Dollar Store Zen

27 Sep

The most Zen-inducing activities cost just $1 or less.

Zen is an awareness, a living in the moment that brings a feeling of joy. At the best of times, this is free. Somedays, we need a little help getting there and that’s where the dollar store comes in.

In my travels, I’ve discovered that dollar stores do not exist everywhere, which made me all the more grateful that they are plentiful here in upstate New York. The dollar store is great for so many reasons, including their ability to completely add more Zen time into your everyday life.


The dollar store can be a tricky place, however. You can easily be overwhelmed by lots of “good bargins” and go home mad at yourself for buying lots of junk that you don’t need, that breaks quickly or that just clutters up your space.

Beyond that risk are the real prizes to anyone looking to be more present and aware in their life, especially while playing with a child. The cheapest, simplest toys can often be the most Zen-inducing.

Balloons: I buy balloons 36/$1 (but 12/$1 is more common at many stores I think). I buy them as cheap as I can get them as long as they are large enough to blow up without artificial assistance. I have bought bendable balloons and other novelties, but those aren’t the ones I’m referring to here.

I’m talking about the cheap blow-up balloons that you practically bust a lung over if you haven’t tried blowing any up in a while.

Balloons make a party, they can be a kick-ball, volleyball or baseball. You can tie them to a string, fill them with water or rub them around on your hair to make it stand on end. I always keep balloons on hand and whip them out anytime we need a little bit of jump around fun time.

Balloons are even more Zen because the joy they bring is temporary and fleeting. The balloons will pop, going out with one last BANG! or they will slowly and gradually lose their air.

Bubbles: Bubbles are beautiful. The glistening prisms of light are even more fleeting, only existing for a moment or two. So, for a bubble, it is a short life, but a glorious one. The dollar store stocks personalized containers, funny shaped wands, big jugs of bubble solution (as well as soap if you want to make your own).

Not just a summertime activity at my house, bubbles fill the bath and lube up the floor during the long winter months. Regardless, no matter where or when I’m blowing a bubble, I feel the warmth of the sun on my face.

Stickers/Tattoos: The temporary nature of the wet and peel tattoos is quite contradictory to the permanance of the “real” kind. Which is why I like them. You can cover yourself in tattoos one day and they they are gone by the next. Watching them as they wear off brings you to an awareness of how your body exists in the moment.

Seeing Bugs Bunny’s distorted head on your arm because you absent-mindedly rubbed it against your sweater while getting dressed brings a destinct visual to how your body exists and manuvers in this space.

Stickers are the same way. Stickers that have peeled off your shirt show you just how the fabric was weaved together in the lint shadows that are left behind.

Many other great Zen-toys can be found at the dollar-store including spinning tops, clay, sand, stones, (incense and candles for the adults) etc. So anytime I feel like I need some cheap, easy Zen activities to do with my toddler, I take a drive over to the dollar store and find just what I was looking for.




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