If you read this blog often or know me personally, you probably know that I love a good bargain! Not only do I enjoy being a good steward of the finances entrusted to us, but I also really enjoy helping others save money, too. So, as a follow-up to Free Resources for Teaching Pre-K at Home, I thought I would share with you all of the dollar store deals that we currently use in our homeschool preschool.
Here’s a great big list of our favorite dollar store deals, as well as ideas on how to use them for toddlers and preschoolers, whether you are homeschooling or just want some fun early childhood learning activities to keep the kids occupied.
~ Learning Tools ~
Workbooks - If you get lucky, you might find preschool and toddler workbooks in the book section of your local dollar store. Just in case you haven’t seen it yet, use this mom’s idea of putting worksheets into protective sleeves and use dry erase markers so that they can be used multiple times – genius!
Dry-erase workbooks (Shapes & Colors and Numbers) – I love that we can use the dry-erase workbooks pictured below these over and over again. What a deal for only a dollar!
Dry-erase writing practice board – We found one of these several years ago at a dollar store. It looks like a sheet of handwriting practice paper but is made of dry-erase board material.
Sidewalk Chalk – You can buy a whole box of sidewalk chalk for a dollar and use it for all sorts of learning fun. Here are some ideas to choose from:
Shape Hop which could also become number hop, alphabet hop, color hop – you get the point.
Foam puzzles – Our son is more of a musical and tactile learner, from what I’ve observed so far. So these foam puzzles for letters and numbers are a great dollar deal for him! Our daughter really enjoys them, too, and she has learned several letters on her own just from playing with them.
Small board books – I always look for these dollar store deals. Sometimes I give them as gifts, but often I find books that help teach early childhood concepts such as shapes, colors, letters, numbers, and so forth. We also enjoy any books including nursery rhymes since rhyming is an important reading skill and bible stories, which seem to be easy to come by at our local dollar store.
Flash Cards - We play fun games with these alphabet flashcards and colors & shapes flashcards. Sometimes we play Go-fish with them (you will need more than one set of alphabet). We also play a game where they get to run to me from across the room and get the card after they recognize it (and then I ask them to recognize it again when we put them all away). We play jump on the correct flashcard, run to the correct card, and even swat the card, a modification of this mom’s idea (which is by far our son’s favorite!).
Fake money – This is on our list of things to buy. Our kids love counting money, and at the same time they begin to learn the names of the coins!
Magnetic letters – Our daughter is really catching on to phonics lately, so the magnetic letters are great for showing her how to build words! You don’t even have to use them on the fridge -if the homeschool area in your home lacks a magnetic surface, just grab a cookie sheet. Use for letter recognition, letter matching, and word-building.
~ Basic Craft Supplies ~
Pipe Cleaners – Aside from everyday bendy fun, they can be used for color sorting, patterning, bending into shapes, numbers, or letters, and other various craft projects. I created some pipe cleaner letters (both uppercase and lower) out of these dollar store deals for our tactile learner that we use for matching games or letter hide-n-seek, which works really well for twins. Just make sure the hiding spot isn’t too difficult! Your children might also enjoy these pipe cleaner activities:
Pom-poms – We love pom-poms! They can be used for color sorting, patterning, size sorting, counting, and many other crafts. Try an activity like this one:
Colored wooden craft sticks (popsicle sticks) – If you get lucky, you might find these colored craft sticks at your dollar store. We use ours for color sorting using these color mats, counting, patterning, creating shapes or letters, etc.
Colored card-stock/index cards – I bought some colored card-stock and a pack of index cards at the beginning of our preschool adventure, and I’ve used almost all of the index cards already. I use them for all sorts of things, but mainly for creating my own flashcard sets like the one found here or counting cards like these. I like mounting the index cards to cardstock to add a little color around the edge and to give them more stability.
Foam Shapes – Usually you can find some sort of foam shapes in the craft or learning section of the dollar store, as well. We found some great primary colored circles to use for sorting, counting, patterning, etc.
Small, chubby markers – I love the set we found at our dollar store because they are washable and the size fits our preschoolers’ hands much like the oversize crayons do. The size makes it easier for toddlers and preschoolers to maintain a correct grasp.
Miscellaneous - Large crayons, construction paper, hole punch,scissors, glue sticks, paints,dry erase markers, and more can all be found at the dollar store. The only reason I mention them is that they often cost more at other stores than at your local dollar store (unless it is back-to-school season).
~ Fun Stuff ~
Small party favors – I found some tiny cars for our son and some pretty beads for our daughter, but any small objects will do (just be aware of choking hazards!). Use them with your counting cards, mentioned above. The next time we go to the dollar store, I hope to find some bugs and a few other small things. These dollar store deals are great for counting fun, beginning math, sorting fun, and more!
Marbles – Marbles provide sensory fun for kids of all ages, but for our home preschool we mainly use them for counting.
Seasonal items – We’ve found lots of seasonal foam stickers such as the fall leaves pictured above. They can be used for sorting, matching, counting, etc. Our preschoolers also really love any learning activity that involves Easter eggs, for some reason. Here are a few from pinterest that you might try for learning at home:
Bingo Markers – We use these for do-a-dot sheets like the ones found here or for creating our own patterns.
Playdoh – Playdoh is amazing for building those fine motor skills and (bonus!) it’s just a lot of fun to play with! Use a variety of colors for homeschooling by creating letters with these playdoh mats or shapes with these playdoh mats. Or take a step back from directed instruction to allow for some free play time.
Straws – They are so versatile for early childhood education (and beyond)! We use ours to compares sizes (bigger than, smaller than), to form letters and shapes, to count, to create patterns, and so forth. You can even cut them to short lengths and string them on yarn for fine-motor skill fun.
Stickers – Put them on letters, use them for matching games or counting games.
Clothespins – Use them for all sorts of toddler or preschool learning fun. Try any of these ideas from pinterest:
To be honest, most of our preschool/homeschool supplies have come from dollar store deals since we are trying to homeschool as frugally as possible. I’m thankful God has provided for us this year as we teach our twins preschoool at home.
If you have any other great dollar store deals for early childhood education or homeschooling, leave a comment and let us know!