Learning doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. In fact most learning moments shouldn’t cost any at all. Most learning should be done by observing surroundings, studying relationships, analyzing patterns, and creating situations that peak further curiosity. But for the times I want to supplement our learning moments with actual products, I’m more than likely finding items/manipulatives on Amazon or Dollar Tree (our local dollar store.) I must admit, most of the times that I purchase items from Amazon, it is for sheer convenience or for a specific item that would require too much time physically searching for. (Time is money.) If I go the Amazon route, I am always look for the best bang for my buck. When I have the ability to go to the dollar store before I search Amazon, I prefer this method instead. Why? Because sometimes I don’t need 15 packs of notebook paper or 10 packs of pipe cleaners.
Here are some of our favorite items from Dollar Tree:
- Metal Locks- These are great for practicing fine motor skills. Maggie and Johnny like to time each other and see who can unlock the locks the fastest. Rosie likes to practice opening them. Frankie likes to close them for Rosie.
- Pans- The kids like to play outside in the mud making mud brownies, cakes, and cookies. I bought these pans so that they wouldn’t be tempted to come in and take the ones from the real kitchen! We keep them outside in a covered bin when we aren’t using them, because they are cheap and will rust when left outside in the elements.
- Puzzles- If I am wanting larger sized puzzles, I go to Amazon, but for smaller puzzles my go to is always the dollar store. That way the kids still have fun completing the puzzle, and I am not upset when the puzzle pieces go missing! (Because try as we may, they always go missing.) I like to cut out the puzzle image and place it with the puzzle pieces in a bag for quick clean up and easy storage. ***PSA: Puzzles are underrated when it comes to learning. Hassan Alnassir wrote an extremely informative post on just how educationally rich puzzles are for learning moments.
- Broom- Instead of buying a pricier kid’s broom, I bought one from the dollar store and cut it to kid size. I hot glued a plastic ball on the end to cover the broken plastic. Ta-da. Now the kids can help with the daily sweeping.
- Writing Paper and Colored Construction Paper- I use the writing paper for my Kindergartner and Preschooler since it is like the paper they would use in school. It is a bit thinner than other paper, but that has not negatively affected their writing. I like the size of the construction paper, because all too often, my kids only need a little amount of one color and I feel we tend to waste and throw away left over scrap paper. With this size there is less waste.
- Wooden Cubes- We use these cubes for different activities. Sometimes we use them for fine motor and building tall towers. Other times we use them as practice spelling activities. I also label the cubes with numbers and we practice several math skills with them. A great value at a dollar a bag.