August is here, and as schools send out their parent welcome letters, parents are busy shopping for new clothes that fit just right and checking off items on the school supply list. But this year, instead of visiting the big box stores like everyone else, here are a few hidden gems to visit as you make the rounds, getting ready for the start of a new academic year.
Being fashionable doesn't have to break the bank when shopping at Wiggle Room. Located in Bethesda, this high end consignment store's shelves are always brimming with gently used designer duds for infants through age twelve. From diaper bags to shoes and books, Wiggle Room is great for outfitting your kids in the best without breaking the bank. Ralph Lauren, Lilly Pulitzer, and Gap are always found on the racks for much less than retail and even under the sale price. There are often sales on items that have been in-store for a period of time, so be sure to look for a sign on the way in or ask about additional discounts on items with tags dated before a certain date to secure extra savings.
Lakeshore Learning Stores are a treasure trove of learning materials to supplement what your preschooler or elementary-age child is doing at school with at-home instruction. A favorite of teachers everywhere, Lakeshore retail stores in Alexandria and Towson provide high quality educational materials to foster a lifelong love of learning in a highly organized store that is visually appealing thanks to the great signage and colorful products. It's also a great place to purchase a gift certificate for a beloved teacher for the holidays and at the end of the year!
Independently owned Barston's Child's Play is an institution and a must-visit for those school-year birthday gifts. With five different locations around the DC area, Child's Play is a throwback to toy stores of yesteryear. Unique items abound, and the helpful sales staff is always at the ready to answer any questions or help you locate that obscure toy you can't seem to find among the many treasures on the brimming shelves. Whether shopping at Child's Play for a birthday present, special treat, or even just browsing, it's refreshing change from big box stores.
School supplies that will stand out from the crowd can be found at Paper Source in Annapolis, Alexandria, Georgetown, and Bethesda. Funky Japanese erasers, pencils with whimsical prints, and less-than-boring notebooks will delight young learners and their older siblings. Start the school year on the right foot and get the household organized with visually dazzling file folders to help keep the endless stream of papers in order and an array of calendars to keep schedules straight. While you're there, pick up a pack of note cards as a back-to-school gift for your child's teacher and have your kids choose some, too, to encourage a love of writing.
With school starting, Halloween will be right around the corner. Area thrift stores like Value Village (Hyattsville and Silver Spring) are a wonderful resource for finding elements of the most creative costumes. Go early and go often to not feel rushed in finding what you need. Also shop on Mondays, Thursdays, or holidays to secure an additional 25% off the price on the tag. Value Village is also a good place to find glass vases for those flower bouquets for Teacher Appreciation Week later in the year! While you're going, pack up a bag of things your children have outgrown or household items that you no longer need for a tax-deductible donation before you shop.
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