Printable shopping lists

Before I go to the grocery store, I make a list.  Provide some paper or printable grocery shopping lists so that your kids can make lists too.

printable shopping list for a grocery store dramatic play center

Sale ads

Gather some sale ads from your local grocery stores.  Add them to the area so that kids can browse through them.  They can use them as they shop, they can cut out the pictures and use them throughout their store (a great fine motor activity), and they can use the ads to help them create a shopping list.


Here are a few books that you can add to the area or in your class library to support the grocery store theme.


Let your kids get some practice with their scissor skills.  Bring in pages of coupons and let your kids cut them out.  My set of printables includes some full-color printable coupons plus some blank ones so that kids can create promotional materials.

printable coupons for a grocery tore dramatic play area
printable coupon templates for a grocery store dramatic play area.

Role tags/ name tags

Role name tags help kids get into their roles.  They can encourage kids to talk about the different people who work at their store.  If you need to limit the number of kids in your dramatic play area, you can create a schedule or sign-in sheet and use it as a waiting list (and it encourages name writing practice 😊)

printable work schedule and name tags for a grocery store dramatic play area


If you talk to your local grocery store manager, you can probably get a few promotional signs from them before they throw them out.  You can use print signs, buntings, or banners to use.  Provide paper, and kids can make their own signs.

sale banners and flyers for a grocery store dramatic play area

Math Elements in the Dramatic Play Area

In addition to literacy learning, you can also practice many early math concepts in a pretend store.


Use money in your dramatic play center.  Kids can count and identify the numbers on the bills and coins.

Toy cash register, play money and printable credit card scanner for a grocery store dramatic play area.

Price tags

Provide price tags or let kids create price tags for all of the food on the store shelves.  The tags will help them identify numbers and count money.

Weigh Station

Add scales so that kids can weigh produce and bulk items.  They can also use them to compare weights of the items.  Which is heavier…..1 apple or 2 bananas?

A balance scale with apples in a grocery store dramatic play area

Counting & Numeracy

Just like a real grocery store, the opportunities for counting are ALL OVER a play grocery store.  Kids can count things as they place them in their cart.  They can count food as they check it out.  Your kids can also count products and compare quantities of different products as they put them on the shelves.  They can fill egg cartons with eggs.

An egg carton and basket filled with white plastic eggs in a grocery store dramatic play area.

Get the Printables

Are you ready to get the printables pictured in this article?  Stop by my store and pick them up today.

my community dramatic play printables

Do you prefer to shop at Teachers Pay Teachers? You can also purchase the Grocery Store Dramatic Play Printables or the My Community Dramatic Play Bundle in my TPT Store.