How to Plan Using Themes for Tots and Preschoolers

How to Plan Using Themes

I don’t always have a theme going on, but I often base Tot School, Preschool, and Kindergarten activities around a theme. I am going to share a bit about how I organize my thoughts, our stuff, and our week within a theme. This post is more for those moms who are feeling a bit lost and just need some simple direction. If you already use themes in your homeschool, I doubt you will learn anything new ~ I could probably learn from you!

Before I begin, please know that it is totally OK if you don’t do theme based learning with young kids.  I did very little of this with PacMan, and he has turned out just fine!  I think we homeschool moms can tend to go overboard sometimes, and feel the need to do it all.  I struggle with this too and need to remind myself that my simple presence as their mom and teacher is more important than any theme we ever do!  That being said, I do enjoy our themes and so do my kids.  We all think it is fun, so it works for us right now during this season of life!


~ How I Choose Themes ~

Themes in our homeschool are usually chosen one of two ways.  First, I will develop a school theme around a particular interest my child has.  A few examples of this in action are below…

The second way I choose themes is based around seasons or holidays.


~ How I Plan for the Theme ~

Once I have decided on the theme, I gather all of my own items, which includes:

  • Sensory Bin items {we don’t always have a sensory bin, but often I do include one for theme weeks}
  • Special toys {animals, games, etc.} that go along with the theme
  • Printables
  • Books IMG_0668

After I gather what I already have I begin searching online for what is new, mainly in the area of printables.  I create a Pinterest board for the theme and record all of my findings, whether I use them or not.  Using the Angry Birds theme as an example, here is my idea collection board. I try to keep my Pinterest Boards alphabetized in the theme section, so you can easily find my ideas.  This way when I go back to blog about anything, I can easily find links to share when we used things others have created.

I do not print an entire printable pack.  I usually will only print a few pages specific to the interests/abilities of my child. 

I utilize notebooks to save on printing and laminating.  I will put together a notebook with printables.  Printables that can be used with dry erase markers are slipped into heavy weight sheet protectors.  Consumable printables are 3 hole punched and placed in the notebook also, so I don’t forget what I have. Below is a photo of her Fall Theme notebook…

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I get my new themes set up for the kids on Sunday evening, so that is my final night of prep and set up.  By that point it is fairly easy to pull out and set up everything I have gathered.  Here are a few photos of theme set ups, the beauty only lasts for a few seconds on Monday morning, the rest of the week it is always a bit chaotic.  I enjoy the organized set-up and display! I do NOT always do an elaborate set-up for a theme, it is certainly not necessary at all.  Ladybug really enjoys the display so I will do it for her if I have the energy!

All photos are linked to the blog post they came from. Our shelf is from Ikea {Trofast}.

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Pumpkin Tot School-3446 Thanksgiving Theme Tot School-4075



~ How I Organize the Stuff ~

Along with themes comes a lot of stuff; books, sensory bin items, special toys/games, and of course printables! When certain themes are not in use, the stuff is sorted so I can find it easily. 

Printables are stored using this methodStoring Theme Printables

 

Books are sorted using this methodBook Storage

 

Extra stuff, including small toys, animals, and more are stored in labeled bins.  Although, some things that are played with on a regular basis, are sorted within their regular toys so I have to remember to dig things out. Here are a couple of my bins, which are stored in our storage room.  You can see our homeschool storage room here, and here.

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I store seasonal themes in bigger bins, with the book boxes alongside.  Here is a shot of my storage shelves for the season themes…

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~ A Few FAQ ~

Do you use everything you print, or set up out for a theme?

NO!  I almost always have more than we use.  If my young child isn’t interested, we skip certain things.  I do my best to print and create activities my child will enjoy, but sometimes I am wrong.  I believe in child-led exploration and learning during the younger years, so even though I may fill her trays and notebook with many activities, it is OK if she only chooses to do a few. 

What about “normal” school during a theme?

Usually I just throw in a theme along with whatever curriculum/program we are using.  There are times I will take a break from regular curriculum and just do a theme.  I don’t have any set rule for this, I just go with the flow.

What about multiple ages?  What do your other kids do when a theme is planned specifically for 1 child?

I do my best to include the other kids in a theme as much as possible.  PacMan joins in with special games, and also loves sensory bin play! If a theme is for Krash {such as Angry Birds} I find ways to included the other 2 in the play/learning time too. Same is true when ladybug has a special theme, such as Doc McStuffins.  We all played doctor the animals together!  I usually focus my theme efforts around one child {age}, and then will add in a couple of extras for the others.


Be sure to visit iHomeschool Network to see more Homeschool Planning posts!

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Tot School ~ Christmas Fun Part 2

~ Ladybug is 44.5 Months Old ~Tot-School_thumb3_thumb_thumb_thumb_[2]


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We are doing 2 weeks of all Christmas themed school, you can find just about everything you will see pictured below in my Christmas Theme Collection post, and on my Christmas Theme Pinterest board.

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Last year I introduced the Christmas Fun Notebooks and Ladybug in particular was VERY excited to see hers back out this year. I refilled it with some of the same printables, and added tons of new stuff for her too!

She loves the Christmas Alphabet MazesCurly Hair-5294

We worked on her color to match page from our Just Color Christmas set…Curly Hair-5257

She really liked this one!Curly Hair-5258

She also did the listen and color page with me…Curly Hair-5292

The day I surprised my kids with the M&M Christmas Tree Game was a good day! Christmas Tot School-5206

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They couldn’t believe I was going to let them eat them when we were done!Christmas Tot School-5209

We also played the sight word Christmas game all together, PacMan helped Ladybug, while Krash worked on his words independently.Curly Hair-5287

She made her own Christmas cards for a few special people and really put a LOT of thought and time into each one.  I let her do whatever she wanted!

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By mid day, this is usually what our room looks like if we don’t do a clean up.  The kids were having fun with the sensory bin and the card making items. There was no point to clean it all up until the day was done.  Chaos rules the room on most days, but we almost always put it back together when the day is done.Christmas Tot School-5234


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The Christmas Sensory Bin began with the usual base of just red and green, with spoons, tongs, and a sorting tray. We continue to add little surprises to the bin each day {I have 12 total}.  On this day she was opening the bin of tiny toys {a random assortment of little Christmas toys; Weebles, mini Santas, a Christmas train, etc.}Christmas Tot School-5185

She was very impressed!

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The new little surprises and bins kept coming, and the kids had fun each and every day!Curly Hair-5277

Sorting like items is a VERY favorite of Ladybug’s…Curly Hair-5272

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Techy Tot

I bought a new school app, Montessori Numbers, last week and it is a great one!  It is a great number app; working on identifying, counting, and even writing numbers.  It has a wide ability range so is perfect for Ladybug and Krash.Curly Hair-5297

Best part, they both LOVE it!

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Ladybug enjoyed making Christmas gift crafts with me one day while the boys were away with Daddy.  Curly Hair-5316

She also enjoyed having her curly hair back again for a day!

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She really liked her snow globe, and decided to keep it as her gift to herself.

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Insta-Tot_thumb2_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[1] Ladybug’s weeks on Instagram {I am using Printsgram to make the layout for the week!}

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We are 1plus1plus1 on Instagram, follow us here!


A Few Popular Tot Posts…

Busy-Hands-Play-Dough-Box222222Printable-Theme-Packs1222222Where-to-Begin-with-Tot-School222222Following-the-Lead-of-the-Child12222[1]iPad-Easy-Readers4222222Tot-School-Printables4222222

See the Tot School webpage here!Tot-School-early-learning-through-pl[1]

New to linking up here? Read this first! Basics: write a specific post about what you did with your tot, link up the permalink from your post, link back to Tot School within that post, put your tot’s age in months in ( ) like this: (43 months).

Let’s Explore The Arctic & Antarctica Bundle

The Let’s Explore The Arctic & Antarctica Bundle is for sale in my Teacher’s Notebook Shop! The basic Calendar Connections cards will stay FREE, the premium design will bundled with the eBook for sale, for just $1.50!

Arctic Bundle

The premium calendar cards print front to back and have a more unique design featuring a title on the front of the card.

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The bundle also includes a page with the direct link to the Let’s Explore The Arctic & Antarctica eBook…so it will open separately from the calendar cards.

Lets Explore The Arctic and Antarctica eBook

 

The pages of the eBook look like this…

Let's Explore The Arctic and Antarctica eBook 6 Let's Explore The Arctic and Antarctica eBook 29

Learn how to put eBooks onto your iPad or other device here!

I am grateful to Shannon for partnering with me on this project! We both thank you for your support through any purchases you make of these bundles we are putting together! I am planning to slowly convert all past sets and any new sets to the bundle format.

Purchase your Let’s Explore The Arctic & Antarctica Bundle here!

{you can download the first 2 pages free to see how the cards print front to back}


Lets-Explore-Botany-Button8 Geology Lets-Explore-Bugs-Button8 

Calendar Connections

Weekly Wrap-Up for a Few Weeks

Homeschool-Class

Our Christmas homeschool schedule is in full swing.  For us that means I am doing a LOT with Pac to get ahead before the break, nothing planned with Krash {he’s already ahead on his curriculum}, and nothing planned with Ladybug.  I have Christmas school for the little 2 and the big guy joins in periodically.

Lately I have been asked quite a few times about the un-chaotic look of our schoolroom, people wondering if it is always so neat and orderly.  I literally laugh every time I get asked this, as the framing of a photo does a lot of cover up!  I put on my wider angle lens and snapped a typical view for those of you wondering.  This was about 2 hours into a school day.  You can see the Christmas sensory bin everywhere, Christmas stickers galore {the little guys were making cards for their gymnastics coaches}, and various other messes-I think I spy a train track in the background.

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For comparison, this shot was taken just minutes after a school day began, major difference, huh?Christmas Sensory Bin-5022

Our schoolroom is messy and energetic for most of the day and we clean it up together in the end.  Usually once after school, or before lunch if I am on top of my game.  Then the kids often play in here in the evenings and they clean it up before bed.  I have things organized for self-clean up, they all know where things go and how to clean it up.  Labels and bins save the day!

On another note, to let you know that I am indeed a typical mom and not some supermom, we are officially Truth in the Tinsel drop-outs this year. We made it strong until about day 10 and then sickness and busy-ness set in and we just fell too far behind. I should have known to just pick one thing this year, but I loved Truth in the Tinsel so much I wanted to do it again.  Oh well, live and learn.Christmas Homeschool-5017

We have kept up with our Jesse Tree Calendar Connections, these are simple and the kids have enjoyed using the eBook even on their own.  The best thing that we have kept up with is The Sparkle Box, the kids have been browsing the catalogs and talking about the money in the box almost daily.  They are all 3 super excited to open it on Christmas Day.

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Krash is really moving along with his spelling and reading. He is mastering all of his weekly Calvert spelling tests. We always practice his words on the iPad with the Word Wizard app before his test.

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He is a very typical early reader.  He struggles just enough that I wouldn’t say it comes easy for him, nor would I say he is a struggling reader.  He does enjoy reading, but does get frustrated sometimes when he can’t read it with the ease he desires!  We talk about building up his brain muscle with practice the same way he works on his ab muscles with his V-ups!

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My favorite is that Ladybug LOVES to come over when he is reading and listen to him.

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He is struggling a bit with digraphs, remembering which is which.  I printed out this helpful digraph chart, and also this penguin digraph sorting game.  I let him earn Sparkle Box coins for every word he got right!Christmas Homeschool -5147

Which also turned into a math lesson as he counted his money as we went along!

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This is where I pin all of my reading finds, in case you want to peek or follow!image

He about fell out of his chair when I announced that we were playing this game for school time AND eating the M&Ms on the tree when complete!Christmas HomeSchool-5203


PacMan-5th-Grade

My oldest guy is moving right along with 5th grade, honestly he is a joy to teach most of the time. I am so thankful for him and the way he has matured over the last year or so.

Having pets to snuggle with during reading time makes it a bit hard to want to do any other subjects!Homeschool -5179

He is such a servant hearted boy, makes my momma-heart melt.  He was absolutely THRILLED about the Sparkle Box idea and has been browsing and thinking about what we will do with the money the most. He is such a good example to the younger two.Homeschool -5047


That’s certainly not everything we did, but a glimpse of what my camera captured! To see more weekly wrap-ups, visit…

Let’s Explore The Arctic & Antarctica eBook

Let's Explore The Arctic and Antarctica eBook

Our Let’s Explore ebooks take the awesome Calendar Connections themes that Shannon has developed, and turns them into full size files to be used as eBooks. You can read them on your computer, your iPad, or any device that supports PDF files. Yes, you can even print them full size! Remember, I have a tutorial for using these on your iPad here {the format is the same as the Easy Readers}. We both have iPads so that what we will be using them on. Each eBook page has a number, which correlates with the order in the Arctic & Antarctica Calendar Connections cards.

Arctic and Antarctica Calendar Connections

BUT, you don’t have to use this eBook with the CC cards, it can stand alone as a simple way to learn about a particular topic. The series is created with 3rd-6th graders in mind, but it isn’t limited to those grades. It is a great way to explore a topic across grade levels within your homeschool!

For this topic, I added in a few extra photos to some of the pages, here’s a peek… 

Let's Explore The Arctic and Antarctica eBook 6 Let's Explore The Arctic and Antarctica eBook 29

The eBook version is available in my Teacher’s Notebook Shop Here!