Getting it Organized
Are you spending too much time hunting down your items for your Thematic Curriculum?
An important part of a Thematic Curriculum is rotating Theme related materials in and out of your space. If you have just started creating Theme Units (or even if you have been doing them for a while), you may notice your Theme Materials are starting to get out of hand.
As a previous Childcare Provider, I know what a precious commodity your time is, so in this post I wanted to share some tips on how to organize your Thematic materials to save you time and energy.
Finding a home for everything ...
The key to keeping your items organized is having a home for them. The amount of storage space you have will be dictate how you organize your materials.
Spend a few moments figuring out the best place to store your items. Do you have a small room that can be converted to a Storage/Resource room? Some space in your Garage? A spare closet? Look for under utilized space around your home-even under the bed storage boxes make a great option for storing your materials.
If you have a large storage space you will be able to create a storage box for each of your Themes. If you are short on storage spaces you may want to consider a monthly theme box, or even Seasonal Box. Keep in mind a monthly storage box will not be able to hold as many items as an individual themed box.
Choosing a box and deciding how many..
I decided to create 52- individual theme boxes. Because I had so many Themes I knew I wanted something reasonably priced and something I could stacked easily in my storage room. I decided to go with Bankers boxes . One of the other benefits of using Bankers Boxes was that I could also include a hanging file in each one to store my theme related patterns, File Folder Games, and Printables.
You will want to make sure you clearly write the name of each Theme on the outside of your box. If you are using plastic boxes you can add Masking/Washi Tape labels for easy removal.
Stack your boxes by Season or Alphabetically (whichever way is easier for you).
If you are going with Shelving, consider purchasing shelves and bins that are made for each other which will minimize the amount of wasted space on your shelf.
It doesn't have to all fit in the box...
Once you've you've decided on how much storage you have, you'll need to decide what types of materials you are going to store. I knew that I wanted to store Puppets, Puzzles, Toys, Educational Games, felt stories, Printable Games, and Craft Materials related to each of my Themes.
I had many toys, dramatic play items, and books that I used for multiple themes-and daily use. Rather than trying to fit all of these things in a box, I created separate storage options for these items.
I preferred to keep my books on bookcases (Billy Bookcases from IKEA)- Why re-invent the wheel right? These were kept away from the children in my storage room, Each week I would rotate new books into the children's bookshelf in the Childcare Space-I'd rotate both Theme and Non Theme related books.
Sort your books in a way that makes it easiest for you to find them. I chose to sort my books by Season, and then by Theme. General books were sorted by Topic (Colors, Shapes, Letters, etc.).
If you are storing them on shelves, you will want to keep them divided so you can easily find them. To keep them divided you can place your books in Magazine holders, laminate a paper divider or use labeled paint sticks as a low cost option to divide them.
Some providers choose to store their Theme Books in a Box with the rest of their materials. Unfortunately I found that many of my books were awkward sizes and that they didn't all fit in my boxes very well. In addition to pulling out Theme books I also used the same books for multiple themes and having to hunt through boxes wasn't effective for me.
Using the same bankers boxes above, I also created Dramatic Play Prop Boxes. I also had separate storage for Construction/Small World Play Items, Literacy, Math, and Science games and Materials.
Creating a system to keep track of these rotational items that are not in your Theme Boxes is an important part to you staying organized as well.
Keeping track of what you have
Remembering all of the books, toys, and resources you own can be a challenge. You'll want a system to keep track of what you have. Grab a copy of my Free lesson planning pages so that you can keep track of all of your Thematic materials. If you are looking for a pre-printed planner-this Daily Plan Book for Preschool is excellent!
I recommend putting your lesson planning pages in a binder so that you can take them with you. I found that it was helpful for me to take my theme planning binder with me when I went shopping (to Garage Sales, Thrift Stores, etc.) so that I could see which themes I still needed items for, and what I already had. I also used my planner as a guide to remember which items I needed to "pull out" each week.
Don't be afraid to use technology to help keep you organized. Consider creating "Themed Photo" Albums that you can access via your mobile device- that contain photos of all of your themed items.
Putting in the effort in the beginning to keep your materials organized will pay off end.
Items I used to help me organize
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Camping is such a fun summertime activity! Inside each of my activity packs you will find an assortment of easy to assemble activities. You can easily turn these activities into a variety of hands on learning centers. Use them to create tot trays or file folder games.
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