Tag Archives: dollar store

Affordable Montessori at home WITHOUT the dollar store…

29 Mar

… is it possible?


These look just like the beautiful (but pricey!) Nienhuis Montessori materials boxes! But for just $5 each!


There are so many ways to make your own Montessori materials for the classroom or the home and it is possible to do so without spending too much money.

When I was teaching, the dollar store was my best friend! With a limited classroom budget (and I was lucky to have that, even!), I had to make those dollars stretch to buy things for the classroom, craft supplies, etc.  Not surprisingly, I ended up using some of my own money too- and we all know that that’s not unusual for teachers.

However, recently I’ve decided  to avoid shopping at dollar stores after asking myself some questions, including:

  • How do they sell ALL that stuff for so CHEAP? Well, I’ve read about the low wages paid to the dollar store workers (and long, long work shifts) and how they purchase wholesale items (or items that are unsellable at other stores)…but other than that, those super cheap items must be made in sweatshops if they can still make a profit on a $1 item, right?!
  • If the bottom line is, well, the bottom line, how likely are health and safety standards and regulations met for both the products and the workers? Especially for places churning out cheap items that they export for less than $1?
  • Plastic is not safe. A lot of chemicals and other toxins are used to make plastic. Yes, there are now BPA- and phthalate-free plastic options now, and it’s almost impossible to avoid all plastic. I just do my best to avoid having it in the house. Now, all these regulations for “safe” plastics…how strictly do you think they’re followed in other countries and in sweatshops?
  • The dollar stores now have such a wide selection of products that you could really kit out most of your classroom with their items. However, the quality of these products are most likely very low and Montessori materials should be beautiful and durable.
  • Montessori education teaches the child to consider the impact of his or her actions on the world around them by emphasizing the interconnection between the child and the world. If I believe that dollar store items are made in sweatshops, how can I then use those items as Montessori materials?

I’ve been trying to look up investigative articles on sweatshops and dollar stores online but haven’t found any useful ones yet. If I do, I’ll post it here.

I did find these tips on how to avoid sweatshop toys.


Here are some of the ways I’m going to try to do this (not very groundbreaking ideas, I admit, but it’s something at least!):

  • I just started doing Montessori activities at home, so I’ve been able to use a lot of what I already had at home.

I just realized that this bread cutting set that we got as a housewarming gift...

...had a tray that was perfect for carrying materials! Looks just like the wooden trays in the classroom!

  • Make a list of materials needed for future lessons & activities and beg, borrow, and steal from friends and family. I think I’ll send out a mass email once or twice a year with a list of items that I’m looking for and see what happens. Maybe even post a note on my mom & baby group forum if I think it will help. People love to help (especially if it involves them getting rid of old stuff that they don’t want!).
  • If I need to buy things, buy from other stores. I think it’s pretty hard to know where everything comes from (especially when companies get X item from company A that gets a part of that item from company B, which was put together in company C).
  • If I see things that are on crazy sale, I’ll buy it! Just the other day I found the boxes at the top of the post in the sale section at Chapter’s (I always take a look there!). They’re all a bit banged up, but usable. Original price was $30 and the green box was on sale for $5. The white boxes were $10 but I asked the manager if she would sell them to me all for $5 and she agreed! Woo hoo! I like them a lot because they look like the boxes that some Montessori materials are stored within (Grammar Boxes, Bead Bar Boxes).


So, my question still stands: Is it possible to run an affordable Montessori program at home without shopping at the dollar store? 

Answer: I don’t know yet…but I’m going to try!


Any other ideas on how to make affordable Montessori materials without shopping at the dollar store?