Tara's Toyland Home Daycare

Where Learning is Fun and Friendships Flourish


How to Plan a Curriculum

Posted by tarastoyland on December 17, 2019 at 6:50 PM Comments comments (2)

I love planning curriculum.  I think in college I should have gone into that as a field of study but I had no idea it was even an option. I did an independent study on why thematic teaching is the best method and developed my own theme as a college Senior. Coming up with creative ways to make all the spokes of learning connect together makes me so excited.  Often I think of a theme I want to do and start collecting items to go with it so that when I have enough I can dive into a new set of ideas.  In home daycare I will have the same kids from birth till kindergarten and I don't like to repeat themes for those kids so that means that I usually do about 10 themes a year for 3 or 4 different years before I repeat.  Sometimes I combine themes like Pirates and Under the Sea went together and Outer Space can go with Star Wars and sometimes it's a small part of a bigger theme that I concentrate on like Pets instead of just Animals. And with some groups the ages just don't work out to do a lot with a theme, right now I have 3 very young kids in the group who don't take a morning nap anymore so actual teaching is haphazard and it's more one on one with the older three as they need it.

Because I love doing curriculum plans I often will do them for other people that ask. My curriculum uses stuff almost all of us already have in our daycares and take very little prep really.  I hear of people spending hours getting things ready or printing stuff out and it just perplexes me as I never considered those things as a need for preschoolers. I might print out a dot to dot or an emergent reader but that is about it. Art is what I prep the most for really and that is only to make sure I have figured out the way to keep mess to a minimum and clean up the easiest (so having soapy washclothes ready if we are doing feet painting type of thing.) I end up retyping the same thing over and over and figured I could just make a blog post instead.

Step 1 - Decide on a theme, there are literally thousands of options. Any object can become a theme, there was a podcast on a preschool that did a whole theme on balls that lasted many months and was quite amazing with the kids analyzing the materials that the balls were made of and doing comparisons. They also did one on boxes that was very involved.

Step 2 - List the subjects you want to teach.  There are a lot of different ways people approach teaching in their own minds.  If you have infants you may want to do Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste, Smell.  There's the traditional Math, Science, Social Awareness, Large Motor, Small Motor, Reading Readiness, Writing, Music, Art.  So here are some other options:**Illinois Early Learning Standards ** Benchmarks – Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Science, Physical Development and Health, Fine Arts, Foreign Language, Social/Emotional Development **Early Childhood Centers** sensory table, art, songs/music, math, science, large motor, fine motor, hands on center, dramatic play center, block center, self help, getting along with others and self (social/emotional), books/language/literacy **Early Learning Accomplishments Profile (ELAP test)** Fine motor, Gross motor, Cognition, Language, Self-help, Social-emotional **Areas of learning ** Personal, social and emotional development; Communication, language and literacy; Mathematical development; Physical development; Creative development; Knowledge and understanding of the world ** Dispositions to Learning ** Self-regulation of attention and behavior; Effective social skills to develop a positive relationship with others; Positive attitude toward learning; Self-motivation for learning; Listening skills; Ability to set goals and develop and follow through on plans; Understanding, accepting, and following rules and routines; Finding more than one solution to a question.

Step 3 - Make a chart where you write the subjects down one side and days of week across top or a spider graph where you put the theme title/goal in the middle and spokes out to boxes for each subject.  Now it's time to fill in the boxes.

Step 4 - Look for things to teach, or come up with them on your own, that cover that theme and those things. Do not search for workbook type pages. Do not search for cookie cutter art projects. Search for open ended art things and toy/game related activities. Put those in the boxes for each subject. Some themes will be heavy on one subject more than another. That's ok, just do the next theme as one that is heavier on a different subject and by the end of the year it will even out. Pinterest is a treasure trove of neat ideas as long as you are thinking of hands on and not worksheets or heavy prep things. In these blogs I have lots of different themes as examples. If you aren't sure what preschoolers need to learn search for that.  There are lots of free trainings on that type of thing and it is literally a deep enough subject that you can spend decades learning it, but it is preschool, not rocket science, just break down any skill to the smallest bits.  Writing their name?  Well first they need to know what a line or circle is, then be able to draw those, then to recognize those as letters, than have the fine motor skills to combine them into something recognizable.  Adding and Subtracting?  Well first they need to learn what numbers are, what order they come in, what "2" looks like when you have different objects (not the written number but the quantity), how to count out objects saying one number per object, to understand that you take away and go down in numbers, or put in more you count up. It is lots of different steps for each thing but it's intuitive if you think about it.  

Step 5 - teach! I like to start each lesson with a book (or two or five) that is on a certain subject within the theme.  So if I want to work on numbers I would read books that have numbers in them.  Want to do a lesson on dogs, read books with dogs in them.  Just so the lesson relates to the books in some way.  Then do an activity from your chart.  You can do a few of them - you just read dog books, talk about the /d/ sound or how to sound out d-o-g, find the word dog in the book and keep track of how many times you see it, count out all the stuffed dogs you have, sort them by type, or color, or size, do a running game where you put a dachsund over here and another across the room in a pile and they have to run down and find the match - all that combined would take less than 20 minutes.  Then I like to finish off with an art project.  Read my blog on art for what to do with that.  With our dog example I may use plastic dogs to walk in paint and make tracks on paper.  I may use dog toys to paint with or paw print cookie cutters.  I may have them glue fur down onto a dog shape.  And there you are, a quick lesson that covers all you need, with supplies you probably already own, in a way that will make sense to the kids and they can tell their parent when they give them the dog art project that they counted dogs that day and that dog starts with the d sound and are brown or black or white.  It will all tie together in their mind and not just be random.


Jack Be Nimble

Posted by tarastoyland on September 7, 2019 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (0)

During our Nursery Rhyme unit we did the rhyme Jack be Nimble.  First we jumped over candle sticks changing the rhyme to match the name of the jumper.  Then we changed it from candle stick (which rhymes with quick) to different objects and came up with rhymes for those new things.  For instnace "Miss Nora be nimble, Miss Nora be fair, Miss Nora jump over the daycare chair"  This was SUPER tricky so we had to figure out our rhymes first.  Rhyming is a prereading skill and essential for success in finding word patterns.  Next we had a lesson on fire.  We talked about fire safety by doing science experiments with actual fire.  What does a fire need to burn?  How hot is a fire?  What puts out a fire? What burns in a fire? We explored all of these questions and then ended the lesson with roasting marshmallows over an open fire (the fire on the stove).  The children all concluded that fire shouldn't be played with as it can burn wood and paper and houses are made of wood and paper. 

Circus Theme

Posted by tarastoyland on June 9, 2015 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)



*We started today by watching a Kid's Songs video about the circus. While we watched we listed what we saw, heard and what we would have smelled, touched and tasted.


We also learned that unicycle means one wheeled because uni means one. We made our own unicyclists.


Then we popped popcorn and talked about why it popped (it has a tiny drop of water in it and the heat made the water expand then burst). We sand a fun popcorn song that had us jumping and exploding. Lastly, we did an experiment to see if you could add a cup of popcorn to a full cup of milk or water and if bread worked the same way. This was to teach us about how there is space between the molecules of water, that popcorn dissolves in liquid and that when you combine two substances the resulting volume is not the same as both original volumes combined. First we predicted what would happen and despite all the online things saying that the milk wouldn't overflow, it did. Then we tried it in water and we fit the whole cup plus a handful before it started overflowing. Last we did it with milk and bread and that one overflowed much sooner then the popcorn and milk one did. The pictures of this are all below.

*today we were lions jumping through rings of fire, strongmen picking up heavy weights and tightrope walkers high up above the crowd!



*besides reading the cool circus book with pop up pages,  we talked about things you find in a circus, we made unicycle riders (and talked about uni means one, cycle is wheel, and then we played a popcorn popping game using pom poms to be the popcorn and the popcorn bucket to be the catching apparatus

*a parachute looks like a circus tent, so we played parachute play activities, we also made acrobats that tumbled down a ramp (reinforcing our ramp skills)

Here are the popcorn science pictures, I didn't take pictures of the popping of the popcorn


Posted by tarastoyland on June 7, 2015 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

We just finished up our Rainforest theme.  I had been wanting to do this theme for a super long time but never had a time when it seemed right.  I had a really good time with it. I liked how I was able to combine  reptiles, bugs, plants, animals, and so much more all in one unit.  Those are usually my spring themes separately so it ws neat to combine them.  

Here are my daily updates I posted for the parents during the unit:


Today we learned that the rain forest has four layers. We concentrated on the bottom most layer - the underlayer. This is the ground layer, it's dark, there are lots of leaves and it's wet and there are lots of snakes and bugs. We did snake painting then added a caterpillar, butterflies and other bugs. We read a LOT of books about bugs and snakes: That Bug, Hello Bugs, Bugs!, Spiders are Special, The Spider and the Beehive, Spiders Spin ,Insects Number Find, Ten Busy Buzzy Bugs, and Big Bug Little Bug.  Plus Snakes Long, Longer, Longest and talked about those terms using plastic, stuffed and wood snakes we have out for play time.  We sorted and identified plastic bugs. Whew! Busy day as usual. We will do a different layer of the rainforest each day and create a complete forest by the end of the unit.


*we read a lot more rain forest books and discussed the layers of the rain forest some more, the kids were very excited to make the creatures you find in a rain forest and we added them to our diorama we are making



The kids went to the jungle/rain forest today. They saw snakes, bugs, monkeys, tigers and lots of alligators. They built a campfire also . Oh, this was all in the front yard by the way,



we were playing outside and it started to rain - the kids were thrilled when I pulled out the rain ponchos and let them keep playing - especially because they were a zebra poncho, a tiger poncho and a giraffe poncho! Went perfect with our jungle theme



*today we read Chameleon's Colors then watched videos of real chameleons... one video we found out was a fake one though (the sunglasses one)


We made chameleon's, talked again about the layers of the rainforest, finished our diorama (the kids cut out 4 leaves together and were amazed that cutting ONE time made 4 things, miracles of folding paper, lol),

Pirates theme

Posted by tarastoyland on April 13, 2015 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

We had started a Pirates theme when I came across this HUGE box. I dragged it home and went to work creating a pirate ship.  The kids loved steering the ship, sailing on the high seas and exploring for treasure.

Decorating treasure chests and showing off our pirate hooks

Inside of Me Theme Unit

Posted by tarastoyland on April 7, 2015 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

We had a super time learning about the things inside of our body like blood, muscles, bones, tendons and organs.  There were lots of science experiments during this unit.  

Here are two kids exploring blood, well, not real blood, but a model of blood.  The red water beads represent the red blood cells that carry oxygen to our body parts.  The white ping pong balls represent the white blood cells that attack germs.  The pieces of red craft foam are the platelets in our blood - they help form scabs and clots.  Last the red liquid is like the plasma which is what helps our blood slip and slide through our body.  I explained that this container would be like one drop of blood enlarged a whole bunch.

To learn about how digestion happens we used a peanut butter sandwich.  First we cut it with scissors, this like your teeth cutting into the food to chop it up in little bits.

After it was cut up we added some milk, because we have milk with our sandwich, and water to be our spit.  The fancy word for spit is saliva.  Then we used a masher to mash up the whole thing like our molars would do.

When it was all mashed up it was poured into a baggie, just like going down our esphogus into our stomach.  Then we added a can of soda pop to show how the stomach acids work on the contents of our stomach.

The last step is our intestines - the liquid coming out the sides is the nutrients our body uses, the rest that is in the stocking is the waste parts - they come out when we use the bathroom.  This was such a wonderful way to learn about how the food travels through our body - the kids really enjoyed all the unit, and unfortunately I forgot to take pictures on some days!