75 Brilliant Dollar Store Hacks for the Classroom

Cheap, easy, done.

What’s a teacher’s favorite thing, besides Target, Amazon Prime, and Starbucks? The dollar store! The dollar store offers so many ways to save on classroom supplies for reading, math, science, and more. Below, check out some of our favorite, teacher-tested dollar store hacks for the classroom.

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Here’s a quick video to show you a few hacks in practice! 

Dollar Store Hacks for Classroom Supplies

These are some of the most essential, must-have classroom items you can find at your local dollar store. 

1. Supply bins

These are awesome because they have compartments. Use them to hold community classroom supplies. Then, it’s easy to put them on a group of desks as needed.

2. Poster board

Poster boards are a good alternative to the more expensive science boards. Bend the ends, and you’ll have three display sections. Plus, it’s light enough to hang on bulletin boards.

3. Index cards

These make great study cards for your students. You can also have your students write quiz questions and then test each other!

4. Glue sticks

You know half of those glue sticks dry out anyway, so why waste your money? At the dollar store, you can get a four pack for a buck. Store them in those storage bins.

5. Pencils

Everyone knows that teachers always need pencils. Plus, the dollar store always has cute decorative ones that can go in your prize bin.

6. Tissue

When you start to run out of tissue, tell your students’ parents or guardians that they can pick some up at the dollar store!

7. Crayons and markers

Even if you’re a die-hard Crayola fan, these are a good alternative when you’re spending your own money. Let’s face it, no one wants to use a crayon after the first 1/2 inch is gone anyway.

8. Stickers

A simple sticker goes a long way in recognizing kids and keeping them motivated. You can get hundreds of stickers for next to nothing at the dollar store.

9. Erasers

Encourage students to double-check their work and give them erasers as rewards!

10. Flashcards

You can find many different types of flash cards at the dollar store. Turn them into a game, encouraging students to quiz each other.

11. Tape

We hope you don’t have to buy your own tape, but in case you do, we recommend the dollar store. Pro tip: Wrap some tape around a pencil, and it becomes an awesome tool to clean a keyboard.

12. Coloring and activity books

These are a great “rainy day” option for when your students need something new to motivate them.

Dollar Store Hacks for Art

Art supplies can be pricey, but you can get brushes, poster paint, and a whole lot more at the dollar store.

13. Cotton swabs

Blue and yellow make green, and there’s no better way to learn this than having students do it themselves. Give them little bits of paint and cotton swabs to mix colors. This will keep the mess to a minimum.

14. Poster paint

Cheapest paint in the universe. It’s a great way to do the color-mixing activity listed above!

15. Crepe paper

There are so many great art projects, like collages and mosaics, you can do with crepe paper. Try this crepe paper art project.

16. Mod Podge

Once you discover the magic of Mod Podge, you never go back! Let your students apply it with their hands! They’ll have fun, and it easily washes off.

17. Elbow macaroni

This is part art project and part grammar lesson. Use elbow macaroni to teach kids punctuation—apostrophes, commas, and quotation marks. They’ll love applying (aka gluing) them in the right place. (Full disclosure: We borrowed this brilliant idea from this teacher’s blog.)

18. Glitter

Love it or hate it, you can definitely find glitter at the dollar store. (And who needs expensive glitter?) Here’s our suggestion: Use glitter as a monumental incentive for your students. For example, if they reach an ambitious reading goal, you can break out the glitter and make sparkly literary collages.

19. Pipe cleaners

You can use pipe cleaners for about 100 different things—seriously, this article offers that many ideas. Our favorite: pencil grippers.

20. Pom-poms

These should be a staple for your art area. Students can use them to make rainbows, bunny tails, or just about anything else. Have students draw a picture and then fill it in with these pom-poms. Another hack: Put them on the ends of dry-erase markers to use as mini-erasers!

21. Stencils

They’re good for repetition and for learning shapes and patterns. Another idea is to use them for journaling. Let students outline an object in their journal and then challenge them to write about it.

 22. Sidewalk chalk

Soak it in water, and you have a paintbrush at your fingertips. This blog will give you more details.

23. Googly eyes

Here’s another good writing challenge! Have students draw a monster, person, or other object on their journal and then let them add googly eyes to it. Have them write a story about it!

24. Glue sticks

You can’t let your students use the glue gun, but for a special project, bust out these glitter glue sticks. (Students can still direct you on where they want you to place the glitter glue.)

25. Paper plates

You can find all sorts of craft projects that require paper plates. Plus, they make a great base for any painting project.

26. Cookie cutters

Mix your art time with lessons in shapes or math. These cookie cutters are a great staple for classroom learning and hands-on play.

27. Bulletin board supplies

You can find a surprising amount of bulletin board items at the dollar store. We always like to check here first!

Dollar Store Hacks for Classroom Cleaning

Reward your students, do some cleaning, and stay organized with some of these supplies.

28. Hand sanitizer

Don’t overpay for hand sanitizer. Stock up at the dollar store, and you’ll have plenty to scatter throughout your room. Tip: Put it near the tissue box to remind students to keep away germs!

29. Shaving cream

Have you ever cleaned the tops of desks with shaving cream? It’s so much fun! Just squirt a little on top and let your students dive in.

30. Sponges

Doing an art project where you need a specific shape like a heart or star? Cut it out of a sponge; then let students gently press it in paint and then press it on their paper. You can also use them to create these awesome glue sponges.

31. Cleaning wipes

Let’s face it, you need a BIG pack. But this is a great option to keep at different stations throughout the room.

32. Dish soap

It’s good for cleaning, science experiments, and a lot more! Here’s a color-mixing project you’ll want to steal for your classroom.

Dollar Store Hacks for Classroom Organization

Organization supplies and bins can be expensive but not when you hit the dollar store. 

33. Clothespins

Let each student decorate their clothespin or cover it with paper. Then glue magnets or thumbtacks on the back of them and hang them on your magnetic or bulletin board. Now each student has a place to share their favorite art work.

34. Book and math bins

Hello, classroom organization! Plastic bins can be used for so many purposes. We suggest using them for organizing math games that students can check out or organizing your books by reading level. You can also flip them upside down to make storage for scissors. 

35. Over-the-door hooks

Create additional storage or organization in your room with these hooks.

36. Chair storage

What an inexpensive way to add storage space to your students’ areas. This is a good way to encourage reading after a student finishes a project. Let them keep a book tucked in the back at all times.

37. Resealable plastic containers

These make perfect containers for Play-Doh or organizing other classroom necessities.

38. Mini-containers

You know all those little things in the classroom that are easy to lose track of? These are perfect for storing those items. You could also use them to store Scrabble letters for spelling games in the classroom. There are so many mini containers to choose from. You could even turn toothbrush containers into pencil cases. 

39. Vinyl lining

Use these to line shelves and workspaces for easy clean up later.

Dollar Store Hacks for Classroom Rewards and Incentives

We love incentives that motivate students, and at the dollar store, you get more bang for your buck! 

40. Glow sticks

Good classroom rewards: pizza party, pajama day, or glow day! The kids will LOVE it. Guaranteed.

41. Greeting cards

Sometimes a card says it best. These are a great way to recognize kids for a job well done or to give them a card on their birthday. Pick up cards at the dollar store (sometimes they’re even 2 for $1) and keep a stash in your desk at all times.

42. Puzzles

Cognitive skills, hand-eye coordination, problem solving—these are all benefits of kids doing puzzles. Best of all, they like them, so you can use puzzles as an incentive for end-of-day fun.

43. Race cars

These will be one of your most popular prize-bin options. You could also use them for a science lesson. Here are some NASCAR teaching ideas for more ways to turn cars into educational activities.

44. Trophies

These little trophies are simple, but they can mean the world to kids! Create reasons to give trophies in your classroom and have these on hand. Even little things like a kindness award or a clean desk award is deserving of a trophy.

45. Hot chocolate

What a great idea for your prize bin! You could also use hot chocolate as a group reading reward. When your students hit a goal, have a hot chocolate day!

46. Grow capsules

At $1 for the whole pack, you’ll spend less than $0.10 each on an item that your students will love to earn. You can also have them do predictions and practice charting based on which animal is revealed.

47. Goldfish

Pardon us if you’re not the food-as-reward type of teacher. But for those of you who are, a couple of Goldfish can go a long way for encouraging class participation. You can also use Goldfish crackers for math word problems.

48. Glitter slime

Silly Putty and slime are both great options for your reward bin at school.

Dollar Store Hacks for Math

Help get your students fired up about math this year—these items will make it fun!

49. Sand timer

Racing against the clock (Mad Minute, anyone?) is always fun for students. Buy a few timers to use in classroom math challenges.

50. Beans

The cheapest manipulative around! Use beans for counting and practicing math problems. One bag goes a long way.

51. Dice

A roll of the dice can create an immediate opportunity to practice addition, multiplication, or subtraction. Partner up students and let them challenge one another with each roll.

52. Playing cards

You know the card game War? Kick it up a notch: Each student flips over a card. The first to say the answer when you multiply them together is the winner.

53. Sorting cups

Word problems, fractions, and other math concepts just got easier with these sorting cups.

54. Giant tweezers

For small hands, these build good fine motor skills and promote counting. For older students, have them solve word problems using the tweezers to divide and sort the math problem.

Dollar Store Hacks for Reading and Writing

Practicing spelling, reading, and comprehension just got easier with this dollar store finds.

55. Alphabet blocks

You can buy several sets of alphabet blocks, and then your students can have a friendly word challenge. Put all the blocks in a bag and have them choose five to six blocks (just like Scrabble). Then challenge them to make words. You can also create your own blocks by picking up building blocks from the dollar store and adding your own letters. 

56. Dry-erase boards

Having a dry-erase board for every one of your students would be like a dream come true, right? When they’re only $1, it’s doable. Have students work out their answers individually and then hold them up for you to review.

57. Globes

You likely have a big globe or map in your classroom, but these miniature globes help students really see the countries up close. When you’re working on a geography lesson, give each group one to look at and follow along with as you’re pointing out things out on the bigger classroom globe.

58. Pool noodles

There are so many pool noodle uses in the classroom. For instance, you can create your own phonics reading tool with pool noodles. Check out how with this phonics project using pool noodles.

59. Ping pong balls

Here’s another good phonics tool. Write different letters on ping pong balls. Make a vowel bag and a consonant bag. Let students pull a few balls out of each one and try to make a word. Here’s a video showing how to do ping pong ball phonics.

60. Popsicle sticks

Write down each of your students’ names on a popsicle stick and put them in a cup. Then draw a stick to decide whom you’ll call on during class. This way, you won’t always call on the same students, and your impartiality will be evident, Once you get through the entire cup, fill it up again.

61. Word searches

Get those little minds thinking about words by having them do word searches. Just one book, which costs $1, can supply your entire class. They also make great activities for students who finish work early.

Dollar Store Hacks for Science

Hands-on learning is always more fun, and these items will help you do just that with your science units.

62. Freeze pops

No, it’s not just a treat. It’s a science experiment, too. Have students time how long it takes freeze pops to freeze. Then have them figure out how long it takes tap water to turn into ice. Does one freeze faster than the other?

63. Airplanes

A lesson in aerodynamics always benefits from some airplanes. Make your own paper airplanes and then compare them to the ones you can get at the dollar store. Which ones fly higher? Faster? Farther?

64. Balloons

There are so many science lessons that you can do with balloons. Talk about the different types of gas used to blow up balloons and discuss air pressure. In the winter, you can also fill balloons with water and see how long it takes them to freeze. (Add food coloring for cool colors.)

65. Bubbles

What causes bubbles? Why are they round? What happens to them when they pop? These are all great questions and excellent ways to use bubbles in a science lesson.

66. Cotton balls

Every child needs to learn about different types of clouds, and one of the best ways to do this is by using cotton balls. Here’s a great blog article to give you more details.

67. Flowers

Every dollar store in the country has fake flowers, and if you can find the right ones, you can “dissect” them to study the different parts of the flower.

68. Magnifying glass

Science often involves looking at things very carefully and closely. Now you can afford to have several magnifying glasses in your classroom.

69. Bugs and spiders

The dollar store has a great selection of spiders, bugs, and other animals in their toy section. This would be a great way to give students a hands-on science experience.

70. Dry-erase clocks

Every kid learning to tell time would love to have their very own mini-clock. Plus it’s dry erase!

71. Fingerprint kit

You might have to practice this one on another teacher so you’re not actually gathering fingerprints of your fifth graders, but there’s definitely a science lesson here about how all fingerprints are unique!

72. Seeds

You know the seed tape you just made? Here are the seeds to go on them. Whenever you talk growing or gardening in class, you have to try to grow your own. Look for bean seeds, which are easiest to sprout, or sunflowers.

73. Modeling clay

Hands-on learning is the best, and modeling clay offers you a great opportunity to mold and sculpt to your heart’s delight. Try using it to sculpt science models and replicas.

74. Solar lights

There’s a lesson here on the sun and the great power of solar energy. Have your students do hands-on testing to better understand solar power.

75. Return ball

There is definitely a science lesson to be had here. Newton’s Law, anyone?

Have more dollar store hacks to share? We’d love to hear about them in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook. WeAreTeachers HELPLINE is a place for teachers to ASK and RESPOND to questions on classroom challenges, collaboration and advice.

75 Brilliant Dollar Store Hacks for the Classroom

Posted by Stacy Tornio

Stacy Tornio is a senior editor with WeAreTeachers. Nearly everyone in her family is a teacher. So she decided to be rebellious and write about teachers instead.

One Comment

  1. These are great ideas. Be extremely careful when using balloons – They are the number one choking hazard for kids ages 4-10.

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