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…

Fall Tot School-3310

 

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.

IMG_7044 IMG_7047

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.


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