Although garage and yard sales normally happen during the summer months, down here in south Texas, and in areas where the temperatures are less inclined for snow, these sales occur in the winter time as well. In my area, this is the time of year when parents unclutter their kids' closets and toy boxes to make way for the new toys Santa brought. This is also the perfect time to get a few "new" items to put in your classroom, at really good bargain prices!
Here's a few tips and tricks to give you an idea what to watch out for, and what you might want to avoid:
* stuffed animals - you'll need to machine wash them before taking them into your classroom, unless you feel doing so would destroy the toy, then don't buy
* puzzles - double-check with the seller to make sure all the pieces are there, and stay with the larger sized/small number ratio (ex: 24-28 pieces per puzzle)
* trucks and cars - stay with the metal cast and not the plastic* doll houses and make-believe furniture - keep in mind how much room you have in your classroom before purchasing
* incomplete LEGO, building block, Tinker Toy, and Log Cabin sets* marbles, balls
* small play sets like Army men, dollhouse people, etc. - be sure to clean thoroughly first before using
* card games - although it might not be a game 5 year-olds can learn, I can find lots of other uses for them. And many times the kids love to make up their own game with them.
* old picture books, workbooks, and coloring books - even if a few pages have been scribbled on, they're worth a nickle or dime and placing them in your writing center (perhaps there may be a page or two inside that would make a great worksheet, too!)
Remember, today's generation is inundated with video and other types of electronic games. More often than not, I'm finding my classes lacking in imaginative skills. Playing make-believe and creating worlds out of thin air need to be encouraged. Toys which give them that ability are the best kind. And garage sales are great, inexpensive places to stock your classroom.