Thrift Shop Treasures for Kids Play

Second Hand Sign
Second Hand Sign

Today, I want to share some of my favourite thrift shop treasures for kids play.

Who doesn’t enjoy rummaging around in thrift shops, discovering some small treasures and getting a bargain in the process?

I can be found often in the aisles of these underestimated places, oohing and aahhing over the most strange and unique items.  The cashier will look at my purchases and I can see the confusion as she scans the array of totally unrelated, and seemingly useless items in front of her/him.

“I am an early childhood teacher” I explain, and the look of confusion is then replaced with a knowing smile and nod.

We are a strange breed, some of us, and yet people seem to understand the need for teachers to collect odd junk.

So, moving on to some of my priceless little treasures and how I chose to use them.

Everyone sees their own uses and you may very well have  something completely different in mind when you see them.

Everyday Household Objects
Everyday Household Objects

Infant and Toddler Heuristic Treasure Baskets

Treasure baskets can have literally anything in them. I would however consider the safety aspect at this age as everything tends to go in the mouth.

If you make sure the pieces in your basket are not small enough to cause a choking hazard and that there are no rough or sharp edges on anything.

Anything recycled should be sanitized before offering to children as well.  I like to gather a variety of really different objects that children can find ways to explore the properties of.

Story Baskets

Hand and finger puppets combined with favourite stories and  books, are always a popular activity for children. Sometimes if I am very lucky, I can find puppets for as little as 50 cents each and the same with the books.

Children love to use the puppets to be imaginative and tell their own stories.

Small animals (not real), bugs and dinosaurs are great to add with other props.

I like to blend the natural elements like water, sand and driftwood to these experiences and some thrift or second hand shops sell bags of mixed toys for a few dollars.

Wooden pegs are are a wonderful way for children to use their imagination  as they can be used to represent people among other things.  Add small houses, blocks and  fabrics to the mix and see what happens.

I also come across an array of baskets to use for displaying children’s resources in, and at a fraction of the cost of new ones.

Assortment of Baskets
Assortment of Baskets

Dramatic Play

Thrift shops are the absolute best place to find real, everyday items at very good prices to add to dramatic/role play.

I look for things such as wooden and metal bowls, spoons, teapots, table cloths, vases and fake flowers or plants.

Some good things for children to set up tables and other areas include salt and pepper shakers, pots and pans, table mats and coasters.

For dressing up children love old handbags,costume jewelry and hats.

Wooden bowls and Spoons
Wooden bowls and Spoons


Threading and Stacking

Napkin rings, curtain rings, and bracelets make ideal stacking and threading activities for children and these can be found in abundance in most thrift shops.

If you can find any old tree cup stands or  paper towel holders for children to stack or hang their treasures on they great and come in different styles. I have found wood and metal stands some were jewelry stands that I converted into little stacking trees for the smaller objects.

Beads and shells. I once found and old hanging screen for a doorway made from wooden beads which I pulled apart to create threading sets.

Girl Dancing
Girl Dancing


Music and Movement

Children enjoy using scarves and sheer fabrics to move to music with and there are so many options. I recently bought 5 for 1 dollar. I was very happy with my purchase.

Chop sticks and wooden items (even a wooden bowl turned upside down) to create drums and tapping type instruments are easy to locate.

I make use off excess curtain rings by tying lengths of ribbon onto them for children to dance with.

Scarves and Fabric
Scarves and Fabric


By shopping in thrift stores with an open mind. you will begin to see the many possibilities available through a little imagination.

Play ideas need not be a costly venture, and I have only scratched the surface with some of the uses of these little treasures i have found. the possibilities are endless and exiting!

Whole settings can be transformed into magical places for children to explore.

So next time you are out and about, think about how you can save some money while providing hours of enjoyment for the children, and yourself.

Be creative and have Fun!

Happy shopping.

Please feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what you think and if you would like to see more of these type of posts.







18 Replies to “Thrift Shop Treasures for Kids Play”

  1. Hi Cass
    Love this post and I just want to be little again as there are some real treasures to play with and create with
    I will be in touch to sort out some treasures for my grandchildren
    Go well

    1. Hi Vicki, so nice to have you back visiting again. I look forward to catching up to sort out some treasures with you. thanks for stopping by.

  2. Hey Cass! How are you doing today? I really enjoyed reading the blog post on “Thrift Shop Treasures for Kids Play” as this blog contains tonnes of valuable information. The toys which you have listed in this post are good infants and I found some of the products interesting. 

    Thanks a lot for taking your time in writing this post as it’s very helpful. Well done!!!

    1. Hi Anirudh, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I am great today and I am so glad you enjoyed reading my post. Thanks for your kind words and have  great night. Cass

  3. Very nicely done site showing not only some of the treasures one can discover but also offering possible solutions and uses to engage children in learning exercises as well. 

    I remember when I was young and my favorite time in grade school class was when our teacher taught us about foreign lands and their respective cultures not just by books but by bringing back actual artifacts for the students to handle close up while the teacher spouted stories of far off land where the people lived life through very different eyes than we ever dreamed of. Such enlightenment and such fun at the same time!

    Well done Cassandra!

    1. Arthur, thank you not just for your kind comment but for transporting me to another time and place through sharing your own story. Thank you and stop by anytime. Cass

  4. I love thrift shops, yard sales and estate sales. My wife does too. This is evidenced by the amazing amount of “stuff” we have in our home!

    These are great ideas for kids and if one shops carefully, little treasures can be had for cheap! Buying these items encourages children’s creativity and that’s a wonderful thing.

    I’ve found that sometimes shopping for used goods requires a little imagination and forethought because you need to envision how they will be used.

    Thank you for your wonderful post!

    1. Hi Christopher, yes going into these places with some fore thought can be very useful. I totally get the “stuff” around the house thing, sounds just like mine:) Thank you for popping in and feel free to come again. Cass

  5. Having 2 kids I always try to find new ways to keep them entertained. To be honest I had never thought of checking out stores like this and indeed it seems like you can find crazy items at a bargain that will really spark the imagination of your children.I will definitely start looking for similar shops in my area and who knows, maybe I will find something interesting for them. Thank you for bringing up such a brilliant idea.

  6. HAHA! I used to be a preschool teacher for Bright Horizons and KinderCare Learning Center. I SO understand the obsession with “2nd hand junk” for a classroom. One time I got a very fancy fish tank and set it up in our class, besides the children trying to put toys or dunk their hands in it, they really loved it! I like your idea of getting bowls and kitchen supplies for a “play kitchen” as well as dress up items. I have a little boy who gets bored of his traditional fancy toys and this has inspired me to spruce up his playroom with things that I can find at our local Salvation Army or Goodwill. 

    I have a question in regards to cleaning the items you get at 2nd hand stores. What are some items that you DON’T recommend getting because of sanitary issues ( hard to clean or impossible to clean ) and what is a really good way to generally clean things you get from the 2nd hand store, since they are used and we really don’t know where they have been. 

    1. Hi Sophia, I knew there would be others like me out there. Thanks for commenting. With regards to cleaning, dress ups and puppets can be put through the washing machine, I also add a little eucalyptus oil to sanitize everything. A good antibacterial spray for most things and then left in the sun to dry. I have not really come across many things that I wouldn’t recommend, or that I can think of right now except some bedding or cushions unless they are like new.



  7. Hi Cass, I commend you as a teacher as you have definitely taught me and opened my mind to these creative ideas. I have kids of my own and sometimes trying to figure out ways to teach them and what things to use can be daunting. Learning from your creativity has somehow sparked some creative juice flowing through my brain as well. For that I am very thankful to you. I will most definitely be checking out thrift shops or second hand stores and be on the look out for whatever I can buy very cheap that can be utilized for teaching and developing my kids. Cheers!

    1. Mark, you have made my day thank you for your kind and encouraging words and as a parent you are the first teacher your children have. So enjoy, and have fun teaching and learning alongside your precious little ones.

      Cheers Cass

  8. Hi Cass, What wonderful ideas you have for all the oddments, to be found in thrift stores. When my late Mum lived with me, we would spend great times together searching through the things in the thrift stores.

    Another good use for a lot of the odd things you can find there is when making fiddle quilts, they come in very handy. These are made for people who have brain disorders or even for the sound of mind but old. It gives them something to do with their hands and also brings up some memories for them.

  9. First I just love the “Second Hand” sign.  In the picture of the pile my eyes immediately went to the crochet, the baskets and the old fashion clothes pins.  

    Now pretty baskets are one of my favorite things.  I have to agree with you about the price of baskets though.  You have certainly given me an idea to shop for the second hand ones and save money.  The ones you displayed look very nice.

    Thank for the ideas and all the best.

    V. Pearl

    1. Thank you for reading and yes I just loved that sign, so rustic! The baskets are some of my favourite treasures and they need not just be for the children’s play. It’s great to have a spare one or two when thinking of those last minute gifts for people. they can be dressed up with all kinds of goodies in them. Thanks again and pop in anytime. Cass

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