Party City is my latest thrifty friend. Since I live 30+ miles away from the nearest one, it's not a place that I frequently visit even though I love the fact that I can find toys for .10-.59 cents in their party favor bins. They have all kinds of things from erasers, noisemakers, rings, yo-yos, mini puzzles, and figurines. They can be purchased in bulk orders online much like items in Oriental Trading Co. if you prefer buying items online. The kids typically love finding their items in my prize box (and I am nice enough to avoid the noisemakers that teachers will hate even though they look cool).
This past weekend, I went there to see if I could find some small toys to put in a "calm-down" box I making in part of my preparation for some new students I will be serving. If you don't have one of these handy boxes, it may be something to look into for students who have a difficult time with transitions/changes/rough days. I consider myself very fortunate in the fact that all of my students last year were pretty high functioning and able to handle a variety of situations well (ie..having new peers introduced, changing groups around, make-up sessions, etc...). I remember how horribly the preschoolers I saw in graduate school would react to changes and my new nonverbal friends may have similar reactions. The toys in my calm down box will be there to help them as they try to settle their roaring mix of emotions and overwhelmed senses down. I plan on having a variety of puffer balls and small "quiet" toys in a shoe box container near the entrance to my room. Another alternative, which I plan to offer, is a sensory "bean" box that can double as an "I spy box" for use in therapy.
Check out this blog if you want to see more about this calm down kit.
Where does Party City fall into this mix? Well, mini puffer balls for under a dollar is a great deal. They also have some spinning tops, "wooly" creatures, and mini bubbles. I can easily replace items like these should they get broken or lost without breaking the bank due to the inexpensive price. (I also got a puffer ball fish and mini slinky from Target's dollar spot.)
My second reason for liking Party City, is the fact that I found animal figurines that are the perfect addition to my growing phonics box supply. I didn't have to hunt through a ton of old McDonald's Happy Meal toys to find something small enough to work. They were all right there in plain sight! (Although, I did manage to score a Yak figurine at the Salvation Army store doing it the hard way.) I guess it's okay to take the lazy way out sometimes. After all, these figurines will be great for animal vocabulary and working on articulation drills with my younger students.
If you are creative and enjoy decorating your speech room in themes throughout the year, Party City is also a great source of inspiration. They have all kinds of decorations that you can purchase or even imitate using butcher paper that your school provides for bulletin boards. I made a grass skirt door decoration for part of my end of the year theme this year after seeing a similar item.