You know, I love the Dollar Tree. And the local 99 Cent store, too. There is always, always something in those stores that I want for the Little People.
Now, despite the fact that each item in a dollar-type store doesn't cost much, one can obviously spend a great deal of money in these stores. Especially if one stops by, say, three or four times a week. However, it's always exciting to me that sometimes you can just buy one or two small items that turn out to make a very significant difference in how your preschoolers play and learn.
For example, one item that I found last week at our local 99 Cent store was some plastic grass. Not loose Easter grass mind you, but instead flat sheets of quite unattractive fake plastic grass. If you try at all, you can even pull out tufts of the grass off of the plastic grid to which it is attached. Nevertheless, despite its plastic-y and extremely unnatural condition, I was thrilled. We were talking about Bugs and Butterflies that week, and I figured some sheets of grass were just what those insects needed.
I had already put out a basket of large plastic insects with the blocks on the carpet, but not much had happened with them. However, once I put out the grass, something interesting happened. Not only did the bugs have new homes, the kids started sorting them. One day I saw this:
The next day I saw this. Something about the squares brought about some grouping and sorting - plus some extra creative play that had not happened before they arrived.
This week we're talking about Bunnies and Baskets, which includes lots of eggs. I'm thinking that if I get some more squares of grass, the eggs might get even more new forms of grouping and sorting, too.
Which is a nice bit of extra learning for a rather inexpensive item.
**Note: When I went today to pick up some more grass squares for the block center I was amazed to find that they were all sold out. I quite honestly couldn't fathom what people other than preschool teachers would want to do with such very fake grass. But, as is always the case, one person's artificial grass is another person's treasure. I'll just have to keep my eyes open for some more.