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8 Activities for Preschoolers Using Dollar Store Items

Dollar Store Finds With Early Learning In Mind

Do you think you have to spend a lot of money to provide activities and games that promote early learning? Think again! Early learning standards can be addressed with inexpensive items from the dollar store. From sticky notes to pool noodles, the dollar store is often essential to the limited budgets that face today’s parents and teachers. 

How to Select Items That Will Help Your Child Learn

Most states have Early Learning Standards or Guidelines. They are based on 5 critical domains and define early childhood development. They assist early childhood professionals in programming and also provide a blueprint for parents as they facilitate their children’s development. Read more about the 5 Critial Domains here.  

The categories vary slightly per state but are basically these five areas:

  1. Language and Literacy
  2. Cognition (math and science)
  3. Physical Development
  4. Social Development
  5. Emotional Development

Below are eight early learning activities that enhance your preschooler’s development in two (or more) early learning domains using items purchased at a dollar store!

1. Early Literacy and Cognition with Cookie Sheets

Cookie sheets and magnetic letters and numbers can all be found at dollar stores. Early learning activities include sorting upper and lower case letters, matching letters in their name, counting, sorting by colors, and letter/sound activities like this beginning sound magnet match free printable from The Kindergarten Connection!

2. Social, Emotional, and Physical Development with Hula Hoops

Following directions, self-regulation, engagement, and persistence are just a few of the social emotional skills kids develop during these 6 games played with hula hoops.

3. Social, Emotional, Cognitive, and Physical Development with Paper Plates

Look at all the ways early learning can be addressed while playing with paper plates in this free printable.

4. Cognition, Literacy, & Physical Development with Sensory Bags

I love sensory bags and use them a lot in my therapy practice. To make a basic sensory bag add two different colors of paint to a plastic bag for mess-free finger painting. Freezer bags are the most durable and a trick to get the white labels off the bag is to use fingernail polish remover.

Or, make a sensory bag using one color of paint and children can use their finger to trace letters or numbers on the bag through the paint. 

You can also take your sensory bag to the next level by adding alphabet letters or words. First, trace letters on the outside of the bag with an extra fine sharpie. Then, add clear hair gel and foam letters purchased from the dollar store. Seal it tight and reinforce with Duct Tape. Kids love this mess-free way to manipulating the letters in the hair gel. Plus the hair gel is cool to the touch and this adds yet another sensory component.

Need more ideas? Check out 13 DIY Sensory Bags to Improve Your Baby’s Cognitive Skills by the Disney Family blog.

5. Cognition and Physical Development Using Sticky Notes

This activity from The Inspired Treehouse lets children create their own masterpieces or create a basic model for them to copy. Give each child a piece of paper and sticky notes. The dollar store has multiple sizes and shapes that are perfect for your little Picassos.

These last three active learning activities can be enhanced even more when combined with your ABC’s of Movement activity cards. Not familiar with them? Check out What’s on the ABC’s of Movement Activity Cards?

6. Literacy and Physical Development with Rice and Wooden Letters

Sensory experience always enhances early learning. For this activity, add rice and wooden alphabet letters to a large plastic container. And, yes, you can purchase all of these at the dollar store!

Encourage children to search for and identify alphabet letter that are hiding in the rice. To enrich this lesson, grab your ABC’s of Movement activity cards. Once, a letter is pulled out of the rice and identified, search for the corresponding card and then everyone performs that movement. For example, if the letter D is found, everyone Duck Walks.

7. Physical, Literacy, Social, and Emotional Development with Beach Balls

Check out beach ball boogie to see all the sharing, turn-taking, self-regulation, coordination, and early literacy fun that can be had while playing this ABC’s of Movement beach ball game.

8. Social, Emotional, Literacy, and Physical Development with Pool Noodles

Pool noodles are inexpensive, lightweight, come in bright colors and can be used so many ways. Here are 6 of my favorite ways to incorporate active learning while playing with pool noodles.

Safety First

When purchasing items at dollar stores, please BEWARE of quality, check age recommendations, make sure items are BPA Free, and they are Non-Toxic. Safety comes first! I hope you had fun discovering how early learning standards can be facilitated with inexpensive items from the dollar store.

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