As therapists and educators, we are always thinking of ways to make our classrooms and therapy sessions exciting and engaging.  Many of us may spend our own money to do so, or may be on a strict school budget.  The dollar store is an amazing place for educators to purchase affordable supplies to use in the classroom.  With a little creativity, we can use affordable items to create engaging therapy sessions that target student goals. Today, I am going to highlight a few of my favorite dollar store items that I have used over the years in my OT sessions.  

1. Puzzles

Puzzles are so great to target visual motor skills and problem solving.  The dollar store has a wide variety of puzzles for all students.  Puzzles can also be a great break choice.  I have many students who find puzzles very calming, so it is a great idea to have a few options in your classroom.  

2. Fidgets

I don’t know about you, but my fidgets are very well loved and often tend to get lost.  That’s why the dollar store is a great place to grab some extras!  Fidgets can be great to use in the classroom or during therapy sessions for sensory input to help students focus.  

3. Bubbles

While bubbles may not be the best choice right now due to COVID, they are typically a must-have for me in my therapy bag!  Bubbles are so motivating for young students.  You can work on oral motor skills, motor planning and language skills using this fun tool.  

4. Balls

You can work on so many skills with a ball – bilateral coordination, hand-eye coordination, motor planning, turn taking.  There are even a wide variety of textures available, which is great for working on sensory processing skills as well.  

5. Travel Games

I love these fun little games!  Not only are they engaging, their smaller size is awesome for working on those fine motor skills.

6. Containers

Not only can containers/bins help you keep your supplies organized, you can make some simple activities with them.  I recently used some small bins and a silverware sorter to make some vocational tasks for my older students.  You can also use various containers for sorting or put-in tasks. The possibilities are endless!

7. Stickers

Who doesn’t love stickers?!  Stickers are great for reinforcement, but also for fine motor skills.  I also like to use stickers to indicate where a student should start or stop when writing, or as a visual reminder to keep thumbs up while cutting.  

8. Coloring and Activity Books

I love having coloring books on hand.  They can be used to meet specific goals, as a reinforcer or as a calming activity.  I have also found fun activity books at the dollar store that include dot-to-dot activities, mazes and color by number.  These activities can be used to target a wide range of skills, such as visual spatial, problem solving and following directions.

9. Fine Motor Items

These are a must have in my therapy bag!  Some of my favorite items include pom poms, tweezers, pipecleaners, beads and clothespins.  There are so many activities can that be done with just those materials which can address important skills like hand strength, motor planning and bilateral coordination.

10. Seasonal Items

The dollar store is the best spot to gather seasonal materials to spice up your typical therapy or classroom activities.  I made a bunch of themed sensory bins last holiday season using dollar store items.  Some other ideas include: picking up themed erasers to put into theraputty for students to find, themed containers for students to pick items out of and seasonal stickers and coloring/activity books.

Some of the best activities are simple and affordable!  What are your favorite dollar store items to use in your classroom or therapy sessions?

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