Walmart play leads to learning in Curie Pre-K classroom

two children dress in walmart clothing“Attention Walmart associates! Assistance is needed is the children’s department!”

That’s no problem for the youngest students at Marie Curie Institute. They are on the job and ready to help!

Meet the newest generation of Walmart kids, 3 and 4-year-olds in teacher Judi Paquette’s Pre-Kindergarten class who are learning the educational concept of “Purposeful Play” by running a mock department store in their classroom.

Dressed in their miniature blue Walmart smocks and name badges, the toddlers are learning everything from sorting and pricing clothing to operating a toy cash register stocked with play money.

“The children are learning school concepts through play,” Paquette explained. “They love what they are doing because the store is familiar to them from going there with mommy and daddy.”

While Walmart is known for its “never-ending” retail departments, these children in their play world are “associates” in the clothing section. Creative Curriculum offers a Pre-K clothing study unit and that’s where Paquette got the idea for the Curie Walmart store.

On the way to developing the store, the class has read books, asked questions and had discussions on such topics as:

  • What types of clothes would you wear in certain seasons?
  • Who wears clothes/uniforms? (Doctors, dentists, nurses, firemen, athletes, police officers … everyone)
  • What goes onto clothes? (buttons, zippers, snaps, Velcro, toggles). The class participated in various activities where they sorted and explored buttons and fasteners, learning about shapes and tuning their fine motor skills.
  • Who makes the clothes? (A guest came to class to demonstrate how to use a sewing machine).
  • Where do we buy our clothes? Would we buy them at Price Chopper, Aldi or Rite Aid? What about Walmart?

girl checks out clothing at toy cash register for another child shopperThe Pre-K class also talked about symbols and what they thought the Walmart symbol looks like. They knew the logo resembled a yellow oval clock so with that knowledge, they traced and cut out the Walmart symbol from card stock and glued it onto blue paper. This prep work all went into creating their Walmart store entry.

“Recognizing symbols and pictures is early reading for children at the preschool level,” Paquette said. “They also learned color and shape recognition, motor and cutting skills, reading and writing during this activity. Many skills were embedded into the creation of the Walmart play area.”

The teacher’s 6-year-old son, Benjamin, should get some credit as well. Benjamin donated to the class his blue toy Walmart shopping cart he no longer uses and racks of clothes he no longer wears to make the store as realistic as possible.

“It can’t get more authentic then having real clothes in the store,” Paquette said.

Next it was up to the children to use their early math skills to determine how much the clothes should cost keeping the Walmart motto: “Save Money, Live Better” in mind. What are the clothes’ value? How do we price them? What numbers do we use?

2 walmart smocks hang on hooks in a classroomAlthough many of the youngsters already knew how to write numbers, “This was a fun way to practice writing them for purposeful play,” Paquette said. “It also gave them a sense of ownership in the play center.”

So now it was almost time to start their business but something was missing. Before there could be a grand opening the associates needed uniforms. So after some research online, the children created their own name badges, practicing their letter recognition and penmanship. Then the seamstress who had taught them the sewing lesson early on donated her time to make the blue and yellow Walmart employee vests for the children.

Dressed like professionals and ready to go, the children opened their play store, each taking turns at the jobs that would make the store successful.

“We wanted everyone to experience the center with the same excitement,” Paquette said. “I think it was a creative lesson for the group, one they will remember.”

So another school day, another day on the job for Curie’s youngest learners.

As the door swings open to the Pre-K classroom, a smiling face with a pony tail quickly greets today’s visitor.

“Welcome to Walmart! Thank you for shopping with us today.”

Now that’s customer service Sam Walton would be proud of!