We receive a lot of questions about our themes and how we select the activity schedule each year. In this post we talk about how we create and update our themes. First, let’s talk about the benefits of using themes in early childhood education in general.
- Allows children to make meaningful connections. Information is not scattered or taught at random. Children are better able to link information to their experiences.
- Enables children to see that there are many ways to learn about a subject.
- Allows educators to offer a range of activities that support each child’s learning style.
- Nurtures children’s focus, gives them direction, and supports them in making connections between subjects.
- Supports observation and assessment—the activities are well structured in advance, so the educator can set them up without struggle and focus on interacting with children and observing their learning.
So, what do we look for when selecting themes each year and what are the advantages?
- Are intuitive. It’s common to start the year with themes like “I Am Special,” “Where We Live,” or “Apples Everywhere” because children in preschool/child care are just getting to know each other and exploring how nature and the environment change during fall.
- Emphasize subjects of wide interest to young children—animals, the four seasons, fairy tales, farms, outdoor play, and self-care, among others.
- Are structured to support family engagement—Fireflies includes a Family Participation component and both curricula come with newsletters that keep families informed and encourage their participation and feedback.
- Highlight unexpected elements and take unusual turns. For example, many conventional fall themes focus on the changing weather and Halloween. While FunShine touches upon these subjects, it also highlights mice, Fire Prevention Week, and farms.
- Include activities that encourage choice-making, support children’s social/emotional development, and highlight children’s competence. Our Character Counts Stories, All About Me Cards, math-related graphing activities, and sequencing cards encourage these areas of development.
- Are organized around play. Our themes are inspired by children’s interests, literature, and pretend play motifs. The activities in our themes support development in all of the early learning domains.
- Spiral—activities and concepts repeat throughout the year and become more complex. Children are able to learn through repetition and are appropriately challenged during each phase of the learning process.
- Meet the criteria for Developmentally Appropriate Practice from NAEYC’s Position Statement. According to NAEYC (2009), “Good teachers are intentional in everything they do—setting up the classroom, planning curriculum, making use of various teaching strategies, assessing children, interacting with them, and working with their families” (p. 10). Our curricula are designed to help teachers meet these marks.
FunShine themes repeat on a four-year cycle. However, new themes are added periodically. We keep our content current by infusing it with the latest child development research and by developing new activities. Our curriculum team attends the annual NAEYC conference and participates in regular professional development to ensure that our themes and activities remain modern and thought-provoking.
Check out the FunShine Express 2019-2020 Activity Schedule here.