A Valentine’s Day Motor Monday: Super Simple Hand Strengthening

I have a confession: I love the Dollar Store.  I just do.

The problem is that it’s impossible to leave without a few extra things.

BUT – that’s how I ended up with my latest and greatest Valentine’s Motor Centers.  

I swear I just went in there for a couple of birthday cards, but when I saw the “seasonal section” filled with Valentine’s Goodies, I couldn’t resist.

These adorable pink and red Valentine’s Day “table scatter” hearts were the perfect size for little hands to work on grasping.  I just started adding to my basket.  

Sigh.

Why resist?  It’s for the children!

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Weighted fidget

How to Make a Weighted Fidget

How to Make a Do-It-Yourself Weighted Fidget

I’ve been blogging a lot lately about fidgets and fidgety kids.  Parents and teachers are always looking for a way to keep fidgety kids quiet and focused.  Weighted items like vests or lap pads are commonly used by teachers to help kids who are fidgety, restless, and unfocused.  Fidgets are another common request – they are great for keeping busy fingers quiet while the rest of a child’s body is attending to the lesson at hand.

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Dollar store fidgets

10 Simple Fidgets from the Dollar $tore

Wiggly Kids Need Fidgets to Learn  

In the “olden days”,  kids were expected to sit still and listen. When they didn’t, they were in big trouble.  Nowadays, teachers and parents understand that kids need to move in order to learn.  Children who have special needs may have particular difficulty listening or maintaining attention to topic for what educators consider “appropriate” periods of time.   Thankfully, fidgets have become more and more commonplace in the classroom. Teachers have changed their classroom routines to include movement breaks and “brain breaks” so kids can get their “wiggles out”.  But when it’s time to sit and listen, nothing beats a fidget for keeping busy hands still.

 Simple Fidgets from the Dollar $tore

Teachers (and O.T.’s) spend a ton of their own money every year to make sure their kids have everything they need to learn.   As  one of those “teachers” AND a total Bargain-Hunter, I spend a lot of time at the Dollar store.  I’m teaching a class for teachers in a few days about sensory processing and I want to drive home the importance of letting kids fidget.  So I decided to start the class by giving each teacher (aka student in my class) a fidget to play with during the lecture part of my class.   I decided to share my favorite budget fidgets on my blog to help other teachers as well as all the parents of those wiggly kids.

 

 

Fidgets keep wiggly hands busy.  So the kids aren’t looking at you when you talk, Who cares!?  They know what you look like.  And very often, they can still answer your question.   So why not give them something to fidget with?

Ok, so here goes: Miss Jaime, O.T.’s Top Ten Dollar $tore Fidgets

1)  Bubble  Wrap– The best fidgets are silent, but there is really something so satisfying about the “POP” of bubble wrap.  It also works on the “pincer” grip that OT’s are always looking for.  It works on hand strength, too.  A word of caution, kids with weak hand strength have difficulty  popping the bubbles. So they tend to “sneak” a pop by using their nails to cut the bubble. Not on my watch – oh no you don’t.  Pads of the fingers only, kiddies!

2) Car Wash Mitt – this is a weird one, but if you look past the name on the label- it’s a perfect simple fidget.  the soft material just begs for fingers to play and rub and the little nubs are the perfect size for little hands.  If you wanted to take it a step further, you could open it and put some rice or beans in there.  Then it’s not only tactile, but a weighted fidget, too.

3) Microfiber Hand Towels – the ones I found at the Dollar Tree by me (in the Baby section)  have these cute little character faces on the ends.  Just one could be a nice quiet fidget.  Or you could sew two together and make a weighted lap pad.

microfibertowels

These little towels are soft with a little face for fingers to play with.

4)  Cold Compresses – Again, in the baby section.  Most people wouldn’t think of these as a fidget, but why not?  They are filled with little gel balls that are fun to squish around, and they are Quiet!

cold compresses, sensory, fidgets

These are meant for bumps and bruises, but why not as a fidget? Both squishy and quiet, they make a perfect fidget.

 

5)  Pop beads– in the Kiddie toy or “goody bag” section – there are usually  pop beads available.  Now, I can’t pretend that Dollar Store Pop beads are as good as really good pop beads from a therapy catalog.  BUT – sometimes budget pop-beads do the job.  They are quiet. Plus, they work on eye-hand coordination and bilateral coordination.

popbeads, fidgets

Popbeads are great for keeping two hands busy.

6)  Stretchy animals – Again – in the toy section or maybe the goody bag section, there are usually lots of yucky stretchy worms, spiders, frogs, etc.  They tend to be seasonal.  But they are always there.  They are quiet and small enough to fit in a pocket for silent fidgeting.

stretchy bugs, fidgets

Stretchy bugs change every season, but they are always at the dollar store!

7) Silly Putty – Silly putty is almost always available at the dollar store and it’s a great simple fidget.  It’s quiet and so satisfying to stretch and roll in between fingers.  It fits in the little “egg” to keep it nice and clean in the child’s supply box.

8) Loofah – My favorite part about being an OT is that I am able to look at things further than seeing what they are usually used for.  Everyone knows a loofah is great in the tub, but why not in the classroom?   They are quiet, they are fun to fiddle with.  Sometimes they have little animal heads on them, which makes it seem more like a toy and less like a hygiene tool.  But either way, they are great for busy fingers.

9) Tiny Koosh balls –  I like these because they fit right in a little palm or a little pocket.  They are quiet, and they are usually colorful. The tiny spikes feel good when you roll them in your hand or against a desk.  My Dollar Store usually has them in the goody  bag  section.  They usually come ten in a bag, so ten fidgets for a dollar, which makes a budget diva like myself very happy!

10) Large Squishy balls – these are usually in the toy section.  They come in fun loud colors and are sooo fun to squish, stretch, and smash.  I do like these fidgets, but I find that they are a little more distracting than the little ones.  They don’t fit in a pocket, either.

 

A lot of teachers who aren’t used to giving out or allowing fidgets will say to me “how do I explain to the other kids that only Johnny is allowed to have this toy”?  I like to tell kids that every student is different and they all need different tools to learn.  One child might need a special cushion seat and another might need special crayons. Everyone is different and just because one child has something doesn’t mean you all need it.   I love the book “Arnie and his School Tools” for this reason. It basically explains this to the kids in a cute story about Arnie, a very fidgety kid!

Arnie and His School Tools: Simple Sensory Solutions That Build Success

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Products you should check out for your Sensory Kid! (affiliate links)

 

FIDGIPOD HAND FIDGET Set of 3! Tangle Fidget Toy Pencil Tops Fidget

 

 

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sensory recipes

How to Throw a Kids Halloween Party…Sensory Style!

Autumn, pumpkin pie, costumes, and everything else.

As an OT, I love to get into the “Halloween Spirit” of things at school with my students.  Sensory recipes are always a great way to work on multiple skills at once, including Mixing, Measuring, Pouring, Stirring, and Kneading.  I’ve written before about how cooking is a great way to work on fine motor skills, bilateral coordination (using two hands), dexterity, and functional life skills.  Sensory recipes are a non-edible method of working on all the above skills, which is perfect for school.

Sensory recipes are a non-edible method of working on all the above skills, which is perfect for school.

Food Allergies at Halloween

It’s important to make sure that none of your students have food allergies or aversions when you bring a Sensory recipe  into a classroom. Some of my kids have gluten-free diets or nut allergies, so when in doubt, I send a letter home with the ingredients a week before the activity to get permission from the parent.  Better to be on the safe side.

Halloween parties often include lots of candy and junk food. Instead of the typical sugar overload, why not set up a bunch of fun Sensory activities to get your kid’s friends in the Halloween Spirit?

Halloween Sensory Recipes

Here are my five favorite Sensory recipes – with a Halloween spin!

1) Halloween Dirt Doh

I’ve written about this recipe before, it’s a simple recipe with used coffee grinds.  Make a large batch and it’s perfect for a Spooky Coffin!

Here’s the recipe:

2 cups used coffee grinds (wet or dry)

2 cups of water (add it little by little until you get the consistency you want)

2 cups of flour (add more if you need to make the doh a little more doughy)

I asked my local bagel store to save me all their used coffee grinds for a few days before our Halloween party.  When I went to pick it up, they had three bags full.  Perfect!  I filled an “under the bed storage” tupperware container with my ingredients.

I let my students mix it up with spoons and their hands.  Then we hid some “spooky” items in the dirt – eyeballs, fingers, and bones.  Add a fake tombstone and voila!

Now you have an awesome spooky sensory activity that addresses tactile defensiveness, hand strength, and bilateral coordination.   Also – used coffee grinds have a distinct odor.  Kids who are picky eaters usually have a strong sense of smell, which can trigger a gag reflex.  Engaging in “smelly” activities is a good way to work on desensitizing the sense of smell.   Finding things that are hidden in a busy background is a visual perceptual skill called visual figure ground.  Add a blindfold that takes away the visual component, and now you are working on stereognosis.  Stereognosis is the ability to recognize  an object by using tactile information.  This means a person uses their tactile sense without using their vision or sense of vision or hearing to figure out what they are touching.  Just like digging in your purse for your phone, while looking at something else.

sensory processing

Sensory Processing 101 is a vital resource for parents, therapists, and teachers who work with children with Sensory Processing Difficulties.

Bet you do that a lot! I know I do…

image2

dirt doh, coffee grind doh

2)  Halloween Slime

A simple slime recipe can be altered a million different ways.  Add a bit of food coloring or washable paint and you can color it to fit any holiday or theme.  I used my go-to slime recipe, added a bit of orange food coloring, and gave my kiddies some cheap Halloween manipulatives to play with.

Here’s the recipe:

2 cups of Elmer’s glue

2 cups of water

2 cups of liquid starch (found in the laundry aisle)

Mix the glue and the water together to thin out the glue.  Then, slowly add the liquid starch. Mix together with a spoon, then knead with hands.  Add coloring to your liking.  Once the starch is all blended (I let the kids take turns kneading and squeezing the whole batch), split the batch into individual portions for each child.  Then the fun begins!  The texture of the slime can vary, which can alter your activity. I had one class that ended up with very “stringy” slime, which reminded us of spider webs!  Another class had very firm slime, which was perfect to make Jack o’ lanterns.  Add some cookie cutters, manipulatives, etc. and let the kids get creative!  You can even leave it white and let the kids create their own mummies or ghost faces!

 

slime, Halloween, oobleck,

slime, Halloween, pumpkin

 

3) Halloween Play-doh

– you can go simple and just buy playdoh, or you can whip some up the old fashioned way.

You can use cookie cutters to make witches, pumpkins, spiders, you name it!  I like to use a chip tray to give my kids cut up pipe cleaners, wobbly eyes, and tiny spiders.  The kids can make a Halloween creation of their own design.

spidertray, sensory activities, HalloweenHalloween playdoh, spider

 

4) Pumpkin Pie Playdoh

I am a pumpkin lover. I love the taste, but I also really love the smell! Like I said, it’s good to incorporate olfactory (smelly) stuff into your activities. It can help picky eaters to broaden their boundaries and it is a great way to incorporate multi-sensory learning into your lessons.

You can use a simple play-doh recipe and add some Pumpkin Pie Spice and some orange food coloring and you have the perfect Pumpkin Pie Playdoh!

Here’s what you need to make the doh:

2 cups of flour (you can use gluten free if you need to)

1/2 cup of salt

1 cup of water

a dash of pumpkin pie spice (a make your own recipe listed below if you can’t find it)

a couple of drops of orange food coloring or washable paint

Mix the flour and the salt together. Add the water bit by bit and keep mixing and kneading until you get a firm, doughy texture.  Add the pumpkin pie spice and the orange paint. I like to do this at the end because the kids can see where the  paint isn’t mixed.  This gives them a visual cue to keep kneading, twisting, and squeezing until the colors are blended nicely.

To make pumpkin pie spice:

1/4 cup of ground cinnamon

4 tsp. ground nutmeg

4 tsp. ground ginger

1 tbs. ground allspice

This results in quite a bit of pumpkin pie spice – you can half it if you want, but I love to keep it around and use it to flavor my coffee. Add a teaspoon to your regular coffee grinds and you’ve got some fabulous pumpkin flavored coffee.  Who needs Starbucks!? Budget Divas make their own!

 

5)  Ghost Guts

My kids got a giggle out of this one!  I took a simple sensory recipe and gave it a Halloween name.  It went great!

Here’s what you need:

2 parts corn starch

2 parts shaving cream

You can give each kid a bowl or make it in one big batch.  I made it in a big Tupperware bowl and let my kids do the mixing.  I also hid some little white bones and spiders in there for my kids to pull out. They loved it.

ghost guts

 

I hope your Halloween party is a smashing sensory success!

Do you have any great Halloween Sensory Recipes to share with us?

Miss Jaime OT

Happy Halloween! ~Miss Jaime, O.T.

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Products You May Enjoy:

 

Sensory Thera-Snow

water beads, sensory activities

 

 

Jelly BeadZ® Water Gel Beads

Lakeshore Scented Dough

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Dirt Doh, sensory craft, coffee grind craft,

Y is for Yucky…

Alphabet Sensory Activities Facebook

Welcome to Alphabet Sensory Activities, hosted by The Jenny Evolution along with their partner site The Sensory Spectrum! 26 amazing bloggers have gotten together to share a sensory experience based on a letter of the alphabet every day this month. dirtdohThis post contains affiliate links.

Dirt Doh…totally yucky!  

As a contributor to the Alphabet Sensory Activities Series, I am responsible for the letter Y.  For me, the first thing I think of is  “YUCKY!”   I love to do sensory activities, especially recipes, with my class push-ins.  There are so many functional skills to work on; no matter the age of level of your students.  Stirring, Pouring, Kneading,  and Squeezing are just a few ways to work on hand strength and bilateral coordination.   Measuring, Sequencing, Calculating, and Adding are just a few ways to add Math to the Mix.

Depending on the class I am with, I like to have the children practice opening the packages, walking across the room with water from the sink, and find the measuring cups they need.  For older children, I add a math component by asking them to “double” the recipe or “half” the recipe.  If the recipe is edible, I even include daily living skills such as washing hands, setting the table, or cutting with a knife and fork.  Literally, one recipe can yield endless activities. This is one recipe that I have used in a few different ways and I am so excited to share my recipe for …

“Dirt Doh”

Dirt is Yucky! Therefore kids love it!  This is a great recipe that is also a “green” activity.  Used coffee grinds are the main ingredient, and you can switch up the recipe to change the consistency.

Here’s what you need:

1 parts used coffee grinds (wet or dry)

1 part water

1 part flour

Mix all the ingredients.  Add more flour if it’s too wet.

I’ve used this recipe in October to make a Halloween “coffin” filled with “dirt”, bones, fingers, and eyeballs. I’ve also used it in the spring as science lessons to talk about how flowers grow and how bugs live.  And worse comes to worse, just make “mud pies” because it’s fun!  Dirt Doh is so versatile!

Dirt doh, coffee grinds, sensory play

Using “dirt doh” as a spring sensory activity while learning about how flowers grow and how bugs live.

Coffee coffin, Halloween sensory

Using “Dirt Doh” to fill an under the bed storage container to make a “coffin” in October to dig for eyeballs, bones, and other Yucky stuff.

Strength, dirt doh, coffee doh

Using “dirt doh” to work on hand strength and bilateral coordination just because its fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirt is “yucky” and kids love “Yucky!!!

If you like Dirt Doh, please make sure to check out the rest of the Alphabet Sensory Activity Series on the Jenny Evolution.com.

sensory processing

Sensory Processing 101 is a vital resource for parents, teachers, and therapists who work with children with Sensory Processing difficulties.


Other posts you may be interested in:

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Products you may be interested in:

*These are affiliate links

Bartholomew and the Oobleck

 

 


Glow in The Dark Slime (Pack of 12)

 

 

 

 

 


Be Amazing Insta-Snow Jar, Makes 2 Gallons

 

 

 

Miss Jaime OT

Have any other “yucky” recipes for us? Please share!                   ~Miss Jaime, OT

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Dollar store, stocking stuffers, sensory, fidgets

Dollar Store Stocking Stuffers for your Sensory Kid…

The “little” holiday gifts are sometimes the hardest to think of….

Opening my stocking on Christmas morning was one my favorite parts of the holiday.   My mom always stuffed my stocking with little nail polishes, socks, and other tiny fun things, all individually wrapped. I’m sure she spent a fortune and a ton of time wrapping every little thing, only to the five of us rip through the stockings in less than five minutes.  As we all grew up and moved out, the stocking tradition stopped, which was soooo sad.  Oh well!  Life goes on!

As I ran to the dollar store yesterday to get some tinfoil pans for the ten pounds of mashed potatoes I need to make for Thursday, I was struck by all the awesome Sensory stuff at the Dollar Tree.   In the spirit of the holiday season, I decided to share  some of my Dollar Store know-how for all you moms out there who need to stuff a stocking for your sensory kid!

Some of this stuff is “non-traditional”,  but shouldn’t stockings be individualized to the child?

So if something seems weird but might be something your child loves, go for it.

StressBalls – Tactile and great as a fidget (also great for hand strength)

Koosh balls– Tactile and great as a fidget (some kids are very defensive to Koosh balls for some reason)

Silly Putty – Stretchy and tactile, heavy work for little hands.  (also great for hand strength)

Fake Play-Doh– I say fake because it is imitation play-doh and it’s definitely not as good as the real thing.  However, it is still fun to squeeze, squish and create with.  It just won’t last too long.

Silly String – Tactile- Kind of wet and cold when it squirts; (AMAZING for hand strength – see spray snow) and so fun to play with in the snow!

Shaving Cream – For finger painting, sensory squeeze bags, or the moonsand recipe below, etc.

Body Lotion – For massages, deep pressure and tactile input (can help calm and get little ones to sleep) Dollar Tree has princess lotion!

Hair gel – For finger painting, sensory squeeze bags, etc.

Slime/Gak – These little eggs of goo are usually in the same aisle as the stress balls – they are wet, smelly, slimy, and the containers are hard to  open (need 2 hands and great practice for opening lunch/juice boxes, etc.)

Loofah – Great in the bathtub or out, loofahs can be great for tactile and sensory input

Nail files – This is a tough one to sell for any kid, but a sensory kid really can be defensive when it comes to nail hygiene.  For girls, the promise of glittery nail polish or polish that is “Anna and Elsa’s” favorite color can help persuade them for a little, soak, scrub, and file.  For  boys, sometimes watching mom or dad or an older brother can be a little helpful.  If they really hate getting their nails clipped and or filed, try to do it after a bath and use a buffer instead of a nail file (until they tolerate it).

Velvet color by number– These are fuzzy and fun for kids who enjoy coloring and the tactile feedback helps kids to color within the lines

Scratch Art – These vary by store but the concept is the same, grab your scratcher (with a perfect pencil grasp, of course) and scratch the paper until some fabulous art shows through.  It’s fun.

Chalkboard games – Many of these from the Dollar Store are cheap and don’t last long. But writing with chalk provides a kinesthetic feedback that kids don’t get to experience with dry erase, pencil, writing on a tablet, etc.  It is fun and if used consistently, can really help a child’s motor skills.

Cornstarch – This is a weird one, and your kid may think you’re crazy.

1)  You can use cornstarch to make “oobleck” ( a Dr. Suess favorite – look up the book and here is the link to the recipe)

2) You can make moonsand

Bubblewrap – so, so, fun.  I bring bubble wrap to my classes sometimes when I want to strengthen a pincer or pencil grasp. The weak kids always want to “rip” the plastic with their nails.  Not on my watch!  Get those “pinchers” moving.

Stretchy Bugs, Animals, Creatures, etc. – These are great fidgets for a kid who needs to have something in their hands all the time.

“Fidgets” – I consider mini koosh balls, tops, jacks, mini slinkys, etc. all to be fidgets.  They are small and keep little hands busy when mouths are supposed to be quiet (teacher is talking, waiting in waiting room, sitting in movie theater, etc.)

Grow In Water Pills – I buy these pills a lot when I’m at the Dollar Store – they look like an aspirin, but when they are submerged in hot water, the plastic coating around them starts to melt and then a little sponge in the shape of a bug, dinosaur, etc., pops out for kids to play with.   Because I am always looking for ways to work on hand strength, I put a bunch in a tupperware and then give my students Travel Size Water Bottles  filled with hot water so they can squeeze, squeeze, squeeze until their hands get tired.  I’m so mean, right!?  But they love it and then they get to have water play.  Also, the sponges can be used later for painting activities, etc.   You can do a lot with these little guys – and they are usually 9 pills for a buck – what a bargain!

Grow in Water Animals –  Same concept as above.  But they are bigger and cost $1 each – and they will definitely take up more room in the stocking (that’s always a plus!)

Mechanical pencils -there is something thrilling about replacing the broken lead of a mechanical pencil. That is, the first few times.  After that you start to get annoyed and then think… Maybe I shouldn’t press so hard….If you have a child that presses way too hard when he or she writes, give these a try.  The feedback from the break may be a help with that habit.  If your child is in the second grade or older, I suggest trying to get them to change the lead themselves. Resist the urge to automatically do it for them. Maybe they will be able to do it.

Highlighters – Kids love highlighters.  I think it is because they are mostly a “grown-up” thing.  However, highlighters can be great to help kids with copying, “highlight one line blue, copy it, next line yellow, copy, etc… They can also be great to help outline a shape when your child needs to “cut on the line”. They can help highlight where to write when they need to skip spaces or write smaller. They are even good to make boxes to keep your letters and words spaced properly.

Flashlights – What kid doesn’t love their “own” flashlight?  It may seem like a weird gift, but you can explain that it is their special flashlight to use if the lights ever go out. You can also use it to work on visual tracking and scanning, games like I spy, ( turn the lights off in the living room, “I spy, Daddy!,  I spy, the TV set!, etc.” Your child  has to move the beam of light (aka. tracking) and then settle on the object he is looking for.

Basting Brush – Again, this one is a little weird, but it is basically a plastic paint brush.  The bristles are a different texture for your “multi-sensory” kid and it can be just another tool to have fun and paint with.  Besides, your child doesn’t even know what basting is.

Spray Snow – Spray Snow can provide hours of fun, but obviously your child needs to be chaperoned.  Aerosol cans like these can be dangerous, but I love the position that the little hand needs to take in order to get it to “squirt”.  It is EXTREMELY difficult to hold the cylinder of a can in your thumb, middle, ring and pinky while your index sits on and squeezes the cap.   This one is for older kids (like 8 and up).

20141125_170449

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sensory processing

Sensory Processing 101 is a vital resource for parents, therapists, and teachers who work with Sensory Processing difficulties.

Oral Motor

Okay, I am going to include this because so many children have weak oral motor skills and it can impact their speech,  eating habits, and oral hygiene.   That said, your house will be very loud and potentially obnoxious if you stuff your kids’ stockings with these toys.  BUT! in the spirit of the holidays…. it is supposed to be all about the kids, right?  Maybe confiscate the loud ones for “another day” when they can go outside or in the soundproof basement, etc.

Whistles – in the party favor section, there are a lot of different whistles, princess, whistles, hunting “duck” whistles, etc.

Blow toys- not sure what these babies are called exactly, but you have to control your breath so the ball goes up but not too far, etc.  This works on force modulation (if you remember from last week) and breath control.

20141125_164155

 

Balloons – Kids love balloons and there are a million ways to play with them.  You can put them in their gift and then offer to blow one up and they are likely to play with the balloon longer than your other present.  For older kids, trying to blow up a balloon is a major deal, and something we totally take for granted.   Many dollar stores have them multi-colored bags or one color, which can be fun if you get your child to “help decorate” for the holidays.

Blow outs – these look like the annoying noise makers from New Years Eve, but way bigger.

Novelty straws – Straws are a great way to work on “sucking” and oral motor “strengthening”.  The Dollar Store has fun ones for both boys and girls.

Noise Horns – Again, so annoying but so strangely addicting…

Musical Instruments – On this particular trip to the Dollar Tree, there were a lot of recorders.  Blowing would be work alone, but then you have the eye-hand coordination to try to cover up the holes at the same time.

 

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What is your favorite Dollar $tore Stocking Stuffer?  Please leave a comment and let us know!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!      ~Miss Jaime, O.T.

 

 

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