This is post #7 in a blog series entitled At-home preschool resources for the very tired, non-creative, really busy mom. You can view all of the posts in the series here.
As I mentioned in my post about tot-packs, I started trying to teach Ezra at home using cute home-made printable curriculums. But over time, I realized that the time I had to put into preparation and the money I was spending on ink and other supplies simply wasn’t worth it when I saw how much Ezra actually got out of them.
Around this time (the ages of 18 months to 3 1/2), I was also trying to focus a lot on crafty, messy, and sensory play. (Ezra wasn’t a fan.) This meant that I spent a lot of time shopping at the dollar store, which is pretty much the best place to go for inexpensive sensory play items, cheap toys, and craft supplies. I
t was in one of my many trips to Dollar Tree that I realized there were ready-made workbooks and flashcards that I could pick up for a dollar. No downloading, no printing, no ink, no laminating sheets, no cutting – no stress required. Just dump into the cart, pay, and plop down on the couch with a pack of Mickey Mouse flashcards or a Thomas numbers workbook – and I could easily teach Ezra the concepts I wanted him to learn.
The Dollar Tree by far has the best selection of at-home school supplies. Their selections include workbooks, flashcards, puzzles, toys, and so much more!
Dollar Tree also has a great selection of cheap books, Bible story books, coloring books, and even occasionally, kids read-along CDs! I picked up one of these yesterday and it kept Ezra occupied for a good 20 minutes last night!
If you are planning on transitioning your preschooler into homeschooling and want to decorate your school space, Dollar Tree also has a great selection of bulletin board style materials and school-room decor such as clocks, calendars, weather charts, letter stencils, and sticker charts.
Dollar General has a much smaller selection, but you can still find workbooks, coloring books, and puzzles there. I loved these character-themed workbooks that they had as Thomas and Mickey Mouse are a big favorite in our house!
Five Below, a smaller discount store chain, had a great selection of educational workbooks. Their selections were priced between $3 and $5 but still well worth the cost. They were definitely higher quality (thicker paper, more content), so I didn’t mind paying a bit more.
I have seen workbooks like all of the above also for sale at Barnes and Noble and Costco. They are more costly, but if you are headed there, you might be surprised what resources you will find on the shelves!
Now, here’s some tips…
1. Talk through the materials. With younger children (2 and early 3) who might not have the fine motor skills to write yet, you can still use these materials just to teach them without having them follow the directions exactly. For example, if the directions say, “Circle the biggest one,” you could ask your child to point to it instead. Even just a page or two before transitioning into some other activity really can go a long way!
2. Let him hold the flashcards. Honestly, I am very controlling about this and I hate to let him handle the materials. But, it’s a lot easier to hand the cards over to eager little hands when I only spent $1 and no time instead of hours of work. If the cards get a little bent or dirty, it’s not that big of a deal.
3. Make the resources reusable. If you want to extend the life of your products, tear out the pages and put them in sheet protectors in a notebook. Then your child can use wipe-off markers and complete the pages over and over.