24 ways to get something for nothing and
Article By Christa J Koch Owner/Operator of Preschooleducation.com
© Copyright by Preschool Education
There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but there are many other
things that are free for the asking. The best advice I can share from my
years of teaching is ask,
ask, ask. You have nothing to lose by asking for what you need. The worse
they can say is no. Remember when asking to always be polite and
courteous. Donít be greedy. Just ask for how many you will need. You are
more likely to get 20 of something donated then 100. Most importantly,
remember to send a thank you card from the kids. If possible include a
photo of the project you made with the items donated. This is so very
important, because if you donít you will dry up the well for other
Below is a list to get you started:
- Your number one resource is parents. Ask parent to donate recycled
supplies needed to do different projects. Send home a colorful note
asking for help. I.e. Magazines, baby food jars, paper tubes, coffee
cans, shoeboxes, etcÖ
- Newspaper offices often have rolls of newsprint (about 20 to 25 feet
long) left over. They change to new rolls before they get all the way
to the end. The paper is wide enough for body tracing and other large
exciting art projects. Most rolls are free or sold for a small fee.
- Labels are easy to get. Just like the newsprint some companies have
left over rolls of box labels. They too change the rolls before they
get to the end. If the company does in house packing, chances are they
have end of rolls they would be glad to give away. I get mine from
Friskies pet care.
- Printing shops are a wonderful source of scrap paper. They usually
have a large supply of scrap paper available in many shapes, sizes,
colors, and textures. When you call or stop by, ask to speak to the
owner or the manager. Most times they will put a box aside for you on
a regular basis. Just make sure you pick it up on a regular basis too,
or they will recycle it. They donít want it cluttering their office.
- Film containers are fairly easy to come by if you know the right
places to look. Try you local Wal-Mart or any film-processing store.
They usually have tons of them. The film containers are not sent with
the film for processing, and most times are thrown into a separate can
for recycling. At one point I heard a rumor that the film containers
are dangerous to use. That there are chemicals in them. This is NOT
true. There is no film processing chemicals in the containers. They
never make it that far. The film containers are no more dangerous then
using a soda bottle.
- Local businesses are usually your best bet to get things free. The
Mom & Pop stores are willing to help the community where they can.
Chain stores take a bit more coaxing. I know a woman who searched
around for nail aprons for a fatherís day gift. The chain stores
(not mentioning any names) would not help, but a local hardware store
was more then happy to help.
- Storage Containers can be easy to get. Check with your local Ice
cream shop and ask them to clean and save the large ice cream
containers. They are great for storing toys on a shelf. Ask your local
shoe store if they can donate shoeboxes. Print shops are a good source
of paper boxes. They are sturdy and have lids. Mc Donaldís is
another good source of boxes. Ask the manager or host(ess) to save you
some tomato boxes.
- Are you in the need of wallpaper or carpet samples? Go around to
your local home decorating stores, and carpet stores. Ask them for
their old samples. Home stores change wallpaper styles ever few
months. Ask for their old books. Some time carpet stores will charge
for their carpet samples. If you donít want to pay for them, check
other carpet stores.
- Have you ever thoughÖ The children made such beautiful card for
their mothers for motherís day, I only wish we had some nice
envelopes to put them in. Well now you can have them. Free colored
envelopes can be yours. Here is what happens, most card manufactures
want all unsold cards shipped back to their warehouse. But most times
they donít want the envelopes. This means they just get thrown out.
So, the day after a card-giving holiday go to a store that sells
greeting cards. Ask to speak to the clerk in charge of the card
department or the store manager. They are usually more then happy to
save them for you. You will never need another envelope again!
- Again Parents are your best resource. Find out if any parents work
for an airline or a cafeteria. Ask if they can get some trays donated
to your school. Trays are great for playing with playdough or to give
each child their own working station.
- Find out if you have any parents that are electricians or work on
telephone lines. Phone wires are great for sparking childrenís
creativity. The phone wire comes in many colors and is very easy to
bend. (My Husband is an electrician and is able to get me some scrap
pieces. The kids in my room love it.)
- Ask around at your local upholstery shop or a custom fabric shop for
out dated fabric samples and scrap pieces. You will be surprised what
they will give you.
- Old magazines can be yours free for the asking. Check with your
doctorís office. Unless you have one of those dreaded doctors who
still has magazines from the 1970ís in their office. Most change and
replace there magazines every 6 months or so. Ask them to put them
aside for you. Make sure you go pick them up or they will most likely
get thrown away.
- Never underestimate the value of going to auctions, thrift shops and
garage sales. I once got three boxes full of yarn for $.25 at an
auction. I have not paid full price for childrenís books in years.
Between garage sales and the thrift shops, I have not paid over a
quarter for a book. If you go to garage sales and find something you
like, make sure to mention it is for your school. Some times people
will give it to you for nothing.
- Cabinetmakers, furniture builders, and carpenters have small pieces
of scrap wood in many shapes and sizes. They are great for wood
sculptures. Ask them to save their scraps for your classroom to use.
- If you have a local winery that does tasting, drop by or give them a
call. Ask them to save the corks for you. I did this and wound up with
4 large zip lock bags full of them.
- Foam meat trays can be used for many projects. It is not always safe
to use trays that have had meat on them, unless they have been washed
thoroughly. A great way to get clean, unused trays is to go to your
local grocery store and ask to speak to the meat manager. Tell the
manager what you have in mind and what you need. Remember the quantity
tip. Donít ask for to many.
- Pizza boxes can be great for many things. Two examples are; Use the
pizza boxes to store artwork of all sizes. You can label a box for
each child and make them their portfolio. Second, if you teach in
a small classroom and do not have the space to dry art projects you
can place them in pizza boxes, then stack the boxes. Ask your local
pizza shop to donate boxes. Some shops might not give them to you, but
they may offer to sell them to you for a low cost.
- Everyone makes mistakes. Keeping this in mind check with your local
hardware store. They often have miss-cut keys that they will donate to
your class. They are great for math manipulative.
- Mc Donaldís will often donate drink trays, cups, etcÖ Your best
bet is to talk to the owner or the hostess / host if your Mc Donaldís
has one. They can not resist some PR.
- Fabric stores are a great resource of cardboard bolts. Most often
they give them away. They also sell ribbon ends and mis-cuts
- A local florist can be a valuable asset too. You can ask them for
some foil wrap. It comes in many colors. They often have roll ends that
they will give you or sell to you cheaply. Ask about some floristís
- Children love to see photos of themselves and to take photos too.
The problem is film is so expensive. Ask the manager at a specialty
photo shop if they will sell you expired film at a discounted price.
Many times they will sell it to you for a fraction of the price, and
the film is still good enough for casual classroom pictures.
- Getting used books is an inexpensive way to build your classroom
library. I mentioned the thrift shops earlier, but the library can
help too. Ask your local library to let you know when they will have
used book sales. Many libraries will sell to a select group prior to
general public sale.