Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Fruitful Dollar Tree

Dollar Tree is awesome. I'm sure most you know that, and those of you who don't probably don't have to live on a tight budget.

For home educating families like ourselves, Dollar Tree holds a plethora of goodies, especially if you think outside the curriculum box. I had a few things in mind, so we headed over to our neighborhood store to grab a "few" items.

As you can see, we made out like bandits (except, we paid). I couldn't believe all the great finds they had this time, but maybe it was just because I was actually looking for things to use in specific activities.

I'm always amazed by the intelligence of one-year-olds. I think we vastly underestimate their baby brains. Keagan understands quite a bit. The other day I "caught" him throwing stuff in the trash. I was a little panicked, thinking I would find half of my kitchen in the garbage can, but to my surprise he was throwing away wrappers my older children had left out (tisk tisk, ha!). When I'm working in the kitchen, I can hand him something to throw in the garbage, and he'll complete the task with a huge grin and a yelp of glee. In these photos, he is transferring beans from one container to another. Joy lit up his face. I love how my children love these little things. So many people think those who are easily entertained are "simple minded" but that's "simply" not true! In my opinion, it is those who have to be constantly entertained by television and video games and cannot enjoy the simpler joys of life that are "simple minded". They are not self motivated, but lazy.

The mini-buckets are from Texas Roadhouse. They were dessert tins that you could keep! The kids really love them. The little plastic containers came 8 to a package at, you guessed it, Dollar Tree. This is a wonderful activity for young children. It helps them build those muscles in their hands. We call this a "dextrous activity".

The original photo was quite dark, but I love his expression. Every now and then he'd take a bean up to his mouth, then giggle before pitting it in the tin. Guess he was just checking to see if I was paying attention!

While Keagan played with the beans, Nolyn and Merikalyn put together a puzzle. They recently really got into puzzles, so we've been collecting them. After they really get the puzzles down, we throw them into a bag of other puzzles. The task becomes a tad more difficult when they have to sort through pieces from four or five other puzzles! It's a great way to make what you have go the extra mile. Change it up!

Keagan loves playing with the little boxes. Each box has something different in it (mostly used for counting or dextrous activities)- beans, elbow noodles, googly-eyes, etc. Some are empty. He would shake each box then appear to be comparing the sounds. He'd peek into the box, then toss it back into the bucket. (He has a great arm- he over-threw by several yards a few times!)

What I love most about our method of home education is the simplicity of it. It gets everyone involved. Older children can play with younger children. Of course, it isn't always smooth sailing. Sometimes Nolyn hijacks Keagan's activities. It's important to be aware of what each child is doing. For one thing, I don't want Keagan downing a bunch of pennies or uncooked beans. Most of all, I am aware the my children do have a sinful nature, so I have to pay attention to their actions and reactions, so I can immediately correct and disciple (or guide).

Keagan really loves getting involved in our homeschool. Even though I miss the "babyness", I really love this stage. I could do without the disgusting diapers and runny nose due to teething!

Here is Merikalyn doing a dextrous activity. She was picking up beans one by one with a spoon and transferring them to another container while counting.

Keagan and I playing with the little containers of counting items.

These little cones are AWESOME. I can think of SO may things to do with them like use them as bases in a game, or for ring toss. Today, the kids used them to jump over and weave around.

We like our curriculum to last. We use enough paper with our crafts, so we try to make our work books stretch (even though some of them only cost a dollar). Using beans or other counters for their math activities helps them work out the problems, and they can use cardstock with numbers written on them to portray the answer. Even though the problems come with picture examples, I find it is easier for them to have their own items to manipulate. You don't have to spend a bunch of math manipulatives. You can use beads, beans, noodles, crayons, dominoes, marbles, or whatever else you have around the house. In fact, I encourage you to use household items, because it helps children understand that math is used all over the place. We have a bunch of flipflops (I have about a dozen pairs, and the kids probably have about half a dozen). We sometimes use our flipflops to do math problems. They can also use math to set the table. How many plates and napkins will we need? If Mom and Dad are going to use the larger forks, how many small (dessert) forks will be needed? We are having company over. How many extra settings will we need? Dad isn't going to make it home for dinner, so how many settings will we need now? You get the idea.

When you are cleaning out the pantry, have your children count the canned goods or even sort them out. Keagan LOVES to play with the cans! Children can also count the cans as help to put them away after a grocery trip.


Gloria said...

I love Dollar Tree also. I like buying wrapping paper and gift bags there otherwise the gift wrapping can cost nearly as much as the present. Great place for greeting cards and color books and colors for my grandkids. Loved the pictures of the kids. Merika looks so much like you at that age.

Heather said...

Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Ollies, as well as the thrift shop provided ALL our home schooling needs for years. (Ollies has wonderful sell out books!) One of my kid's favorite activities when at a little older was to put beans in a tray (whatever we had on hand) and play with trucks--bull dozers, high lifts, back hoes, dump trucks, whatever. The girls also added their dolls to the mix or pretended to make soups. Better than a sand box and much better for eye hand coordination.

Arlene said...

Big Lots is another place to find great buys at budget friendly prices. Just don't hang around these stores too often - it's easy to break the budget while trying to stay on it!

I've always said you can buy a child the most expensive toy and they'll end up playing with the box it came in. That's the problem with toys nowadays - they leave no room for the imagination.

Love your math lessons. Makes learning flow, keeps it ongoing, rather than sitting down for class. The best way to teach kids is without them knowing they're being taught!

God bless.

Ashley said...

Oh I miss Dollar Tree's educational supplies section SO much!! I went there about every week to check and see if they got anything new during student teaching, I wish they had them in Africa :) - I can't wait to have access to all the little treasures that are available at places like that to help me in my future classrooms :)

Sylvia & Homero said...

Wow this entry was very impressive to me! You are so creative w/your kiddies! You are doing a great job, and so cool how you involve learning into everything such as putting away groceries and setting the table!

Amy Bayliss said...

Keagan is so cute and he is getting so big! Love that smile!

We {heart} Dollar Tree too. There are so many great things there that we use for school and of course, the price is always right!

Renita said...

I'm a HUGE Dollar Tree fan, too! :) Loved seeing all your pictures. Such cute kiddos!!!

Wilson Ramblings said...

love those little containers. i'll have to try those. Do you have any pictures of the diapers you have? I've never heard of them but might be interested. How old is your little one? He's a cutie!

Anonymous said...

the kids are getting so big :) I'd love to homeschool. Jake also slides down the stairs.


Karin Katherine said...

Obviously I need to start checking out the Dollar Stores...I'm just afraid to go in there because I lack discipline and focus. The Target dollar aisle gets me the second I walk into the store! Great tips and I loved seeing how you include your one year old----especially since I have one too.