Dollar Store Montessori: Top Ten

Even if you're new to Montessori, you probably quickly realized that Montessori isn't cheap! I'm always on the look out for items to use in my classroom and finding things that don't break my bank account are awesome! Here are my top ten Montessori items that I usually find at my local dollar and discount stores. 

1. Plastic Trays - The dollar store usually has tons of different tray options that are perfectly sized for young children to hold and carry. Since many Montessori activities are presented on individual trays, it’s important to have lots of trays available. I also like to color coordinate with seasonal themes, so when I find a try that I LOVE, I usually buy several of each in every color that they have (ugh!). Look for clear plastic trays in the party section and colored plastic trays in the kitchenware section.

2. Plastic Baskets - While I personally love natural baskets, I simply cannot find enough of the same basket at a low price to effectively organize materials, especially in the language area. Dollar stores often carry a large selection of  plastic storage containers and colored plastic baskets that are perfect for organizing language materials and math manipulatives.

3. Plastic Bowls - I’ve had a difficult time finding large enough plastic bowls for mixing, washing and scrubbing activities or have found containers that are large enough, but were way to pricey for me to purchase. I’ve luckily found some very large bowls, buckets and basins in multiple colors at dollar stores near my school.

4. Small Glass Bowls-  I use tons of small bowls to hold various manipulatives when setting up tray works. I’ve found several size variations of small glass bowls in the kitchenware section and they usually come in packs of 3 or 4 at a time which is perfect when we accidentally break a few each month.

5. Colored Sand - In the floral section, I frequently find colored sand in small bags which is perfect for my sand writing tray. I switch out the color of sand about once a month – sometimes I add glitter to the sand to make it more fun.

6. Napkin Holders - I am fully aware that this seems like kind of an odd item to have on my list, but really the small plastic napkin holders are perfect for holding extension worksheets or recording pages right next to the activity. They hold the papers upright and keep them neat and organized.

7. Tweezers/Tongs/Grabbers - There are so many different variations on the tongs/tweezers and grabbers that are available. I’ve consistently found sets of several types of tweezers in the health and beauty section as well as various size tongs in the kitchenware section. On occasion, I’ve even been lucky enough to score chopstick like grabbers in multiple colors!

8. Manipulatives - The dollar store is a great place to find a variety of manipulatives for tray works from dry rice or beans to tiny erasers and craft materials. Super for practical life and math centers! I recently found plastic 'gems' in several different colors... 

9. Sponges & Cleaning Supplies- Since every wet work needs a sponge, I'm always looking for a variety for colors to match to my works - I've found great variety in colors at dollar stores and you often get 2-4 sponges for only $1. I've also been lucky enough to find small dust pans and brushes, scrub brushes and dish brushes in multiple styles, shapes and colors which are perfect for many practical life works. 

10. Seasonal Items - Since I switch out my trays monthly and follow seasonal holidays and trends, I'm constantly on the lookout for seasonal specialty items that can be pretty pricey at other stores. I stock up on seasonal 'party favors,' and small decor items for use in various classroom activities. I recently purchased several different types of Easter eggs, easter grass, small blue eggs and some flower shaped gems that will be useful in my practical life and math activities in the coming weeks.
BONUS Idea - 
11.  Unique Containers - I have a basket of various containers for opening, closing and putting small objects in and out of as a fine motor activity. I'm always on the lookout for interesting little containers to keep this activity new and exciting for my students. I've found so many small containers that open in a variety of ways at the Dollar Store - check out the seasonal candy section for little tins, seasonal shaped containers and interesting boxes. The health and beauty section also has many options. And look for coin purses and little zipper bags near the makeup or by the checkouts.

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