Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Playing Store

Playing store. Growing up I played "store" or "restaurant" in the basement with my childhood friend. Her mom saved empty oatmeal containers, cereal boxes, plastic ketchup bottles, and any other container resembling our favorite foods. When a container couldn't be saved, we made our own paper food--fried eggs, bacon, tomatoes, lettuces. We also made our own menus (spelling and handwriting practice) and added prices on handmade receipts (math practice). With all the fun we had, we never once thought about the academic skills we were practicing!

Funny how some childhood games and activities cross generations. Years ago as a mom of two young boys, I saved their favorite food containers. We set up a small store along the wall of our already cramped kitchen. When I mopped the floor, empty boxes tumbled off make-shift shelves. When the boys were learning to add, I made the prices using single or double digits (yep, cheap cereal). Later when they learned dollars and cents (which was way before the textbook told us to...cause they wanted to learn), adding three digits was one of their favorite past times (adding decimals can be learned early if there is practical application and interest). They played for hours, practicing math skills, learning conversational/interpersonal communication in a natural, real-to-life scenario. Best of all, they learned to cooperate, take turns and defer to one another.

Fast forward 8 to 10 years, my daughters have taken "store" to a whole new level. For the past few years they have worked at building a "community" in our garage. And, yes, on the way to our extra fridge, I weave my way through the streets, pass the Buy One Get One signs (handmade) and eye the paper Mochachinos (they look so real my mouth waters).Shops have come and gone as interest waxes and wanes or neighbor children knock on the front door to play. It is fun to watch. On any given afternoon life-learning and role-playing take math and language arts concepts off the page and into mock-life experiences. I reminisce as I remember the relationships and practical learning that took place in a basement 35 years ago.

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