On this page, I am going to share with you how I set up our theme learning shelf every month and how we do learning at home with our theme based learning shelf.
In a nutshell, Happy Tot Shelf is a simple shelf that I fill with fun learning activities for my children. It is an invitation to learn, create and ask questions about the world. It is our learning space at home.
Monthly Schedule for our Theme Based Learning Shelf
Every month, we have a new learning shelf. A whole month gives us enough time to fully explore any themes and to transit to a new theme. In the first week of each month, a new shelf is set up and stays for around 2 weeks. We do not keep the same activities on the shelf for the entire month. By the third week, the children are usually done with all the themed learning activities. Then I do a rotation with other learning toys, puzzles and activity books. These toys and books are specially reserved for the learning shelf and are kept away when not in use.
In summary, these are what we have on our learning shelf throughout a typical month.
Week 1 and 2: New learning activities and books based on a theme
Week 3 and 4: Random learning toys, puzzles and activity books
Let’s talk more about how I manage the new learning activities on the shelf during week 1 and 2. For each theme, I create around 8 to 10 activities for my 5yo preschooler and 2 to 4 activities for my 2.5yo toddler (handy rule of thumb: plan for 1 to 2 activities for each year of age). All these activities will not be able to fit onto the shelf at once. So I set out around 5 preschooler activities and 2 toddler activities on the shelf. During the week, I switch out the completed activities with new ones.
This activity/toy rotation has worked really well for us in keeping the children engaged with the learning shelf longer and reducing cluttering on the shelf. The activities for older brother are on the top two spaces while the activities for little sister are at the bottom of the shelf.
My learning activities are designed with focus on these six main learning areas:
- Motor Skills
- Discovery of the World
- Arts & Creative Expression
- Social & Emotional development).
They are based on the Nurturing Early Learners (NEL) curriculum developed by the Ministry of Education Singapore. This curriculum helps establish clearly what children should know and be able to do at the end of their kindergarten education, to ensure they have a smooth transition from Kindergarten 2 to Primary 1. You can read more about the NEL curriculum here.
HOME LEARNING PROTECTED TIME
Each day, we have an hour of home learning from 4 to 5pm (read more about our daily schedule here). This is a protected time each day when I always make myself available to be with my children as they play and learn. Some activities that we do together during this protected 1 hour: learning activities/toys from the learning shelf, art projects, (more) reading, workbooks for big brother, learning Mandarin or simply playing.
We don’t have a daily timetable for which subjects to work on or what activities to do – I leave the choice of daily work to my children. I set up everything in our learning room as invitations to learn/create/play. The children go around and pick out what they like to work on. I might also pick out some workbooks, list any special art projects that we can do and let them make their choices. As big brother gets older, I am looking at creating weekly plans where he has some tasks to complete for the week. But for now, it’s pretty much free learning and playing.
DO MY CHILDREN DO ALL THE ACTIVITIES FROM MY SHELF?
Since the activities are presented to my children as invitations, they decide what they want to work on each day. The truth is, they don’t always find interests in all my activities. What do we do? 1) I put that activity away and bring it out again another time, 2) make simple changes to make the activity more engaging for my kids and set it out again, 3) save it for little sister or 4) I may just trash it.
There are far more hits than misses as I grow to understand the learning style of my children. My son loves stickers so much and every sticker activity is a big success. My daughter on the other hand, is not a huge fan of stickers and I have to come up with other ways to engage her. It’s a learning journey for me too. Also, I choose themes based on my children’s interests and that really help a lot in keeping them engaged and interested in the activities.
DO I HOMESCHOOL YOUR CHILDREN FULL TIME?
No, I don’t homeschool my children full time. My children do go to school – big brother (5yo) goes to school 3 mornings a week, 3 hours each and little sister (2.5yo) goes to school once a week, 1.5hours each. I chose preschool programs with short school hours for my children so that we have the afternoons to play and learn together. Their schools are play-based preschools and our home learning complements what they do in school by creating opportunities for more academic challenges in a fun way, learning Chinese and exploring their topics of interests.
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT SETTING UP A THEMED LEARNING SHELF AT HOME?
Our past learning shelves are archived here. Each post is a summary of all the learning activities we do for each theme and that’s a great place to get ideas.
We absolutely love theme based learning! Read more about the reasons here.
Here’s a post about our daily schedule this year with my 2.5yo toddler and 5yo preschooler.
I also wrote a free EGuide Themes 101 with tips to choose a good theme and a list of 101 theme ideas to help you get started. Get your copy here.
I hope this post helps clarify all the questions you might have about how we do home learning at home. Do you do home learning with your children? Write to me, I love to know how your children learn at home!