5 Tips for Tot School on a Budget

Five tips for planning Tot School on a budget via Spit and Sparkles Blog. #totschool #homeschool #DIY #earlylearning

Being a frugal mom in the Pinterest Era is tough! I’m sure you know what I mean. I have pinned dozens of crafts and activities that I’d love to do with my twins, but I often don’t do them because I get intimidated by how many supplies I’ll need to buy. I’ve invested more time in Tot School planning recently, and I’d like to share with you my top five tips for creating Tot School on a budget.

1. Utilize what you already have at home. This means creating activities with your child’s favorite existing toys, or other things you already have around the house. For example, measuring cups, Tupperware, baskets and those empty wipes containers and formula cans you’ve been saving for no reason. Empty formula cans make great supply canisters or musical drums. Throw some ribbons of different colors and lengths and widths into an empty wipes container and have your child pull them through the hole for a sensory activity. One of my twins’ favorite Tot School activities with their existing toys is focused play with balls. The concept is simple and can be applied to many different objects. Details on how to create that activity and how to make inexpensive discovery bottles on our Tot School page.
Five tips for planning Tot School on a budget via Spit and Sparkles Blog. #totschool #homeschool #DIY #earlylearning

2. Make your own DIY learning workbook. Countless websites offer free printables for coloring sheets, flash cards, stickers, traceables, etc. Pick up a binder, some plastic sleeves and a set of dry erase markers from Dollar Tree for $1.00 each, and you’ve created an inexpensive workbook that will save trees! Slide your printed worksheets into the sleeves and let your child draw on them with dry erase markers. This allows them to erase mistakes easily and after the activity is completed, markings can be erased and the worksheet practiced several more times. My favorite website for Tot School printables is 1+1+1=1.
3. Shop at the dollar store. Do you see all of those supplies I picked up for $1.00 each at the Dollar Tree!?! I love shopping there for baskets, trays, school supplies and children’s board books. Our library of books was pretty much supplied by Dollar Tree. We’ve snagged Sesame Street, Disney character, Bible-themed and DC Comics character books all for $1.00 each. They also have an aisle completely devoted to teacher/school supplies, and always have a couple of aisles of seasonal items for every holiday. In the haul pictured, I grabbed the following items for use in several activities. Stamp pads, sidewalk chalk, dry erase markers, stickers, plastic sleeves, portfolio for lesson plans, toy balls, trays, bins, cups, pom pom balls, Easter eggs, books, and more.
4.Accept hand-me downs and shop at thrift stores. Toys and books can get pretty expensive, so in addition to shopping for them at dollar stores, accept freebies from friends and neighbors and don’t be afraid to purchase used toys.(They can be cleaned!) I’ve scored Melissa and Doug bead mazes for $2.50 each at Once Upon a Child, and new ones retail for $14.99 each! Goodwill can also be a great place to find vintage toys and books, and they often have a huge selection of baskets, trays and other organizational items. Recently, I’ve noticed that our Goodwill has been carrying clearanced Target items! Also, that reminds me… Target has a great dollar aisle that is often stocked with office supplies, seasonal items and small toys for $3.00 and under.

5. Download free learning apps and e-books. The possibilities on this tip are endless. I’ve just begun downloading tot-friendly apps on my iPad, and here are the iOS apps I like for my 16 month olds. BabyFirst has several apps, which are based on their popular BabyFirstTV programs. Other great apps are BabySitter2Go, I Hear Ewe, Fisher Price Baby and BabyBoard Game. Early learning bilingual e-books can be found at the Early Learning Collaborative.

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  1. says

    I do tot school with my little, too, and I am constantly searching for new inspiration. I love when I come up with activities from things we already have at home. I do color or letter sensory bins for him and fill them with things around the house. I swear, they’re almost as much fun for me to put together as they are for him to discover.
    Thanks for linking up with the MaMade Blog hop!

  2. says

    These are all really great! Thrift stores and dollar stores are my favorite. There is nothing like finding a great item and paying barely anything for it. I really love finding toys and books from when I was little and being able to get it and have my own children play with them. Thank you for linking up at MaMade Blog Hop. Looking forward to seeing you next week :)

  3. says

    Hi Steffany! You have very practical tips, thank you for sharing them to us. I used to buy coloring books for my toddler and tendency is he would just rip the pages off and throw them away instead of coloring them. LOL. It can get expensive especially if you buy a lot so I think I’m gonna make use of old books that we have at home :)

  4. says

    I’ve definitely gone to the dollar store to get things for play for my toddler. The thrift store sounds like a great idea too! Plus knowing that they might not last that long, I wouldn’t want to spend so much money on items for making things for play either. Thanks for sharing these ideas with us at Countdown in Style! Don’t forget to stop by Friday to see if you are featured :)

  5. says

    Tot school is too cute! I realized how much I’m missing out teaching my daughter. I have a full craft supply closet, and started digging into that to make various different things. I love the plastic sleeves. Very smart and much easier than the laminate or sticky paper. Thanks for sharing with Countdown in Style.