She Says… Cheap Date

I bet I can get a resounding “Amen” from other parents when I say, “All hail the Target Dollar Bins”.

Seriously. I used to walk by that little section and think, “Ugh, stupid crap that no one needs. Yes it’s only a dollar, but why waste your money?”. That is, I said that before I had a toddler. These days I always take a spin through there whether Owen is with me or not. And I can not even count how many treasures I have found. $1 can buy you a LOT when you are 2.

Here’s the thing. The stuff IS cheap. It’s usually made in China and made with ingredients I wouldn’t normally choose and it’s always crap you don’t really NEED and it’s not going to last very long. But here’s what I’ve learned. Sometimes that dollar spent can get you far, far more than the most expensive wooden, educational thingamabob made with recycled materials and plant-based ink.

It’s FUN. It’s SILLY. It’s the kind of thing my mother NEVER would have let me buy as a kid, and now I kind of get a thrill from tossing it in my cart.

We had a bit of a rough weekend. The stomach bug last Thursday left a cranky, whiny kid without much of an appetite in its wake. The bug itself (temp, etc.) was pretty mild and very short-lived, but the aftermath seemed to linger. Owen was healthy, but not himself. I’m not even sure if it was illness-related, but something was bothering him for the last few days and he was NOT acting like his sweet little self. In any case, today, on our 5th straight day of being at home when we’re used to being out and about all the time, I had to whip out one of my Target Dollar Bin goodies. (Yes, I buy them and save them for a rainy day.)

And, to my surprise, we got over an hour of entertainment from that $1 toy.

Remind me of this next time I scoff at the cheap crap.

sponge2 sponge4

It was these little things called “Grow Capsules”. They are like little pill-shaped capsules that you put in a cup of warm water. The capsule part melts away and these little animal-shaped sponges slowly emerge.

The anticipation of what animal it was going to be was astonishing. Owen was enthralled. FOR AN HOUR.


12 times, we repeated the “experiment” and it never lost its luster. I wish I had bought 100 more.


Now we have these 12 little animal-shaped sponges that Owen has been counting and sorting by color and lining up and stacking and squishing and putting in water and drying off. He adores them. He makes them walk around together and give each other kisses. I’m amazed.

I’m thinking we might try to sponge paint/stamp with them at another time (when he’s done loving them like his own next-of-kin).

Now THAT’S a lot of entertainment from $1.

Have you ventured into the cheapo Target section or a dollar store for $1 entertainment? What treasures have you found? Our favorites are window gels for various holidays/seasons (ALWAYS at least a few hours of peeling/sticking them, moving them around, and then eventually ripping them and throwing them in the trash a few weeks later), a tube with an alligator head that makes a weird noise when you turn it upside down, and a 4-page Sesame Street board book about the seasons that for some inexplicable reason has held Owen’s attention for over a year. Treasures, I tell you.



16 responses to “She Says… Cheap Date

  1. I was an RA in college, and those things were a lifesaver when it came to programming. How sad is that? College students are essentially adult toddlers–ha ha.

  2. We LOVE the dollar section at Target, and like you I stock up on things and hold them for a rainy (or snowy) day. I always toss small painting or art supplies in my cart and just last week I got my daighter a small kit for growing her own clover; she LOVED it!

  3. I just love this story because it highlights finding the delight in the world from the child’s eyes. What we find mundane, a child may think is wonderful, especially when experiencing it for the first time. I once enjoyed watching a 6 month old spend about an hour of a flight shaking-scrunching-crinkling-passing hand to hand, an unopened small bag of potato chips. For her, it was like the Best. Toy. Ever.

  4. We bought those exact grow capsules from Target and I used them for potty training prizes. Best $1 ever! After 3 days of using those plus stickers for prizes, she was good to go! 🙂

  5. Those $1 bins are so dangerous. We always come away with at least a handful of things from there. I wish I got so excited about some of thoe stuff we’ve gotten.

  6. I use the dollar bins (and the entire dollar store LOL) for “treasures” for my kindergarten class. It’s so cheap, and man, they will do ANYTHING to “earn” the treasures!! It’s really great positive reinforcement, and I’ve used them for years. And it’s always stuff that I’m like “man this is the dumbest thing” – but not to kiddos!!

  7. Love it! I second the window gels for each holiday. One of her favorites! Also those small books and a tiny puppet that I thought would have bit the dust long ago!

  8. Glow sticks! $1 for a pack of 15 and my 17 month old is obsessed. I bought twenty packs 🙂

  9. An Elmo bath book. It’s the silliest book EVER, but Miles has been enthralled by it since I stuck it in his Easter basket last year. We move it from bath to diaper bag to playroom — he just loves that thing. And Ethan has always been thrilled by the little pads of paper that come in different shapes (round, star, heart, etc.) and those tiny stamps, you know, the ones that run out of ink in a week. He is good to go for the rest of the afternoon! Needless to say, I will be visiting the dollar bins in the next week to see if I can score any new treasures for the Easter baskets!

  10. I usually hit up the dollar bins for party favors or art supplies, and Santa seems to put a lot of that stuff in our stockings, too!

  11. That seasons book!!! Janie has been obsessed with it for so long too! So funny!

  12. I’m just excited to hear Target has grow capsules! We call them “instant farm” and are down to only three pills left (saved from when I was a child!!!!) 2 year old looooves them and we have been rationing them, lol. Must go to Target soon!

  13. I’ve bought all kinds of things! I found adorable little baskets that I used as hostess gifts for my wedding shower, lots of little holiday items that I use to give a little something special to my office, trinkets for our nieces/nephews… My husband is a teacher and it is a jackpot of stuff he can use in the classroom. Anytime they have the little shaped erasers he stocks up, and sticky notes. We recently found lined dry-erase boards (they looked like lined notebook paper) and bought like 30 for his students to use when working problems. It’s a gold mine.

  14. I agree with the glow sticks/bracelets!! They’re the cheapest I’ve found and they glow brighter than some of the others I’ve bought. We use them for glow baths on a regular basis. I get almost all of the kids’ stocking stuffers/ Vday gifts/ Easter basket goodies from the dollar spot! Last week, I picked up all of the wooden firetruck toys they had– stowing them away for party favors for an eventual birthday party. LOVE.

  15. We LOVE the dollar bins at Target! I especially love them during the holidays… great for stocking & Easter basket stuffers. My best find, though, were these big foam swords. I bought them when Eli was barely 1 and nearly two years later he still plays with them almost every day. He likes them better than some other “fancier” swords that we have. I like them because they are foam and don’t hurt! I look for them every time I go to Target to no avail, because ours are looking pretty rough these days!

  16. As a teacher I LOVE the dollar spot! As Amelia quickly approaches 2, it has started to become a great spot or her as well. The best has been all the Sesame Street “crap”. The books and socks have been lifesavers! Some mornings when I’m rushing to get us all ready to be out the door, if I didn’t have those cheap Elmo or Big Bird socks I don’t know what I would do!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s