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Things You Find in the Dollar Store

All the Treasures to Be Found in Your Local $1 Store

We discovered it by accident. A Dollar Tree sits right next to the place we get the kids haircuts, and it was probably on the same day that our free balloon from the grocery store had slipped off Willa's wrist or flown out of the car, as it so often does, resulting in many tears. I told her we'd get a balloon after the haircut, so we wandered into the dollar store and had a really good time.

I am the parent who's always complaining about the child tax — the cost of taking your child places with you, such as the grocery store, where you end up with three or four items in your cart you had no intention of buying, like that $13 Frozen coloring book. Or say you go into Target with your child for diapers, and you come out with $10 in washi tape and stickers while forgetting to buy eggs. It's not that I can't say no to my child, or maybe it is, but in most cases, there's no good reason not to let them choose an item. Though it makes me angry that places like the grocery store sell all manner of toys and things kids can't resist. When we found the dollar store, I realized that it may be worth a trip in itself, precisely to get your kid something, to embrace the hunt for their sake. On some level, shopping should be fun. And because, well, everything's a dollar.

The store is practically a child's treasure trove. Yup, the place that sells everything from toothpaste to gardening tools is a toy box waiting to be opened. While not so enticing from the outside, they are smaller than a grocery store and very easy for a young child to walk around — no carts required. There are the obvious kid attractions — mylar balloons, bright holiday displays, barrettes, and balls. But the stores have some unexpected things to "do" to make an afternoon a little busier — all for a dollar. Here, a few fun treasures hidden within the dollar store that are sure to delight your tot.

Containers: Does your toddler like to sort and dump? Pick up a few lightweight baskets and take them home, then fill with blocks or small toys. You can also buy small lidded boxes or Tupperware. Fill and hide them for a treasure hunt in your house.

Sponge animals: Sold in a pack of capsules, sponge animals melt in warm water. You can work in your kitchen with a baking pan or bowl to build a menagerie to then name, draw, and play with them. Build them a cardboard or play-dough home for even more fun.

Fake flowers: Your older child might enjoy trying to arrange their own bouquet.

Stickers: My toddler can spend a surprising amount of time just peeling stickers off a sheet.

Workbooks: You'll find plenty of drawing and educational activity books for the preschooler. Practice matching and grouping, learn shapes and numbers, do mazes, and connect the dots. There are also school and art supplies.

Balloon workout: Buy three or four, tie them to a weight or tape them to the floor, and let your kids punch and run through them. Space them out, and try weaving through for an obstacle course.

Creative fashion: Buy a pack of white socks or headbands, and let your kid decorate them in colored or fabric markers.

Color play: In the store, see if your child can find or collect five to 10 things of the same color.

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