Do you ever look at all the beautiful sensory set ups on instagram and get completely overwhelmed? So many beautiful resources and tools and when you look at the price tag it can all really add up! Enter op shopping and Alice from @tinkeringwithted - whose love for op shops has been rekindled as she spends time hunting for goodies for her 2 year old son, Ted. 

Op shopping has been in my blood since I was a really little girl. My Grannie loves visiting op shops and I remember her giving me a $2 coin before entering an op shop so we could get hunting for something good! I know how overwhelming an op shop can be when you first walk into it though, stuff is everywhere, every shop sorts things differently and you never find what you are expecting! Let me break it down into categories that always helps me as I search for treasure! 


Within the homewares section I search for three main things! 

  1. Wooden things! Bowls of all sizes, egg cups, spoons and bigger trays! These sometimes sit with the kitchen items and sometimes with the more decorative items (think vases and crystal bowls!) it is absolutely worth looking in both! 

  2. All things metal! I’ve rarely entered an op shop without leaving with a $1 metal milk frothing jug. They make the perfect size for pouring in play! Don’t stop your search there, look for fancy metal cups, tea pots, large jugs and all sorts of metal bowls and vessels. These are perfect for mud kitchens as they can get super messy and clean easily! 

  3. Utensils, cutlery and measuring cups! You’ll want to visit this section for the sake of your kitchen drawers. Otherwise you'll find yourself like me in the middle of cooking unable to find a whisk as both of them have been reassigned to the mud kitchen! My preference is for metal utensils as I find they stand up to the toddler test a little better!


Next up I get searching in the toy section! Do not be discouraged by the many plastic bags full of random assortments of toys. I know it can often look like bags of junk, but I promise you that it is worth sorting through! I have found a beautiful wooden car made by a local toymaker, other vehicles, animal figurines and so many other wonderful goodies! One of my favourite toy finds I transformed for sensory play was a marble run which we use to pour sensory bases like chickpea and rice, this is an absolute favourite for Ted! Don’t forget to look for puzzles, a fraction of the price of new and perfect to hide in sensory trays for your little one to discover!

Not particularly sensory play related, but I have to tell you to check out the book section while you are there! Often the kids books are 20cents each (or a similar bargain price), if you have a book lover like me this is a great way to feed the book appetite without breaking the bank! 


Finally I check the craft section. This is hit and miss, but when it is a win it is a really good win! I mainly look for containers of buttons and beads, packets of stickers, paper and cardboard, sequins and other sparkles. I did once find a roll of curtain rings, perfect for threading practice and a fraction of the price of toy rings! 

Now that you have a plan of attack I have two final pieces of advice. Firstly, remember your cash. I love to tap my phone as much as the next person, but I never leave home without my op shop cash purse! Some of the more big name op shops do take cards these days, but the little local gems often do not! Secondly, go in with an open mind and don't be disheartened if your first op shop visit doesn’t result in bags full of goodies. Sometimes I walk away with nothing and sometimes I walk away with my hands overflowing! I find op shops do turnover their stock pretty often. Building a collection of goodies takes time and lots of quick trips! 

Happy hunting! If you find anything good I’d love you to share them with me @tinkeringwithted 

Love, Alice

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