Hands-on force and motion activities are so fun for both me and my students, so I love discovering dollar store science materials to support my lessons and investigations. In this post I’ll share my list of dollar store must-haves for teaching any third grade Force & Motion unit.
I’ve included a little information on the ways I use these dollar store items in my force and motion investigations, but if you want to check out the full unit click here for this resource!
Patterns of Motion Dollar Store Science Materials
One activity that is always a hit with my students is when we predict the pattern of motion of a bouncy ball. I have students work in pairs with one student as the ball dropper and one student as the measurer/recorder. The two students drop a bouncy ball and measure how high it bounces three times. Then, they predict the future motion of the ball for bounces 4 and 5.
We talk about the patterns of motion, as well as the forces acting on the ball. It’s such a fun activity and it really sticks in students’ brains!
Small paper cups are great to use for a lot of things in the classroom, but I love also using these dollar store science materials for teaching about patterns of motion in third grade. First, we set up a ramp using cardboard and stacked textbooks. I show students the paper cup and ask them to predict its pattern of motion down the ramp and explain their thinking.
Then, we roll a paper cup down the ramp. Students notice that the paper cup goes toward one side instead of going straight down the ramp. We compare it with a cylinder-shaped object, like a can of soup, and we talk about how the two objects’ shapes affect their patterns of motion down the ramp.
After we talk about the patterns of motion of the cup down the ramp by itself, I give groups of students two cups and some tape. I ask them to work together to figure out how to make the cups go straight down the ramp instead of going to one side. If you tape the bottoms of the cups together, the cups will go straight down the ramp!
Cone-shaped party hats can be used in the same way as the cups to help students practice predicting patterns of motion down a ramp. Giving multiple examples of objects that will exhibit a certain pattern really seals the deal with helping my students solidify their understanding of why the objects move that way.
Balanced & Unbalanced Forces Dollar Store Science Materials
These wooden skewers are a key part of the activity I use to help students understand balanced forces at work. I have students design a structure that uses balanced forces to hold up a steel ball. Students get wooden skewers, different kinds of magnets, yarn, a rubber band, and clay to make their structures. These are great hands-on dollar store science materials to really get students thinking about balanced forces!
Another material for the balanced forces activity is clay, which is also available at the dollar store. The clay can be rolled into balls and used to connect the wooden skewers together for the structures students make.
Contact & Non-contact Forces Dollar Store Science Materials
Dominoes are awesome for giving a great visual of a chain reaction caused by forces! I like to give dominoes as a material to use when I have students build a chain reaction machine. It’s so fun to see them explore forces in this hands-on way!
For the Building a Chain Reaction Machine activity, I give students a variety of options to use for materials. I show examples of these machines in videos and we discuss the forces at work. Then, I let students plan and create their own! There’s basically just one general guideline: their structures must include at least one contact force, one noncontact force, and one magnetic force.
I love having Legos in my classroom to provide an option for indoor recess, so I’m glad they’re available at the dollar store! They’re also perfect for so many STEM activities, and I always make these dollar store science materials an option to use for the Building a Chain Reaction Machine activity.
These wooden blocks are available at the dollar store, and they can be used for several third grade force and motion activities. They’re another material I let students choose to use for the Building a Chain Reaction Machine activity.
Race car track
Mini race car tracks are available at the dollar store, and they are perfect to provide as another building material in the Building a Chain Reaction Machine activity. I love seeing what creative ideas students come up with by using all of these materials!
Magnetism & Electromagnets Dollar Store Science Materials
A variety of magnets are a must-have for teaching third grade forces and motions activities! I’ve never had a student who was not fascinated with hands-on magnetism investigations, so I always stock up on some different magnet options that the dollar store offers.
One of the last investigations in my Force & Motion unit allows students to use a AA battery, copper wire, a magnet, and a few other materials to build a device that can sort metal by weight. They basically get a chance to create their own little electromagnet! So if you’re at the dollar store be sure to scoop up these dollar store science materials and have students try solving this real world problem.
We use safety pins from the dollar store as one of the items that get sorted in our electromagnet investigation. Students will be able to pick up safety pins with their magnets.
No hands-on magnetic force activities would be complete without paperclips! There are so many different ways to show magnetic force using magnets and paperclips. Even just spreading paperclips on the floor and having students pick them up with magnetic force can be exciting and fun for students (and simple for teachers!)
We use wooden cubes from the dollar store as one of the materials to test out what objects magnetic force acts on. They can also be used for the Building a Chain Reaction Machine activity.
I use the thicker craft sticks that you can get at the dollar store to do a ton of my force and motion activities. My students especially love the Measuring a Magnetic Field activity we use them for. Students get a bar magnet, a paperclip, yarn, a ruler, and a craft stick. They tape the magnet to the craft stick, then use the paperclip tied to yarn to measure the magnetic field of the magnet.
Exploring Electricity Dollar Store Science Materials
We use dollar store balloons for a ton of stuff, but they are especially important with our electricity investigations. It’s so fun to see my students’ faces light up when we do our investigation exploring how electric force can levitate objects!
To do this activity, we use a dish towel and rub it on a blown up balloon to create static electricity. Then we cut part of a plastic bag and rub the dish towel on that. After that, we hold the piece of the plastic bag over the balloon and release it! The electric charges will cause the piece of the plastic bag to levitate over the balloon.
We also use dollar store pool noodles in our electric force levitation activity! We rub the same dish towel on a piece of a pool noodle. Then we test if it can be electrically charged to levitate the piece of the plastic bag!
Force and Motion Lesson Plans
If you’re teaching a unit on force and motion or patterns of motion soon these science units have you covered with detailed lesson plans, high engagement teaching Powerpoint, STEM activities, assessments and more! Click here to see the Force and Motion units.
I hope you’re able to snag these dollar store science materials for teaching force and motion at your local dollar store! Pin this post to come back to it while you’re shopping!
If you’re looking for more Force & Motion activities, take a look at these posts: