May 16, 2012

100 Things You Can Purchase from the Dollar Tree and Use in Play

dollar store buys inexpensive fun play ideas

I have been asked a number of times about the supplies used for all of our play activities.  I have been getting questions like where do you purchase it all?   How do you handle the cost?  Doesn't all the supplies cost a fortune? What supplies would you recommend purchasing to someone who is just beginning to build a foundation of supplies?  

These inquiries have inspired me to compile a list of supplies that we use regularly along with a ton of ways to use each item.   Once I started compiling this list, I realized just how much of our play materials were purchased at The Dollar Tree, and so I was compelled to create a list of items that can be purchased there.  While this is not a complete list of  the materials we use, it contains the vast majority.  These fun play times don't have to send you broke.  While it did take quite a few dollars to build up a nice foundation of supplies, it is something you can do slowly.

Most of the items here can easily be adapted for the classroom so if you are a teacher, this list is for you too!

So, here is my list of what you can and should get at The Dollar Tree!

dollar store buys inexpensive fun play ideas
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I have broken the list down by aisle, and given several examples of ways to use many of the items for play.

The Food Aisle
1.  Food coloring- we use it almost everyday.  We use it for sensory baths, arts and crafts, in play dough,
     and during sensory play, just to name a few.  You will find it in a four pack including the primary colors.
    Color it and use it for sorting and math activities.
Painting with pasta

3.  Jello- we use Jello for sensory play often.  It has such a fun texture.  We used it to make glowing jello
     and a jello ocean small world.  Use the powder form of jello along with a brush and water for some 
     a simple sensory paint.

jello activities for kids

4.  Kool-aid- make Kool-aid Play-Doh or try sensory painting with Kool-aid.  Both are super fast recipes
     that would be great for the busy classroom.  
5.  Rice- makes a fantastic sensory experience.  Great in a sensory bin like this one from Happy Hooligans
6.  Beans- another great sensory material.  We used beans as the base for our Valentine's Day sensory bin

Pumpkin Cloud Dough Bakery!
Pumpkin scented cloud dough

8.  Pudding-  makes a fantastic edible finger paint
9.  Corn starch-  make goop or edible finger paint.  You can even make corn starch dance.  Talk about 
     fun Science! Making goop in the classroom would be lots of fun Here are 25 different ways to play with
      goop!
10.  Baking soda- one fabulously fun way to use this is volcano eruptions.  We have done erupting
Glowing eruptions
11.  Tea- use it for sensory painting, or for some fantastic pretend play
12.  Spices- great for spice paintingmaking pumpkin bubbles or pretend play cooking using real ingredients.
       You can also add spices to paint to make scented art and bath paint
13.  Coffee filters- make coffee filter butterflies or coffee filter flowers.  Here is a list of coffee filter crafts 
       for kids. 

The Health and Beauty Aisle
14.  Shaving cream- Here is a list of 20 ways to play with shaving cream.  Shaving cream sliding fun is our
       personal favorite.  In the classroom- put some on the children's desks and let them practice
       tracing their letters in the shaving cream.  It acts as a cleaning agent, wipes right off, and is tons of fun.
       We also had  lots of fun with our bubble wrap sensory slide
15.  Bubble bath- I buy our bubble bath at The Dollar Tree.  It is tear free, and creates lots of bubbles.  It is
       what we use to get mountains of bubbles when we paint our bubbles at bath.

Bubble bath painting

Also use bubble bath to make rainbow bubbles and pumpkin bubbles!

16.  Bath poofs- these make a great painting tool.  Get four mini bath poofs for just $1
17.  Lotion- My daughter loves lotion.  We use it for sensory play often.  We have even made a sensory bin
       with lotion as the base.
18.  Paper plates- use them to make all sorts of paper plate crafts!  Lots of simple craft ideas for the
       classroom!
19.  Shower curtains-  paint a beautiful shower curtain mural.  I love this idea from Come Together Kids!


20.  Band-aids- peeling the backs off of band-aids is great for hand-eye coordination ,and fine motor skills.
       They are just like stickers- toddlers love band-aids.  Give them a box when you need to occupy them
       for a bit.  They are also great for pretend play ,and even crafts.  This band-aid man is one example  
21.  Rubbing alcohol- use it to make beautiful colored pasta for crafts, color sorting, math activities,  and
       pasta necklaces.
22.  Cotton swabs-  there are a ton of fun ways to use cotton swabs.  Here is a list of Q-tip crafts for kids.
      You can also use Q-tips as a teaching tool in the classroom
23.   Hair gel-  use it to make fun squishy sensory bags.  We have made lots of different types of sensory
        bags from Halloween themed to glowing!  In the classroom, make them together.  Super inexpensive
        and the children will have fun with them at home.  

24.  Bath fragrances-  I use these to create our sensory baths.  These could also be used to fragrance
       sensory bins or to make perfume concoctions

The Kitchen Gadget Aisle
25.  Aluminum foil- use it as a canvas to paint or to make a robot.  Here is a whole list of foil crafts for kids
26.  Highlighters- use these to make glow water.  Just be sure to check that the highlighters you are using are
       non-toxic.  Glow water can make all sorts of things glow.  This glowing bath is one example.  Check out
      our glowing playtimes  for lots more ideas!

glowing bath water Outer Space bath

27.  Pie pans- for making mud pies, , fun bubble concoctions or in pretend cooking
28.  Muffin tins- there are so many ways to utilize a muffin tin other than it's intended use.  Use it to hold
29.   Ice cube trays- freeze colored ice cubes for bath or to put into your child's Summer beverage.  Freeze
       paint and enjoy some fun outdoor painting in the Summer.
30.  Storage containers-  all the storage containers used to create our child guided play space were
       purchased at The Dollar Tree.  Teachers and parents can never have enough storage containers!

We also use these storage containers to make small scale sensory bins
        The containers used four our Make Your own Elmo party favors were also purchased here.    

31.  Tongs- great for manipulating all sorts of materials
32.  Measuring cups- great for mixing, pouring, using for pretend cooking and at bath
33.  Pasta strainer- use it to make rain in the bath tub, or for pipe cleaner threading
34.  Sponges-  make sponge bombs sponge towers, or use them to paint.
35.  Table cloths- make a great drop cloth for messy play.  They can also be used to make fun slip-N-slides
       like this one



**This whole aisle can pretty much be utilized in some way.  Children prefer real gadgets to pretend ones,   and if you purchase then at The Dollar Tree, they are actually cheaper than the imitations.  Win/win**


The Art/Craft/ Office Aisle
36.  Poster board- these are two for $1and come in an array of colors.  We used postal board to create a
       removable wall mural so that each child could take a piece of the art work home with them after one
      of our messy play dates.
37.  Construction paper
38.  Postal paper- great for large art, homemade gift wrap, and to lay down before a messy project
39.  Bubble wrap- what kid doesn't love bubble wrap?  Paint it, pop it, giggle!  Or make a fun
       bubble wrap sensory slide    
40.  Scissors- they have a variety, even ones for beginners just learning to cut
41.  Bingo markers-  These make a great addition to any art supply collection.   These faux Spring flowers                                                                                         
from Mom to Posh Lil Divas  are a great example of why.

 
They are great for little hands, and create minimal mess.

42.  Masking tape- every toddler loves tape.  Give them a roll to play with, and they will have a blast.  It can    
       also be used for endless projects, of course.
43.  Glue sticks
44.  School glue- besides all the normal uses, you can use glue to make glow in the dark glue, slime, and for


45.  Envelopes-  make envelope puppets or set up a pretend play mail center or playtime
46.  Tissue paper-  make a kaleidoscope,  tissue heart collages or simple Spring flowers .  Or create
Stained glass window art
47.  White wrapping paper- use for large art, or to make your own gift wrap.  It also works as a great drop
       cloth during messy activities.  Simply throw it away after the play time.
48.  Party favors- these make a great paint brush.  The Iowa Farmer's Wife illustrates just how well here


49.  Popsicle sticks- make creative magnets or popsicle sight word games.  There are endless crafts using
       Popsicle sticks AKA craft sticks.   This horse ,  truck, and  alligator are just a few examples
50.  Stickers- my toddler loves stickers.  When I need to get dinner started, I often give her stickers and
       paper.  Keeps her occupied for a bit.  Stickers are also a great prize for teachers to have on hand.  You
       could also try sticker resist art
51.  Foam sheets- these can be used in all sorts of ways.  Besides all the general crafting, they magically stick
       to the bath walls when wet.   Bath pumpkin art  and a Boo bath are two fun ways we have used them.


You could do something similar in the classroom using the windows

52.  Felt sheets- great for arts and crafts.  We create things for our felt board out of these sheets. Here
       is a whole list of fun felt crafts for kids
53.  Pipe cleaners-make 3D art, create pipe cleaner and googly eye creatures or make pipe cleaner crafts
       just to name a few
54.  Googly eyes- besides all the obvious arts and crafts, you can also use these to make a fun sensory bag
       or with play dough.  We used googly eyes as part of our Make Your Own Elmo party favors.
55.  Glass jars- the glass jars at The Dollar Tree are not exactly like mason jars but they are similar and there
       are hundreds of crafts you can make using these jars.  These glowing pumpkin jars are one example.

Glowing jars

56.  coloring books- not just for coloring.  Cover the coloring page in pulsesmake a place mat, or
57.  Window markers- Rosie loves decorating the windows, and once she is done, the window markers
       wash right off.  These would be fun for the classroom!
58.  Markers- besides all the obvious things, you can also use these in the classroom for fun sight word 
       activities or at home to set up a creative art bath station

All the mess washes right down the drain!

59.  Sun catcher kits- comes with a sun catcher, paint, and a brush
60.  Wooden toys that you can  paint yourself.  They have a bunch of different ones.  Rosie is always so
       proud of her painted toys too.
61.  Glitter- glitter makes just about everything more fun.  Rosie loves glitter.  We use it almost everyday!
62.  Glitter glue- a child favorite!
63.  Floral wire- Here is a whole list of fun crafts for kids using wire
64.  Yarn- paint with it, create beautiful products like this yarn wrapped vase, or make yarn eggs.
       Make yarn hearts or beautiful patio decorations like these from The Chocolate Muffin Tree



65.  Rocks, pebbles, stones- great in sensory bins and for sorting.  Start a pet rock collection.  Make a
       magical fairy world or go diving for treasure.   Rocks are also fun to paint or for creating rock art

The Home Improvement Aisle
66.  Duct tape- use it to make a giant squishy sensory bag. Make a duct tape purse or a cardboard train.
       You can even make a boat out of duct tape.  Also great in an array of arts and crafts.  There really are
        so many things you can do with duct tape!
67.  Tap lights- great for teaching the concept of on/off.  We used them in one of our water bead stations
 and to make this simple hand held light box.



68.  Painters drop cloths- great to lay down before messy play.  They can also be used to make
69.  LED candles- they come in a three pack, and can be used to make luminaries
70.  String
71.  Clothes Pins- make a clothes pin dinosaur or a clothes pin wreath.  Make an airplane or a
clothespin crafts.jpg 521×430 pixels

72.  Flash lights- play flash light tag, or make shadow puppets
73.  Mini paint rollers- these make great painting tools.
74.  Utility rope- We used it to create a space to hang our children's art. click here for an example.

The Toy Aisle
 had a lot of fun playing with them in the bath.

Glow sticks at bath

76.  Play dough- if you don't feel like making your own, they have it!
77.  Creatures- I have gotten packets of dinosaurs, bugs, and sea life.  I use these creatures for sensory
       play all the time.  Here is a collection of over 100 sensory play ideas!  There are several other ways to
       use them too.  Rosie loves them in her bath
78.  Bath capsules- these capsules turn into fun shaped sponges when placed in warm water
79.  Water beads- The package has them labeled as gel balls, but are the same thing as water beads.  To be
        more precise, the package says, Grow Your Own Gel Balls.  We LOVE them!  We painted
with them here.   
              
water bead painting
  
  There are endless ways to explore these gems. The Chocolate Muffin Tree compiled a list of 32 ways to play with water beads

80.  Fake snow-  this stuff is so cool.  It is right next to the gel balls in the toy aisle. Not familiar with fake
       snow?  Click here to learn more.  It was also used in this sensory bin from  Carrots are Orange

IMG 2722 300x225 Simple Christmas Toddler & Preschool Activities

81.  Grow your own Crystals- It is a kit also right near the water beads.  Fun Science whether at home or in
       the classroom.
82.  Magnifying glass- great for exploring objects, and in sensory play.  We use our magnifying glasses ALL
       the time!
83.  Princess crowns- Great for imaginative play.  We also use ours for Princess sensory baths


84.  Toy cars and trucks- we got the cars and trucks for our construction site sensory bin  from The Dollar
        Tree.  We have also used these cars to paint with.
85.  Pool noodles- there are a ton of things you can do with pool noodles. Make rainbow arches.  Create
Pool noodle critters

86.  Bubbles- so many fun ways to use bubbles besides traditional bubble blowing.  Try bubble painting
       or have fun making bubble concoctions
87.  Balloons- There are endless ways to use balloons. Make stress ball balloons  .  Fill your child's room as
                                     a special surprise, or create a fun bath time party celebration

Make bath time party time
88.  Water balloons- Besides the loved water balloon battles,  they are really fun to play with at bath.  You
        could also try water balloon painting
89.  Books-  I am quite impressed by the selection of books you can find at The Dollar Tree.  Since they are
       generally smaller sized books, they are great for carrying in your diaper bag
90.  Kites
91.  Hula hoops- not just for hulaing.  There are so many ways to use a hula hoop.  Click here for a list of
       eight fun ways.  You can also make a children's play tent using a hula hoop.
92. Textured balls- Great in a sensory bin like this one or for  textured ball painting.

Textured ball painting
This list really could go on and on.  Have you explored the toy section of The Dollar Tree lately?  It is pretty amazing what you can get for a dollar!

The Seasonal Section
93.  Seeds- not just for planting.  Make seed mosaicsseeded play dough, or use them for sorting, patterns
       and simple math activities
94.  Flower pots- we make an activity out of ours, and paint them.  You can also use them for pour painting
95.  Imitation flowers- These are great for imaginary play.  We used then in a gardening sensory bin, and
often use them during  sensory baths

96.  Soil- great for planting flowers, making mud for mud pies, in sensory bins like our digging for bugs
       sensory station. We also used this soil to have a mud party play date!


For even more ideas, check out our International Mud Day Round Up!

97.  Shovels, spades, gardening gloves-  they have all of these things in children and adult sizes
98.  Giant fly swatters- these make perfect painting tools.  Rosie loves painting with our giant fly swatters.

You can also use them as bubble wands.

99.    Large pieces of bamboo- makes a great hiking stick (your child can decorate it them self) Also makes
         great outdoor wind chimes like the ones created by Child Central Station
100.    Lots of pool toys- rafts, beach balls, arm floaties. Sand toys, buckets, shovels, and so much more!!!

Also don't forget to check out The Holiday Section!!!
 Whenever you go to The Dollar Tree, be sure and walk through the holiday section.  You can find so many great materials.  I get the bulk of the items I use to create our holiday sensory bins from there.  Check out my Valentines Day sensory bin  and my St. Patrick's Day sensory bin bin for examples.

This list really could go on too.  I am already thinking of things I forgot like cotton balls and manila folders for folder games.  Then there's cookie sheets.  You can do so many things with those and.......on and on.   I bet if you take a walk around The Dollar Tree, you will find things to add to this list as well.  I am amazed by how many fun activities we are able to do with the items bought here.

So there you have it!  


 100 items you can and should purchase from The Dollar Tree to use in play and in the classroom!

 

We share fun kids activities several times a week!

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Crystal