Dollar Store Summer Activities

Part 2

Oh dollar store, the store of my dreams… Ha ha, JUST KIDDING. But do you ever feel exhausted when you’ve ordered that big collection of books and new flashcards and TCW games (I love those!)… And then you see the total? $356.80?! That’s when I know my piano budget is shot for the month (semester or year too). But the dollar store? That place always stays in my budget and I’m continually impressed with what I can find in there.

So this week we’re teaming up with amazing Heather Nanney at Fun Key Music to bring you a 3-part series of fun summer activities using items you can find at the dollar store!  We met Heather at the MTNA National Conference in Baltimore this past March (read about that conference here and here) and we are excited to collaborate with her on this project.  We’re posting parts 1 and 2 here on 4D and she’ll post her ideas in part 3 on her blog! In total, you’ll have 10 ideas for games that use materials at your local dollar store. You’ll be ready with a bunch of new summer music games!

Today, I’m sharing 4 more ideas using items from the dollar store. See Spring’s post here to catch up on numbers 1-3. Then Heather’s post at Fun Key Music with the last 3 ideas.

4. Clothes Pins:

Chances are you already have some of these in your drawers at home, but if not just grab a pack at the dollar store. First write note names on the clothes pins. You’ll want all the white notes (A thru G) then sharps & flats. You could do more or less of these depending on what chords you want to create or what level of students you want to play with.

Then use any chord cards with chord names and have students attach the appropriate clothespins to form the chords. For example, for the card with “E minor” written on it students would find the E, G and B clothespins to clip on to the card.

This would be fun for private lessons – students could race to complete a certain number in a set time. Or for group lessons if you planned chords that didn’t use the same clothes pins or had a few sets of clothes pins.

5. Rhythm Bowling:

For rhythm bowling, find a cheap set of bowling pins and ball. (Here’s one on Amazon to give you an idea but I have found small sets with 3 pins and a ball at my dollar store so good luck looking!) On the bottom of the pins, place stickers with or write on rhythm values. When students knock down pins, they must add all the rhythms to a laminated sheet or a whiteboard of time signature with space to write in the rhythms. Then students write down those rhythms (great writing practice) and must finish the measure(s) themselves. Usually we also tap this out and count it a few times as students are trying to figure out what exactly to add in. You can let them use as many notes as they like or limit them to one note that will fill the rest of the measure. Change up the time signature

6. Note Finder Bowling:

Another use for those bowling pins – write note names on the bottom of the pins. Then young beginners will run to the piano and find those notes. Older students can use a note finder tool to find the note on the staff instead if you want to make it a bit harder.

7. Fly Swatter Games:

For fly swatter games, I refer you to the links below. There are already so many ideas online using cheap fly swatters!

Remember to check out Part 1 to catch up on numbers 1-3. Then Part 3 at Fun Key Music for the last 3 ideas. 

Author: Whitney

Whitney Hawker, NCTM, teaches group and private piano at Weber State University, Utah. She loves surprising students with the perfect piece or a new exciting game! After graduate school, she missed sharing ideas and resources daily with colleagues so she and her friend, Spring, began blogging together at