Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tot School: Online Resources & Printables

Hello, tot-schoolers! It’s a rainy Wednesday afternoon here in San Antonio, perfect for a little Tot School planning. We’ve picked our theme (SPRING!) and chosen our books—now it is time to find games, crafts, and other awesome learning activities.

Tot School: Online Resources & Printables

(I am not a natural crafty mom, but I do try to pick a simple, keepsake-type craft for each theme. Play to your strengths—just remember that your children may have different interests.)

Before we open that Google tab, let’s have a place to write all our ideas down. Pinterest is a great long-term storage spot; you can create boards for all the themes on your list and pin when you stumble across a great idea. But for actual planning time, I like to put pencil to paper. (I’m old-fashioned that way.)

It took me years, but I finally created a “planning sheet” template with all of the areas that I would like to cover with each theme. I print off a new template each week before I start planning! (E-mail me if you'd like my editable template--I'm happy to share, and you don't have to start from scratch.)
Tot School: Online Resources & Printables

Okay, now we're ready! I like to cast a wide net first--open your favorite search engine and type in "(THEME) tot school". (Replace (THEME) with your theme.) Lots of families blog about their weekly adventures with Tot School, and I find those posts to be refreshingly "real" about how the activities go over their children. Beware of "Pinterest-Perfect Syndrome"--your goal is creating a fun learning environment for your children, not making museum-worthy crafts.

Here are three great posts I found with the search term SPRING Tot School:




I could blog hop for pages and pages (and I usually do, pinning and writing as I explore). Only when I feel like I have found plenty of hands-on, real-world learning activities, do I go on to step 2: visit Carisa at 1+1+1=1. She makes amazing (FREE!) Tot School printables in a variety of themes (see SPRING activities here), and she hosts a blog link-up for other Tot School families. Her work is incredible, and I usually print off one or two activities for my students. (Other great sites for themed printables are This Reading Mama and 3 Dinosaurs.)

Tot School: Online Resources & PrintablesAre you tired yet? :) By now, you've probably filled in most of the blanks on your planning sheet, but if you're still needing one more thing, you might want to search for printables & activities directly related to your theme-related books! I also browse the #totschool hashtag on Instagram and Google+, which has led me to some VERY creative mamas. (Jen from The Mama Years blog is terrific!)

I am fortunate in that I teach the same 20 themes over and over again, so I usually add only one or two new activities each time I get ready for a class. Remember, children are simple--they don't need hours and hours of planned curriculum at this age. Keep it light!

Other tips: laminate what you know you're going to re-use. Store everything in a gallon-size Ziploc bag. :)

Did you discover any new early learning sites that you're excited about? 
Did I miss anything? 
I'd love to hear about your planning in the comments below.

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