I have mixed feelings about going back to work. On one hand, I’m sad…sad about having to set an alarm for the morning, not spending days on end making memories with my family, and just sunny summer days coming to an end. On the other hand, I’m excited….excited to see my preschoolers, to arrange and decorate my little speech room, dive back into therapy sessions (especially my cooking groups!), and just to be back in my element as a preschool SLP!
Now that we are in the second week of August, I’ve started shopping for back to school items that I know I NEED and will use throughout the entire school year. If you follow me on Instagram (which you totally should @live.love.speech), you already know that Dollar Tree is my JAM! I am there far too often (I blame Landon lol) but all in all, it’s worth it…low cost goodies that can be adapted and used in so many FUNctional ways is a WIN in my book!
So let’s dive right in. I’ve made a list of 20 MUST HAVE items that can be picked up right from your local Dollar Tree. I’ll also share 1 or 2 ways you can use each of the items during your therapy sessions.
Play Food & Cooking Tools
I love cooking and doing hands on activities but sometimes using “fake” food is just as fun! This is perfect for following directions (i.e. cut the tomato), working on verbs and prepositions (i.e. MIX your ingredients IN a bowl), labeling, etc. You can never go wrong with pretend play!
Now let me start by saying, these may not be available all year round (but they totally should be!) These just add a fun factor when working on receptive tasks that involve pointing or touching pictures, answers, etc.
You either love it or you hate it! Sure it can be messy or even worse…kids mix the colors together (AH!)…BUT this amazing stuff can be so much fun and perfect for targeting MULTIPLE goals! You can work on requesting by color (i.e. I want blue play dough), following directions (i.e. open, take out, roll, cut, etc.), making shapes, letters, etc.
My love for cooking with my preschoolers runs DEEP! I do weekly in class cooking/hands on lessons with each of my classes. You can read more about those and how YOU can start doing the same by going here! Although “cooking” can sometimes be a little pricey, you can certainly stock up on some essentials like mixing bowls, spatulas, measuring cups, cutting boards, spoons, plates, can opener, etc. to help you get started!
Did you know that Dollar Tree carries Elmer’s White Glue?! So of course you can grab a few for all of your art and craft projects, but don’t forget about SLIME! There are literally hundreds of variations of Slime (you can check my Pinterest Board to see some examples!). I would say at least 75% (if not more) call for GLUE as one of the main ingredients so stock up.
Mini Figurines & Animals
I was really excited to recently find these little figurines that are like a “Lego” dupe! The best part is, they actually work perfectly with regular legos (WIN!). And without fail, I can always be sure to find mini bugs and animals which are AMAZING for sensory bins. Think of all the core words you can target with just a few of these like IN, OUT, ON, GO, and STOP.
Containers & Bins
This one is kind of a given but I promise there are more ways to use them then just for storage. For example, my mini trashcan! Probably one of the therapy “tools” I couldn’t live without! My preschoolers love “feeding” the “Old Lady” and it works for just about every season or theme. I’m also a big fan of these mini boxes with a snap top. They fit my Grab N’ Go Preschool Vocabulary cards PERFECTLY (plus the colors are just FUN!)
Dry Erase Board & Magnetic Erasers
Yes another school supply BUT come on guys, these adorable erasers will be such a hit in your therapy room!
Hear me out….I’m not suggesting you teach your students to shave or anything lol. This “ingredient” is a must have for making Puffy Paint, Shaving Cream Dough, or just for sensory play. **TIP** Did you know that shaving cream will remove CRAYON from your tables?! Yup, works like a charm every time! *These visual recipes are included in my Cooking and Craft Visual Recipe Packs in my TpT store which you can check out HERE!*
A few years back I used chalk as my end of the year school gift. But it doesn’t stop there, depending on the weather, you could take some of your students outside to work on shapes, colors, following directions, practicing their letters, etc. OR…stay inside and use a mini chalk board to work on those same things!
Use these for sticker charts, “prizes”, rewards….all of the obvious things. You can also “create a scene” using stickers and easily work on expanding utterances, articulation, etc. This past school year I did a fun thing using my beloved Cariboo. I removed the gem and put some stickers in there that way my preschoolers could actually take home a little “prize” with them. You could also use them with any board game or toy. Hide them somewhere on the game board, put a few “under” a toy, get creative!
I recently came across these adorable mini WOODEN puzzles that are going to be great for our transportation theme. Even if your local store doesn’t have them, don’t fret! There are plenty of other ones out there! These are great for building language and of course, fine motor skills!
Yes, back to cooking (I told you, it’s my favorite!). Maybe some of you already knew this but for those who don’t, you can stock up on all of your basics like flour, salt, sugar, etc. right from the good ol’ DT. Oh, and don’t forget the FOOD COLORING! I’m telling you, if there’s a way to make fun food and “dough” recipes without breaking the bank, you better believe I’m going to find it.
A few years back, I wrote a post on all of the amazing ways you can use bubbles with your students while targeting language and articulation. You can check out that post here. People may think “bubbles” can only be used outside, but trust me, you can do some many things right inside your speech room.
I am a big believer in getting messy, creative play, and using your imagination. I think that’s one of the best things about paint, you can watch your students ideas come to life right in front of your eyes. It’s also nice to be able to send home their creations as a little keepsake. Take it one step further and write up a little blurb on the back of projects explaining what goals you targeted during your session!
Wind up toys
I can’t promise you will ALWAYS find these but various times throughout the year (especially around holidays!) you can score some of these goodies! These are the best reinforcers plus they are great for working on things like asking for help, core words (go, stop, more), even articulation! I have even used wind up toys with some of my Grab N’ Go cards to target language. Wind up the toy and wherever it lands students can label or describe the picture, answer the question, make a sentence, etc.!
This is one section of the Dollar Tree that is sometimes overlooked. I mean if you aren’t planning a child’s birthday party, why would you go there? Well, you SHOULD because I recently scored two awesome items including these Lego storage blocks and NEON jumping frogs!
I have a whole bin of sensory toys in my speech room and at least half have come from the Dollar Tree. Look for things that light up, can be stretched, make noises, etc.! If you have any students that just need “breaks” during your sessions (basically my entire caseload), these little toys come in handy! Have them complete a task then earn a toy OR they can choose in the beginning of the session which one they want to work for.
Bulletin Board Supplies
I get so inspired looking on Pinterest and Instagram for ways to decorate my bulletin boards. Some of the ideas out there are incredible! While I would love to go crazy and do ALL the pretty and fun things, I also don’t want to spend a fortune. Luckily DT has a great little section of small posters, letter cut-outs, signs, etc. that work PERFECTLY for a bulletin board. Oh and if you’re lucky, you can even grab some borders!
Flash Cards & Books
Head over to the little “teacher” section and get ready to be amazed. DT has really stepped up their game (in my opinion) with incredible workbooks and flash cards! Colors, shapes, letters, early readers, writing…so many choices! Even if you aren’t targeting specifically what the books or cards are made for, get creative! Pull out some pictures that have specific speech sounds you are working, find similar items to work on categories, etc.
Whew! That’s quite a list and hopefully a helpful one at that! Things I didn’t mention above but also great finds are: crayons, pencils, paper plates, binder rings, pencil cases, tape, glue sticks, pens, markers, straws, beads, glitter, craft sticks, and just so much more!Lastly, if you are unable to find something in your local store (or even worse, don’t have one close to you at all), check out www.dollartree.com. Here’s the catch, these items come in “bulk” but I do have a possible solution for you! Team up with some of your co-workers, throw in a few bucks, and split your goodies!
**This post is not sponsored by Dollar Tree….I’m just a really big fan!**