By

This is a post in our Play on a Budget series.  Other posts include:


I thought I'd write a post on how to set up a starter kit of commonly used sensory/play materials for those of you who are just getting started.  Every person has their own preferences, of course, but here's a list of what I'd buy (and why!) if I had a budget of $20 and could only shop at one store - the Dollar Tree.  I picked the Dollar Tree because it seems to be everywhere in the US, and ought to be pretty easily accessible for most of you.  If you don't have one near you, but do have a Target - I've put together a Target sensory kit here.


I was able to come in under budget again because a few of the things on my list were actually less than a dollar (baking soda and salt!).  I have noticed a lot of variation in what is available at each Dollar Tree, so this is based off of the selection at mine - you may have more or less available at yours (hopefully more!).


First off, I had to include baking soda and vinegar because we SO love them.  Just plain baking soda and vinegar is so much fun.  We've also used them to make Fizzing Gelatin and our Fizzing Hidden Ocean World, our Fizzing Rainbow Slush, and even in our Fizzy Foaming Car Wash, to name a few. 


Funnels, a big scooping spoon, and a set of measuring cups are things we use all the time for simple sensory play.  Because they have such a wide application, I knew I wanted them in my kit.



Next from the food section, I grabbed oats because they are such a fun material to play with.  You could set up our Oatmeal Textures Sensory Bin with these.  I chose salt because it's a great material for dumping and scooping.  We like to color ours, and you can see us playing with it in our Funnels and Tubes post.  I bought flax seed because it would be a great substitution for birdseed - it's still a seed and would behave similarly - so you could do something like our Birdseed Sensory Play with the flax seeds.  I bought cooking oil for use in making baby safe Cloud Dough.  
I added Penne pasta for art, making necklaces, or doing a Dry Pasta sensory play; I added Linguine for making our Dirt and Worms sensory bin, or our Rainbow Spaghetti.  I included beans because they are fun to plant and grow and can also be used as a fill material in small worlds or as a standalone sensory material.  And finally I included rice because we love to play with rice by itself, as we did in our Rice Play and we also love to color it and add it to small worlds/sensory bins.  You can read how we make rainbow rice in our How To Color Rice post.


I grabbed shaving cream, which we've used in a Shaving Cream Search and in our Dragon World small world.  I also grabbed four sponges for use in a Washing Station.  And I've included a bag of cotton balls for the Wet Cotton Ball sensory play and/or for making Baked Cotton Balls.


Our Dollar Tree didn't have a great selection of miniatures when I was there, but these guys were pretty cute, so I added them as "guys" for small world play.



Play foam is fun for Window Art (we also used it to make our Recycled Car City) and we use pom poms frequently (though I don't have any posts up currently involving them, so you'll just have to trust me on that).
Here is the complete sensory kit I would put together for someone starting out if I had just $20:
Now, there are a few other fantastic things that I'd like to point out at the Dollar Tree:

These are FABULOUS art/craft supplies.  All of the above items are frequently utilized in our Art Room, so I figured I would point those out, since at $1 a piece, they are a great deal.  I joke not, the Dollar Tree is the BEST place to buy googly eyes!  They have the assorted sizes and the huge eyes are hilarious.



Recognize these from my small worlds?  Love all three of these.  We have several packs of the mixed gems.


And check these out!  These are officially "sound tubes" but they'd work great for our Funnels and Tubes.  Basically all you'd need to complete the set-up we had in that post is some suction cups, since the Dollar Tree also carries funnels and salt!
Our Dollar Tree had a lot of what I wanted, but there were a few items that I would still want to add to a kit if there was room in the budget/they were available in the store.  I'd love to add flour to complete the recipe for Cloud Dough.  I was also SO saddened by the lack of cornstarch since it's my personal favorite (you can see how we've played with it with Cornstarch and Water, to make Pretend Frozen/Melting Ice Cream, and in my Dinosaurs and Sticky Mud world).  Finally, I would want to add some sort of coloring - be it food coloring, or our favorite - liquid watercolors.

To make things as easy as possible, I've also typed up a free printable shopping list, which you can access here:  Printable Dollar Tree Shopping List.

For further reading in the vein of Play on a Budget, check out:

Sensory Materials that Last by Train Up a Child


Follow along with Fun at Home with Kids on FacebookGoogle+Pinterest or Subscribe by Email or Bloglovin'!

All activities here are activities I feel are safe for my own children.  As your child's parents/guardians, you will need to decide what you feel is safe for your family.  I always encourage contacting your child's pediatrician for guidance if you are not sure about the safety/age appropriateness of an activity. All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision.  Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies).  Observe caution and safety at all times.  The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.

Comments

  1. Even though we already have a varied sensory stash I was still very excited for this series and specifically this post. Several of my friends are just getting started in sensory play and a post like this is perfect for them.
    I'm surprised that you didn't include water beads on your list. Perhaps your Dollar Tree doesn't carry them. Our Dollar Tree has 2 options for water beads: You can buy a collapsible flower vase which includes a small package of dehydrated water beads. (They come in green, blue, or pink, green and blue work well but pink can stain the container its kept in.) Or you can buy a bottle of clear water beads which have already been soaked in water and are "play ready."
    I really love your suggestion to use the sound tubes with funnels. I've needed something like that for our water wall but it never occurred to me to use those!
    Really excellent post, it obviously took a chunk of time and effort to put together but the effort shows and is appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Suzyhomeschooler!

      First off, thank you so much for taking the time to leave me such a lovely comment! It's so nice to hear that the post was helpful, because yes it did take some time to write! All those links -- eeek! :)
      I didn't include water beads because I have mixed feelings about them. S honestly never plays with them (strange child, I know), and with babies/toddlers, they make me SUPER nervous. Since a lot of my readers do have little guys, I felt it was safest to omit them from the supplies. But you are totally correct - they are a great sensory material for older kids and a lot of Dollar Trees do carry them (ours only does around Christmas, strangely)!
      Yes - I was so excited to see those tubes there! They should be perfect for a water wall! :)

      Delete
  2. Love, love, love the Dollar Tree! Wish we had one near us. Whenever I visit my mom I stock up on great craft and sensory items!
    Great list!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it the best OneMommy? Ours is 30 minutes away, so I sort of feel your pain. At least you can stock up when you visit! :)

      Delete
  3. Great list! I want to get over to Dollar Tree right now to pick a few of these up! I also love that thy accept manufacturer coupons making some items free or SUPER cheap :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Say whaaaaat? I didn't know that they accepted manufacturer's coupons. THAT IS SO COOL! Thank you for sharing that with us, Clarissa! I'm totally psyched to try that next time we go.

      Delete
  4. Our dollar tree carries a small bag of flour that is in perfect proportion to the bottle of baby oil they also sell for making cloud dough! I just buy one or two of each and mix. We often add a few packets of the fine glitter from the craft aidle also!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So jealous, Kate! I wish ours had flour!!!! I hear some Dollar Trees even carry food coloring! And ooh good call on adding glitter.

      Delete
  5. Curious to find out what size and type of bin you typically use. The pictures are generally close ups of the items in the bin, not the bin itself, or the table you put the bin on. I know I could figure out my own of course, but was really hoping this article pointed out the size of the bin you typically use. I'm still getting over my mess phobia, we are getting there, and hoping a bin will help us to contain most of the mess so I can learn to accept clean up as part of the play in a gentle fashion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hooray, Jenn!!!! The size of container will depend on you/your kids. Before X was born, I'd use a disposable cake/turkey pan from the grocery store (the kind with the lid so I could store the stuff for the next day if I wanted) for S. After X was born, we wanted a bigger floor container both for him to climb in and for better photos for the blog (ha!), so I bought an underbed storage container at a local Target-style store. It was around $9? Anything low and flat would work - a cake pan, a smaller plastic underbed storage container - or you can even get a sand/water table (that has legs and a sealing lid) for play if you are willing to spend more and want something off the ground. Hope that helps! :)

      Here's a post with more background on the supplies we have on hand:
      http://www.funathomewithkids.com/2013/03/basic-sensory-play-supplies-before-i.html

      Delete
    2. Oh, and in case it's helpful, here is my post on Managing Messy Play:
      http://www.funathomewithkids.com/2013/04/managing-messy-play.html

      Delete
  6. Love the links, thank you. I think we'll start with small and work our way up once he gets used to the idea of staying in the area, our kitchen floor is going to be cleaned daily once we get into it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that's a perfect idea. Any dry play will be a lot easier to clean up - so I'd start with that and once he's got the rules down (staying on the mat) you can messy it up much more!

      Delete
  7. I absolutely love all of these ideas and I'm already working on some of them BUT I am also extremely wary about anything bought at these dollar stores especially if it'll end up in a child's mouth. Most of the things found in these cheap stores are made in China. I am sure most of us have hear/read about the many, many recalls of toys and articles due to lead content in the paint and even such lethal things as kerosene, antifreeze, melamine and such. The biggest problem is, the recalls are usually made AFTER the damage has been done. What I suggest is the following: anything that comes from dollar stores, MUST be enclosed in a bottle or a plastic bag and never in direct contact with my child's skin or mouth. Maybe I'm being too paranoid? What do you guys think?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well I wouldn't worry about the food products personally - but I do see your point with the plastic utensils. I would say either substitute those with ones from your own kitchen or discourage mouthing? And for sure the little toys I mention above would not be appropriate for under 3s that are still mouthing. I hope that helps! :)

      Delete
  8. Ladybug JOhnsonMay 1, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    NOt only is Dollar Tree a great place to shop for these items but other dollar stores, You can also stock up on some items at certain times of the year when they go on sale in the clearance area of your grocery store or at holidays at any store. I even love to get some items at yard and estate sales. I plan on getting some of these items and putting them in a big bucket for my daughter-in-law who has three kids at home with sensory issues.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ooh, great tips!!! And what a sweet gift! :)

    ReplyDelete

Well, hello there!



Welcome to Fun at Home with Kids! I'm Asia, a teacher (M. Ed) turned SAHM mom to two young kids: X and S. Around here we like to do a little bit of everything - science, art, crafts, sensory play, and small world play. Click here to read more about us!

Follow by Email


Powered by Blogger.

Translate