10 Unique Dollar Store Finds
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There’s no need to break the bank when looking for interesting tools and explorations for preschoolers! NAEYC staff went to the local dollar store and were inspired by these 10 items.
1. Splatter screen
Make a pizza café
- Use the screen as a pattern for drawing circles on paper to create pizza crust.
- Cut out the circles and add tissue paper to serve as tomato sauce, cheese, and veggies.
- Bake and serve in a pizza café.
2. Price labels
Set up a grocery store
- Collect empty food containers and pretend fruits and vegetables.
- Label items for sale and place them on shelves according to category, like produce, cereal, and soap.
- Provide shopping baskets, carts, a cash register, and play money.
3. Shower caps
Top off a terrarium
- Make a terrarium with a container, soil, and small plants.
- Add water.
- Cover with a shower cap to keep the soil moist.
- Watch the plants grow!
4. 10 small plastic containers
Play an audio guessing game
- Fill containers with different items, like Unifix cubes, plastic counters, rice, paper clips, or washers.
- Place containers on a tray.
- Have preschoolers close their eyes or use blindfolds and shake containers.
- Challenge them to find matching pairs using only their sense of hearing.
5. Plastic laundry basket
Create a giant weaving activity
- Cut paper streamers or wide ribbon into long, thick strips.
- Have children use the streamers or ribbon to weave in and out of the holes in the basket.
6. Seed packets
Conduct an experiment
- Invite children to plant seeds and grow them under different conditions—play with the amount of light and water and the temperature.
- Keep track of the way each plant grows, or does not grow.
- Compare the results with children and talk about what plants need to grow and be healthy.
7. Bag of 80 straws
Upgrade your playdough accessories
- Cut straws into different lengths.
- Invite children to use them with playdough. They might use the straws as stamps, rolling pins, or structures to build creations around.
8. 50–foot poly rope
Create an instant photo gallery
- Cut rope into desired lengths.
- Stretch out rope and secure ends to wall with hooks or tie to stable fixtures.
- Use clothespins to hang artwork and photos for display.
9. Plastic leis
Have children choose centers
- Work with children to assign colored leis to each center.
- Have children wear leis to designate which center they have chosen; for example, children wearing purple leis have chosen to play in the block center, while children wearing orange leis have chosen to read in the literacy corner.
10. Sweater storage bags
Make sensory paintings
- Pour paint inside the bags.
- Close bags tightly to ensure they won’t open.
- Have children run their fingers over the bags to create pictures.