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Back to School Bargain Shopping: Finding Materials for Your ECE Classroom

Sep 16, 2021    |   Early Learning Spaces & Routines

Setting up classrooms for the school year can be both exciting and daunting. Organizing materials and finding new resources for your classroom is a big job that can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. As educators and caregivers, we want to find materials that help to create an engaging learning environment while also being conscious of tight budget constraints. In this article, we share a few helpful stores, websites, and resources for shopping and collecting materials for your classroom.

Social Media Options: NextDoor, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist

Searching for materials for your classroom doesn’t always have to mean going to a store. Check social media websites to see if your neighbors happen to have any good items that they’re looking to give away or sell for a discounted price. Many families have toys, play items, and other materials that their little ones no longer need, so you will likely find a wide variety of gently used items on these websites.

You might also consider placing a post of your own to let community members know what kinds of items or materials you are seeking for your classroom — someone might have something that they’re willing to donate!

The Dollar Store

Many educators already know this, but dollar stores such as the Dollar Tree can be a great place to find items for your classroom. From small baskets (see examples in photos to the right) to organize your classroom to coloring materials and art supplies, many dollar stores have a wide variety of useful items. Many dollar stores stock seasonal items that can also be useful if you are planning seasonal art projects or holiday celebrations in your classroom.

And, if you are looking for some inspiration, The Dollar Store website has a  “Teacher Page” with ideas to try in your classroom.

Thrift Stores

Many local thrift stores offer a variety of items, from children’s books to kitchenware, that can be useful in your classroom. Many thrift stores also offer additional discounts on certain days of the week. In San Mateo County, there are many popular thrift stores, including the following:


Ikea is a popular furniture and home goods store that offers a variety of items that can be used to organize your office and paperwork. You can also find everyday items, like cooking utensils, that can be used in open-ended play, as sensory items, and as accessories for dramatic play.

If you are local to San Mateo County, there is a store in East Palo, or you can shop online and have items delivered directly to your center.

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply is a popular store for shopping for young children. Many educators use its website to purchase bulk classroom materials, furniture, and art supplies. Discount School Supply’s website is conveniently organized according to different parts of the ECE curriculum, from materials that focus on social-emotional learning to items for building an outdoor classroom. Click here to visit their website.


RAFT is an acronym for Resource Area for Teaching. RAFT has a website for online shopping and a store in San Jose, California that some refer to as the Costco of educator supplies. The RAFT warehouse includes a creative workroom with a large collection of die-cuts, laminators, 3-D printers, and more. RAFT can also be a place to find free resources, including classroom idea sheets, teacher tip sheets, and at-home learning activities. Click here to visit their website and learn more.

A special thank you to our subscribers who provided suggestions for this article!

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