Many preschool theme pictures

 

Having been asked about preschool themes to teach, I’ve compiled a list of various themes that can be used with a preschool child at home or with a whole class at a preschool or childcare centre.

I’ve attached a free printable pdf of my list of themes at the bottom of this post.

How long should you use a theme?

That depends on your situation and your children. I’ve taught in preschools that use one theme a week, though sometimes a big theme is extended over two weeks or more. Other preschools will choose to combine two themes and keep them for an entire month. The best length for you will be affected by how engrossed you are in the theme and how often you teach or do crafts regarding the theme. Also, pay attention to your children’s interests. If you know your children love animals, you likely could use an animal theme for longer. Other times, however, changing up the theme every week will keep the children more engaged.

What aspects can be affected by the theme?

You can embrace your chosen theme as much or as little as you want. Here are some areas you could choose to incorporate your theme.

  • Circle time:
    • The first place most people think of incorporating a theme is during the teaching time, referred to by preschool teachers as circle time. Themes can be incorporated through songs, stories, activities, and direct teaching. Using visuals is beneficial whenever possible.
  • Crafts:
    • There are endless craft ideas available online to go with nearly any theme. A quick search on Pinterest will show you a few. Keep in mind, theme-focused crafts are often product-oriented (i.e. the child is given a specific example to replicate). There are benefits to product-oriented crafts, but don’t forget to include some open-ended art as well. For “Autumn” you could give your child a blank paper and yellow, orange, and red paints to use however they’d like. For “Transportation” you could allow your child to drive cars through paint and make tracks on their paper. (Cleanup for this one is trickier!) For other open-ended ideas check out Beyond the Paintbrush then put on your thinking cap to tie them into your theme.
  • Books:

    • If you have a local library, books are a great way to incorporate a preschool theme. Is “Under the Sea” your theme? Search for books about fish, sharks, and the ocean. Some themes have countless fantastic books, for other themes it’s harder to find suitable books. Here are some books I’ve enjoyed with my preschoolers, sorted by theme: Books for Preschoolers and Toddlers
  • Decoration:
    • Some preschools will totally transform their classroom with theme-based decorations (bulletin boards, posters, etc.). It’s a lot of work! Others rarely change their decorations. A happy compromise, in some cases, could be having one theme-decorated area or bulletin board that you change based on the theme. If you don’t have posters, consider putting up crafts the children made or printing colour sheets corresponding with the theme. However, don’t feel bad if you don’t decorate by theme. It is not essential.
  • Games/Gym:
    • Get creative during gym time. With preschoolers, a simple game such as this one “4 Sides Preschool Gym Game can be adapted to countless themes. Alternatively, if learning about Space, grab some hula hoops and pretend to fly to the moon together.
  • Field Trips/Outings:

    • Some themes work well to be taken outside the home/classroom. Are you learning about bugs? Go on a bug hunt around the yard or neighbourhood. Are you studying transportation? See how many different types of transportation you can find on a walk around the block.
    • Visit the zoo, aquarium, pet store, science center, or a farm, if your area has them.

Preschool Themes List:

Any season:

  • All About Me
  • Alphabet
  • Numbers
  • Shapes
  • Colours
  • Safety
  • Community Helpers
  • Science
  • Space
  • Music
  • Emotions
  • Five senses
  • Healthy Eating
  • Healthy Habits
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  • Transportation/Things that go
  • Mighty Machines
  • Wheels
  • Ramps
  • Bible
  • Multicultural
  • Circus
  • Superheroes
  • Princesses and Pirates
  • Fables/Nursery Rhymes

Animal:

Here is a fantastic action song that could go with nearly any of these animal themes: If You Want To Be A…

 

  • Zoo Animals
  • Desert
  • Jungle
  • Safari
  • Birds
  • Pets
  • Bugs
  • Farm
  • Dinosaurs
  • Baby Animals
  • Under the Sea
  • Winter Animals
  • Forest Animals
  • North American Animals
  • Reptiles and Amphibians

Fall:

If your program begins in September, remember to keep these first few weeks simpler as you and the children settle into routine.

  • Welcome to School
  • Leaves
  • Apples
  • Harvest
  • Forest Animals
  • Fruits and Vegetables

Winter:

  • Winter Sports
  • Winter Olympics (when it’s on)
  • Winter Animals
  • Snowflakes
  • Snowmen

Spring:

  • Bugs
  • Flowers
  • Baby animals
  • How Plants Grow

Summer:

  • Beach Party
  • Fun in the Sun
  • Teddy Bear Picnic
  • Summer Olympics (when it’s on)

Special days:

  • There are many holidays that can also be used as themes, but I’ll let you make your own list of those.

 Click here to download your free printable pdf of the Preschool Themes List

 

What other themes would you add to the list?

Child colouring behind title "3 Go-To Places for Preschool Resources"

Free Printables – 

With all of the Covid-19 restrictions, you may be finding yourself in need of new, easy activities for your youngster. Here are three sites with free printable resources that I recommend.

(Note: None of the links below are affiliate links. I am recommending these websites because I have found them to be valuable resources in the past. I have no control over these websites, nor am I connected to them in any way.)

1.  SuperColoring.com

While there are many free colouring page websites out there, my go-to is Super Coloring. I especially enjoy their realistic animal colouring sheets. Sometimes I print their pictures for my preschool class to colour. At other times, I use the pictures to make visuals for circle time. They have just about everything from dinosaurs to flowers and from insects to world maps. If you’re looking for something more academically based, they even have colouring sheets for letters A-Z.

supercoloring.com

2. Teaching2And3YearOlds.com

Teaching 2 And 3 Year Olds is a website full of free resources, including free printable activities or other creative play ideas. Many of the posts include tips and mention the developmental benefits of each activity. Activities on this site are often sorted by theme.

teaching2and3yearolds.com

3. TheBeginnersBible.com

Have you read the Beginner’s Bible with your children? Did you know that there are free printable colouring sheets and activity sheets that go with it? With the same illustrations and pictures as found in the picture Bible, your youngsters might enjoy this extension to their learning.

thebeginnersbible.com

Looking for more? Check out some of the ideas I’ve collected on Pinterest:

S. J. Little’s Preschool Posts: www.pinterest.ca/sjlittleauthor/s-j-littles-preschool-posts

Ideas to Try: www.pinterest.ca/sjlittleauthor/ideas-to-try

Keeping Toddler Busy: www.pinterest.ca/sjlittleauthor/keeping-toddler-busy

Make Your Own Toys: www.pinterest.ca/sjlittleauthor/make-your-own-toys

Free Preschool Teacher Tools: www.pinterest.ca/sjlittleauthor/free-preschool-teacher-tools

 

What are your go-to websites for free printable preschool/toddler activities?

Mother hugging daughter with title "5 Things to Teach When Homeschooling Your Preschooler"

 

With the current pandemic, you may find yourself homeschooling your preschooler, whether by choice or due to circumstances beyond your control. In order to help you out, I’ve collected a list of 5 things most preschool teachers include every day at circle time.

Circle time is the part of the preschool schedule when all the children gather around, typically sitting on a carpet, while the teacher teaches. Sometimes activities are interactive, while at other times they require listening to the teacher talk. At home, you could schedule a regular sit down circle time with your child. Alternatively, many of these topics can be integrated into other moments of your day. 

Note that circle time doesn’t have to be long. For younger or more wiggly children, you could start at 5 minutes a day and slowly, over several weeks, build the length up to 10-15 minutes depending on the attention span and interest level of the child.

1. Stories

Storytime is an important part of the day for many areas of child development. Your child will learn pre-reading skills, gain knowledge about many topics, and be exposed to new words. In preschool settings, storytime is often a part of circle time, but in a home setting, you could easily have a reading time that is separate from other circle time activities.

There is so much more I could say about storytime, but that is another topic for another time.

Wondering which books I recommend? Check out my post: 7 Fantastic Animal Guessing Books as well as my Pinterest boards:  S. J. Little’s Favourite Preschool/Toddler Books & Books for Toddlers and Preschoolers 

2. Songs

Scientists have discovered that music is hugely beneficial for brain development. Not only that, but most children enjoy singing. Therefore, nearly all preschools include singing as a daily activity. Some teachers only sing one or two songs a day, others have songs for nearly everything, from clean-up songs to “What’s the Weather” songs and everything in between. Thankfully, being an excellent singer is not required for singing with preschoolers.

From a practical teaching perspective, songs can be useful for:

  • Transitions (example: clean-up songs)
  • Teaching (example: ABC songs)
  • Memorization (example: days of the week songs)
  • Enjoyment (example: The Wheels on the Bus)
  • Exercise (example: If You’re Happy and You Know It)

Chances are you already sing some songs with your child. If you’re looking for more songs to learn, check out some of my favourites:

3. Letter of the week

To help keep the alphabet from seeming so big and overwhelming, a common strategy for teaching 3-4 year old children is to focus on one letter per week. This typically happens at circle time. There are endless strategies on how to teach each letter. You can use posters or songs or mystery boxes. If your child seems to be losing interest, try switching things up with a new technique. Here is a list of 9 strategies I’ve used: Teaching the ABCs at Circle Time 

4. Calendar

Did you know that most preschools review the calendar with the children every day? By that, I mean the children will sing a song about the names of the seven days of the week and discuss which day of the week today is. Then, as a class, they will count the number of days to find out which day it is. They also discuss the name of whichever month it is.

Here’s an example of teaching and singing about the days of the week: 

Understanding the calendar can be tricky for many children. Therefore, repetition is helpful. Also, reviewing the calendar every day provides excellent counting practice. Once a child can count to 30, they are well on their way to being able to count to 100. Having said that, children do get tired of reviewing the calendar every day. So long as your child has a basic understanding of the calendar by the time they start kindergarten, it is up to you whether you want to review the calendar daily or not. You could choose to review the calendar once a week or choose to focus on it daily for one month. However you choose to do it, have fun with it.

5. Weather

Learning to name the different types of weather such as, sunny, snowy, and foggy, is another thing preschoolers learn at school. Since many preschools are run indoors, teachers must be intentional not to forget to talk about the weather. At home, these conversations happen more naturally. As you discuss which type of footwear is needed for the day, or when the weather makes going to the park formidable, you can be teaching your child about the weather.

6. Bonus: Bible stories

In many Christian preschools, Bible reading is an important part of the schedule. Some of the Christian preschools I’ve taught at always read one Bible story every week from a children’s illustrated Bible. When I read a Bible story to my class, I like to pause and sing the “B-I-B-L-E” first to remind everyone that this isn’t just another storybook. The Bible is special and true. If you don’t know the song, I explain the actions and link to a video of it in my post here: 7 Simple Christian Songs for Preschoolers

I highly recommend The Beginner’s Bible by Zondervankidz . They also have free printable colouring sheets and activities on their website here that match the illustrations in it.

I hope this information is helpful to you as you teach your child at home!

You may also find my  Ready for Kindergarten post helpful.

If you have questions you’d like to ask a preschool teacher, feel free to comment below or fill out my  contact form.

Girl running with a big smile

The following game gets children moving with very little prep required. As an easy preschool gym game, it can be adapted to most spaces and adjusted for nearly any theme.

Set up

  • Designate four areas as the sides the children will be running to. 
    • In a gym with four walls, consider attaching a piece of coloured paper or a poster to each wall. (When playing with a group of children, I prefer using a wall rather than a corner so that the children have room to spread out.)
    • In an open area, such as a field, consider placing four different coloured hula-hoops to designate the four sides. (See other options below.) 

Play

  • To start the game, show the children each of the four sides. 
  • Call out an instruction, such as “Run to yellow!”
  • Run with the children to the “yellow” side.
  • Once everyone has arrived, call out another instruction. For example “Hop to blue!”
  • Alternate between actions that are exciting vs. quiet, fast vs. slow, and tricky vs. easy. (See my list of suggested actions below.)
  • Keep an eye on your children’s engagement level. As soon as they start losing interest, or preferably just before they do, wind up the game. Finish with one exciting action followed by one quieter action.
    • Ending with a quiet action will help prepare your children for the transition into the next activity.

Age

  • 2 Year Olds: At the basic level, this game works wonderfully with most 2 year olds. These youngsters will enjoy playing this game many times, if you change it up a bit each time.
  • 3 Year Olds: This is a great game for 3 year olds! They especially enjoy it if you can give them opportunities to call out the instructions.
  • 4 Year Olds: If you include more challenging actions, or perhaps increase the number of sides to 6 or 8, 4 year olds will enjoy this game. However, I recommend only playing it occasionally with 4 year olds, as they may begin losing interest if they play it too often.

Size of group

  • 1 Child: This game can be played with one child. It will go best if you play it with the child. Take turns calling out the instructions.
  • 2-8 Children: Having a small group of children makes this game more exciting, while enabling you to allow each child to have a turn or two calling the instructions.
  • 9+ Children: This gym game is excellent with a large group of children. However, you may not have the time to allow each child a turn to call the instructions. Therefore, unless you are sure you can give every child a turn, it is likely best to call all the instructions yourself.

Ideas for the four sides

  • If you don’t have walls to attach papers to, try using different coloured hula hoops, cones, or blankets. Alternatively, choose pre-existing objects to run to such as a bench, a flagpole, or a tree, etc.
  • If you have walls to attach papers to, your options are endless! For younger children, stick with simpler options, but for older children, enjoy challenging them with new vocabulary that is trickier.
    • Blank coloured paper: could be basic colours (red, yellow, blue, green),  or more tricky colours (purple, orange, brown, grey). You could even do themed colours (for Valentine’s day: red, pink, white, purple).
    • Shapes cut from paper: For 2 year olds, I have done basic shapes (circle, square, triangle, star). For older children try trickier shapes (rectangle, octagon, trapezoid, oval). You can cut whatever shapes you want! For example, you could do pet themed shapes (cat, dog, fish, bird).
    • Posters: if you are in a preschool or childcare facility, chances are you have various posters around. Why not use some of them? You could use transportation, zoo, or dinosaur posters to match the game with what the children are learning. (If you don’t have posters, colouring sheets could work.)
    • Flat objects: Consider using foam letters or large puzzle pieces for the four sides. So long as the four objects can be clearly distinguished by name, you can use just about anything.

Ideas for actions

  • Changing up the actions will help ensure a full-body workout for your preschool children. Be sure to use a variety of easy and challenging actions!
    • Basic actions:
      • Easy
        • RunGirl walking on footprints
        • Hop
        • Fly (running with arms out as wings)
        • Stomp
        • Crawl
      • Medium
        • Skip
        • Walk sideways
        • Tiptoe quietly
        • Slow
        • Long steps
        • Tiny steps
        • Spin
        • Slither (or army crawl)
        • Bear crawl (on hands and feet with knees straight)
      • Hard
        • Hop on one foot
        • Crab walk (on hands and feet with tummy facing up)
        • Walk backwards (not recommended for larger groups, though it can work if you let them go two or three children at a time)
    • Other actions: Children have incredible imaginations! Engage their creativity with theme-based actions.
      • Zoo
        • Stomp like a hippo
        • Walk like a giraffe (stretch arms up and take long steps)
        • Run fast like a cheetah
        • Waddle like a penguin
        • Hop like a kangaroo
      • Dinosaur
        • Growl like a t-rex (make short arms and run while growling)
        • Stretch like a brachiosaurus
        • Fly like a pterodactyl
        • Stomp like a triceratops
      • Bugs
        • Buzz like a bee (make tiny wings with hands and run while buzzing)
        • Fly like a butterfly (flap arms as large gentle wings while crossing slowly and quietly)
        • Jump like a grasshopper
        • Crawl like a ladybug
      • I think you get the idea so I’ll stop my list here. This game could also work with themes such as: farm, under the sea, transportation, emotions, sports or Olympics.

How to choose which action

  • The basic way to play this easy gym game involves someone calling whichever action they want. (If you let the children make their own calls, you’ll end up with a lot of running!) Consider making the game more engaging and visually appealing for your children, especially if they are still learning English or have language delays by doing one of the following:
    • Dice:
      • Before playing the game, choose 6 actions and write them on a die. (You can make your own dice out of cardboard, or try looking for giant dice at your local dollar store.)
      • Hand the die to the child who is calling the instruction. Whatever they roll, that’s the action you’ll do next.
    • Use picture cards:
      • Use themed cards, such as animal cards, to determine the next action.
      • The child who is calling the instruction pulls a card from a bag (looking or not looking, you choose). Whatever action is on the card, that’s what everyone does.
      • If you don’t have picture cards or action cards to use, you can likely find some online to print. As another option, print a copy of my Free Zoo Animal Skin Matching Game cards to use.
    • Use small toys:
      • Alternatively, look around at what you have. Small plastic animals could be drawn from a bag.

This easy preschool gym game will be a fantastic addition to your preschool gym games tool belt. You may even find that it becomes one of your favourites!

Need more action ideas, or want to share your variation of the game? Comment below.

Looking for more no prep, super easy preschool gym ideas to get your children moving? Check out Run, Run, Run – When running in circles is a very good thing for children.

Interested in a preschool song that can go with just about any animal theme? See “If You Want To Be A…” 

Apple, pencils, and blocks on a desk with title over them

A wealth of information exists about child development and what a preschool child needs to know in order to be ready for kindergarten. Depending on where you live and which kindergarten your child will attend next year, the specifics of what they need to know will vary. Regardless, if you focus on these five core areas, your child will be well on their way to being ready for kindergarten.

Of course, there are other areas, such as social and emotional development, that must be matured in order to be ready for kindergarten, but that’s another topic for another time. So, without further ado, here are the top 5 key ways to prepare your child academically for kindergarten.

1. ABCs

This is usually the first thing parents think of when they think about getting their child ready for kindergarten. Singing the alphabet song is a great start, but don’t stop there.

  • Letter recognition
    • Help your child learn to recognize and name the letters. This takes plenty of repetition. Perhaps buy or print an alphabet poster. Point to each letter saying the name, then later, as your child catches on, ask them the name of the letter you’re pointing to. Be sure to mix up the order when you teach your child the letter names, otherwise, they may simply memorize the order of the letters, rather than their shapes. Additionally, throughout your day, when you come across writing, ask your child to name the letters they see.
  • Letter sounds
    • While letter names are important, their sounds are even more critical for learning to read. Ideally, a child who is entering kindergarten should have a strong grasp of the concept that every letter makes a sound and that letters put together make words. They should know many of the letter sounds.  For ideas of how to teach letter sounds to your child, check out this post:  Teaching the ABCs
  • Write own name
    • There is a long standing debate among kindergarten and preschool teachers about who should be teaching children to write. Some teachers argue that children who learn to write incorrectly form bad habits that are hard to break later. Other teachers would disagree with that. Due to this on-going debate, I do not emphasize teaching your child to write all their letters during their preschool years. Girl writingIf they show interest in learning to write, by all means, do not hold them back. Perhaps buy them a workbook that shows which way to write each letter. The big key in teaching children to write correctly is thinking about where we start a letter. When we write “M”, we start at the top for each line. When we write “Z” it is one continuous line. A good rule of thumb to follow is that most letters start at the top.
    • While I do not emphasize writing the whole alphabet, I strongly encourage parents to teach their child to recognize and write their own name before reaching kindergarten. There are loads of fantastic ideas about how to do this on the internet. Try finding one that suits your child’s interests.

2. Counting

Numbers are another of those things that can be taught and practiced throughout the day. “How many apple slices do you want for snack?” “I see you have one, two, three cars parked in the garage.” Teaching numbers really isn’t hard.

  • Counting aloud
    • In order to be ready for kindergarten, children should be able to accurately count out loud up to twenty. Being able to count to thirty would be even better.
  • Number recognition
    • On top of being able to count, they should be able to recognize the written numbers from 0-10. Be sure to practice recognizing these numbers out of order.

3. Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor muscles are simply the hand muscles designed to do small detailed tasks such as holding a pencil or putting beads on a string. If a child’s fine motor muscles are weak, they will find it difficult to hold their pencil correctly. Therefore, focusing on exercising these small hand muscles is a key part of getting ready for kindergarten. Here are a few fun ways to help strengthen your child’s fine motor muscles.

  • Playdough
    • Playing with playdough, or slime for that matter, is an excellent way to strengthen these muscles. While they roll and pull and poke, they are preparing their hand to hold a pencil well.
  • Colouring/Painting
    • Colouring with pencil crayons or crayons also exercises those hand muscles. Did you know that it has sometimes been recommended to give children small broken crayons to colour with? That is because using a crayon that is only an inch or two long forces a child to use more hand muscles since it is too small to be gripped in their fist.
    • Painting with cotton swabs is another super fine motor muscle builder. Using paintbrushes or other painting tools may also work well. Here’s a list of some creative ways to paint that your kids will enjoy:  Beyond the Paintbrush
  • Scissors
    • From my experience, scissor skills are often a forgotten thing. Once a child is three or four, they are capable of using child safety scissors while being supervised. (Supervision with scissors is important as this is also the age of self hair cuts.) Teaching your child to use scissors will strengthen their fine motor muscles. On top of that, your child’s kindergarten teacher will be grateful if your child is fairly competent at using the scissors.
    • When teaching scissors, use the rule of thumb – the thumb always goes on the top, both in how the child is holding their scissors and how they are holding their paper. One simple cutting activity is to give your child an old flyer and let them cut it into a million tiny bits.
  • Other muscles
    • While we’re on the topic of strengthening muscles, just a quick reminder that gross motor activities, such as running, jumping, climbing, throwing a ball, etc. are important too. Not only are they valuable for developing your child’s muscles, such activities also have a huge positive impact on child brain development.

4. Broad Knowledge

Having a wide base of general knowledge helps children feel more confident and enables them to more easily grasp new concepts by connecting them to concepts they already know. Therefore, it is valuable for a child to be exposed to a broad range of learning opportunities. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Rather, during your day to day activities, take the opportunities that come. Do you see an orange butterfly? Point it out to your child. Is a cement truck driving by? Tell your child what it is and what it does. In this way, by the time they are ready for kindergarten, your child will have gained a broad range of knowledge that will serve as a launchpad to learning so much more. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Shapes and colours
    • Part of the broad knowledge children should have by kindergarten includes being able to recognize and name basic colours and shapes. Again, teaching this doesn’t have to be complicated. As you go about your day, comment about various shapes and colours as you come across them.
  • Read booksGirl reading book
    • I can’t emphasize this enough. Books are a fantastic way to give your child a wider base of knowledge than your home can give. Read stories about space or under the sea. The options are endless! Most cities have public libraries that are very low cost or free. If you sign up, you’ll never run out of new books to read.
    • Reading books with your child is also a huge part of preparing them to learn to read. Therefore, I strongly encourage you to make storytime a part of your everyday routine.  Here are some fun interactive book suggestions to get you started. 7 Fantastic Animal Guessing Books for Preschoolers
  • Educational screen time
    • While I encourage limiting or avoiding screen time for preschoolers, if you are going to give your child screen time, make sure it is positive and educational. There are many good options out there. For TV shows, I highly recommend Octonaughts. It is scientific and the social interactions between characters are largely positive.

5. Love of Learning

I’ve left this point until last as I want to be sure you remember it. Having a desire to learn is more important to school success than knowing the alphabet inside out. Therefore, as you’re teaching your child the things above, be sure to keep it fun. 

  • Lead by example
    • Keep in mind that your child is likely to pick up on your attitude. If you are excited about learning and asking questions, they will be too. With this in mind, be curious about things. Ask questions like, “I wonder how bees know where to find the flowers?” It’s okay if you don’t know the answer.
  • Learn what they love
    • Encourage your child to learn about what they love. Of course, this is not an excuse to avoid learning things that are important but less exciting to the child. However, especially at this young age, you could use what they love to help teach them other things. Do they love zoo animals? Find an animal ABCs book.
    • Having said that, I would encourage parents to try to focus on the broad open-ended interests of their child. If your child’s favourite is Paw Patrol, try buying them a set of toy dogs rather than a Paw Patrol toy. Why? Because a toy dog set provides a far greater range of potential play possibilities than a specifically Paw Patrol toy would.

In summary, preparing your child for kindergarten doesn’t have to be difficult. Be intentional to seize the learning opportunities in your day to day life and your child will be well on their way to being ready for kindergarten. While you’re at it, be sure to have plenty of fun. Learning ought to be a captivating adventure.