What child doesn’t love shopping? I don’t mean the kind where you take them around the supermarket out of necessity or the local town under duress with the promise of something fun or a treat when you are finished if they have managed not to throw a tantrum in the middle of the shopping centre. Where a successful trip still consists of saying “don’t take things off the shelves” or “no we don’t need to buy that cardigan/jumper/trainers in every colour and size just because you can’t decide”. I am sure you are familiar with the aforementioned shopping which is enough to bring you out in a cold sweat and sees you wondering if you really need to buy anything ever again, making you more thankful for online shopping yet wondering what people did before Amazon! Anyway I am of course not talking about actual shopping but the strikingly similar yet much less resisted, child led, play kind.
Quite a few people recently on my social media or day in the life videos have commented on the play shop we have and as we actually made it ourselves I thought I would finally write up about it here so that maybe it might inspire someone else to do the same. If we can do it I am pretty sure anyone can. It is 3 1/2 years old now and after upcycling a wooden play kitchen for Eva’s 2nd birthday we really wanted to add to that with a shop for her 3rd, I can’t believe it has been that long but I have to say it is still one of the most played with items we have.
When we were looking for ideas I turned to the only place possible, pinterest, and Eddy kept saying he could make something like the ones on my tiny screen out of some wood we had in the garage left over from an old bed. Not that I doubted him of course – ok maybe a little bit – but there is a difference I think between upcycling and making from scratch and I was a little dubious. It turns out however that between us we are pretty handy and not only did we design and make a play shop complete with shelves and curtains, we also made the other side a little puppet theatre so it became dual purpose. The shop side has definitely had more use than the theatre but I think that was because at the time Eva was an only child and there is only so many puppet shows I can put on for her. Just recently though, now Roma is able to take part they are loving it again, it is so cute to see them act out scenarios together or put on ‘shows’ for each other, and for me. Maybe someday soon they will be selling tickets to unsuspecting Aunties as they visit too!
As this was over 3 years ago and pre-blog there is only one dark and grainy photo taken in our garage as the ‘before’ shot but I thought I would include it anyway. Basically Eddy made a frame from an old wooden bed we had, we placed hardwood on the back to make the shelves and after painting it all off white with the same paint we used for her play kitchen we covered parts with blackboard paint to make the front of the theatre and the top signs. In order for it to stand up and be stable for the children we put legs on it which do stick out and we have had a few stubbed toes over the years but they soon get used to it!
This was the morning that Eva had it and she was so happy, just look how small she was though! The curtains again were some fabric I already had and we just put a flexible rail like you have for net curtains in the top and held them back with twine.
As you can see from below it has evolved alot over the last 3 years, we have bought ourselves and been given gifts to add to it and although it is now a little rough around the edges with scratches and marks I couldn’t be happier as each one signals to me the play and joy that really does go into it every single day. Where the shopkeeper chats about all the things that the customer is going to do with the food, advises them on what they should and shouldn’t buy and where no matter what you purchase, it totals £2, every time!
The orange till we have we got from Amazon I think it’s a make called Lelin and had a little paper cash reel that whilst it didn’t last that long was fun for Eva to give ‘receipts’ and practice her numbers. The other cardboard one we have is from Dot Com Gift Shop, a site I absolutely love and this was actually in the sale at something crazy like £1.95, they do still have it here though not in the sale. We have a mixture of money from credit cards (a sign of the times that they both now beep it instead of swiping!) paper money, ones that came with the tills to some real money both pounds and other currencies too. It has been really good to familiarise them with money and other currencies aswell.
We now have shelves full to the rafters with shop items and I am pretty much always on the look out for familiar items we eat and use in the house as I think it is so important to talk about where food comes from and encourage play with food they know and love. The biscuits, cakes and stand are a good mix of brands like Bigjigs, Viga and Jojomamanbebe and lots from Dot Com Giftshop again like these, my latest find though that I am super pleased about are these wooden macarons. I love macarons, I am fortunate that my husband works in France a bit and so every time he comes back he brings me some, for the sole purpose to have the boxes for the children to play with of course! But I was so pleased to find these wooden ones to put in the boxes and I am now forever served them alongside my cup of tea, they even mix up the flavours with the velcro filling for something a little different!
Past the cake shelf and we have baskets of every day healthier foods. It might seem strange to some but we have them in sections related to what they are so fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates and proteins. This isn’t just to satisfied my organisation crazed mind (although that helps) but it has always been so good to teach them about food in a really playful way, we would play games to find a balanced meal, guess the fruit, tidy away and see if we got them in the correct place, you catch my drift. Eva knew the differences really quickly and Roma at 2 knows already, as I am quite keen on food and nutrition it makes me very happy! Again the food is from a mixture of places from Ikea fruits and vegetables, Melissa and Doug cutting fruit to the smaller stores for Pitta Breads and bouncy eggs! I even made some myself with felt, hello wonky pasta!
The last thing we have at the bottom is play sushi. Eva has always loved sushi and so this was one of the first things she got which was a present from a friend of ours and has proved a massive hit from day one. I know there are lots of sushi sets you can get these days but this one is a Melissa and Doug one which is another favourite toy brand of ours.
We have so many bags we have collected over the years from paper ones from Centre Parcs or birthday parties, ones from my beauty products or these beautiful ones from Cath Kidston I adore them all. Although the game that they play which consists of just filling as many bags as you can with ALL of the random stuff you can find, calling it ‘shopping’ and then fooling people (Daddy) that the playroom is tidy when in actual fact other people (me) find that the shop is suspiciously empty and discover bags scattered all around the room resulting in me having to put it all away whilst rolling my eyes, until the next time. It infuriates me on a near daily basis but I know these are the little moments I will miss when they are grown up and gone or when they deem themselves too old to play with this shop anymore and I am suddenly looking at the perfectly placed food gathering dust with a knowing smile.
These little wire shopping baskets are the cutest things and I got them from Tiger Stores which I am totally obsessed with! The only thing left now is a little shopping trolley – or two!
So onto the other side of the shop, you simply turn it around in the corner of our playroom where it lives and it becomes a theatre, it is pretty self explanatory we just used hardboard with blackboard paint for the girls – or us – to write the shows on and there we go! Everything on the shelves of the shop stays where it is as it doesn’t seem to get in the way at all and we simply move the tills. The little puppets we have are just from Ikea and amazon I think, they are a mixture of finger and hand puppets and I am sure as they start to use it more we will have to branch out on this too, or they may even start to bring some figures into the mix aswell, Oh I cannot wait to watch this side get played with just as much as the other!