Confessions of a Dollar Store Addict : Creativity on the Cheap


Confession: I LOVE the Dollar Tree. As in, I might be addicted to it.

You never know what you can find there or what awesome art project will emerge. Not to mention the pricing is fantastic! Can I confess something else? I think I may be addicting my boys to the Dollar Tree, as well. This month I dedicated my Dollar Tree shopping to you, dear readers! I spent about $15 with a goal to entertain my boys with creative and educational projects that I could share with you. 

I started with a sensory activity. Floral foam! I picked out different shapes. I collected straws, Popsicle sticks, plastic forks and knives, and anything I thought the boys could use (safely) with the foam. Then I let them take it from there. They created little sculptures, had a great time, and knew that they could just take everything out and create again. They enjoyed the texture of the foam, how it felt as they pushed different tools into the foam, and ripping it apart. 

There are so many holidays during the winter to give us stay-at-home moms ideas for art projects, including Valentine’s Day, which is right around the corner!

  • I bought foam hearts, googly eyes, glitter glue, pom poms, and pipe cleaners from my favorite store. My thinking was we could create Valentines, but also I could teach them how to put a face together.
  • We practiced: where do the eyes go, where does the nose go in relation to the eyes, etc. My boys can tell you all their body parts (even the ones I wish they would keep to themselves), but understanding where to put them on a blank heart takes practice.
  • They were able to practice with glitter glue, as well. It’s a different medium, and having to squeeze the bottle was great practice for their little hands.

My favorite part of this game (besides the learning aspect) is that it is CHEAP!

We work on learning colors and shapes all the time, but I wanted gauge how well my twins understand those concepts with some sort of game. The idea is a spin-off of something the boys’ therapist told me about.

  • I took different color construction paper I purchased at the Dollar Tree, and wrote the color on it to work on sight words, too.
  • To make it a game, I spread the colors all over the floor and had my boys stand in the middle. I then asked, “Can you find purple?” Then they would go stand or jump on purple paper, and we repeated that will all of the colors.
  • To reinforce learning our shapes,  I gave the boys each a foam play mate with a chalkboard on it. I used that to draw different shapes, and repeated the activity we did with the colors.
  • They had no idea they were learning! All they knew was that mom said it was OK to jump and stand all over the crafts.

My favorite project of the week involved a shaving cream marble painting.

We purchased shaving cream, an aluminium foil pan, food coloring, and paper. I found this idea on Facebook and promise I will be doing this project alone, too–that’s how much fun it was.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Spray a layer of shaving cream in the pan, spreading it out as evenly as you can.
  • Next, drop different colored food dye all over the shaving cream.
  • Third, take a skewer and pull it through the cream to move the color around. (I gave my boys straws because I didn’t want to lose any eyes.)
  • After you have created a look you like, push a piece of paper into the cream, making sure the front of the paper is covered.
  • Finally, use a credit card to scrap off the excess shaving cream.

Voila! You have created a beautiful marbled paper. The possibilities are endless with what you can do with the finished project. This project was both for fun and to let my kids see how different colors work together.

Our last big project of the week included making a Valentine’s Day garland, because we love to decorate for the holidays BUT I’m frugal.

  • I bought tinsel garland and shatter-proof ornaments from the clearance Christmas section.
  • I let the boys decorate the ornaments with glitter glue and pompoms.
  • After the mounds of glue dried, I strung the ornaments and foam hearts onto the garland.

The whole project cost a dollar, but was hours of fun to make. And the look of pride on my kids’ faces was priceless.

Our week was filled with lots of laughs, learning, and smiles. It is always amazing to watch kids create and see how that translates into their lives. Watching them discover how creative, smart, and capable they are is always the best part of any project.

We live on a tight budget like most one-income families, so the Dollar Tree and clearance aisles will be our best friends for the foreseeable future, and will make us even more creative.