Please help me create a list of themes and related activities for children.
September 3, 2010 10:18 AM   Subscribe

I work with kids in an afterschool program ranging in age from 3-10. I'm contemplating having themes for a week where we do a lot of creative activities revolving around the theme. So, one week the theme might be "jungle animals" and we could make animal masks from paper plates, draw animals, make jungle animal puppets and do a puppet show, play a game outside involving jungle animals, read a picture book about jungle animals, etc.

I'm looking for help coming up with 1) a list of themes, 2) a list of activities, not necessarily related to a theme, because "do a puppet show" can be applied to almost any of them; crafty, physical, musical, other activities would all be lovely, and 3) resources to flesh out 1 and 2 - blogs, books (both stories to share and books for me to reference), podcasts, links, magazines, etc. Free is better than not free. I've got quite the range of ages, as well as gender and ethnic diversity. Kids having something to take home to put on the fridge at the end of the week would be great. Totally optional not necessary extra super bonus thing: activities related to Europe or Australia.

posted by booksherpa to Education (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
One of my best babysitters used to do theme weeks! One I remember in particular was "watermelon" week. We made watermelon jello, used puffy paint to decorate tshirts and socks (with watermelons & watermelon seeds), ate watermelon, planted the seeds, etc. Not sure how food/dietary restrictions works within your program, but I bet you could come up with clever theme-related snacks for each week!
posted by girlalex at 10:25 AM on September 3, 2010

This site features a ton of themes with suggested activities and it's free! They have Australia as a theme but no "Europe", although they do have some individual countries like Italy, Ireland, and Germany.

Good luck!
posted by NoraCharles at 10:32 AM on September 3, 2010

Themes I've seen done well:

The Ocean

If you're still looking when I get home from work, I'm sure I can find good stuff. One key phrase to search with online: "unit studies."
posted by SMPA at 10:43 AM on September 3, 2010

A lot of Vacation Bible Schools in the states use themes, and many of them go all out with decorations, snacks, and art projects that all fit the theme. VBS websites will have plenty of free ideas and templates, and you can leave the churchy stuff out and just use whatever secular stuff you want.

It sounds like your group of kids has a fun, creative leader!
posted by mmmbacon at 11:15 AM on September 3, 2010

I loved theme weeks as a kid.
the ones I remember are:
Space (things made out of tin foil, solar system pictures, an orrary)
dinosores (must be tons of Internet stuff, dino masks, fossils?)
creepy crawlies (think we had a wormery, to show how the soil got mixed up)
body? Age appropiate of course, the 5 senses? there's a book called 'incredabile body' which suggests teams of people doing a job. E.g a blood team (carries oxygen), a muscle team etc.

by Europe are you excluding the uk?

Pirates and the sea may also be good.

It's great you're doing this.
posted by 92_elements at 11:25 AM on September 3, 2010

Check out homeschooling resources, as many will have exactly what you are looking for:

'Home Learning Year by Year' by Rebecca Rupp is packed with resources and weblinks, many relating to specific themes.

Have fun!
posted by Megami at 11:40 AM on September 3, 2010

Do, however, have an alternative if you have some kid who really is not interested in the theme of the week--a 3 year old might not embrace Ancient Egypt with the enthusiasm that a 10 year old will. Also, the suggested themes seem more boy-oriented.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:04 PM on September 3, 2010

Response by poster: To clarify Europe, individual countries would be totally fine, e.g. crafts from Spain, French game, etc. Thanks to all for the suggestions, and the compliments!

girlalex: I was thinking that individual foods would be too narrow a theme, but from your example, I can definitely see how some could work.

SMPA: thanks for the search term! That's one of those bits of info that I didn't even know existed and I needed until you mentioned it.

Ideefixe: Absolutely, I'm sure I'll definitely have kids who want no part of certain bits, and that's okay. Doing enforced group activities would represent a change in the way this program has worked in the past, so I'm leaning towards individual/independent work. I'd like to be able to bring folks together for some activities like a game or story time, though. It's a work in progress. :)

Keep 'em coming, please!
posted by booksherpa at 12:08 PM on September 3, 2010

The Crafty Crow is one of my favourite sites for this sort of thing.
posted by peagood at 12:13 PM on September 3, 2010

Space is a good one--an activity I've done with kids that they really like is to pair them up and have them draw a crazy space alien (but not let the other kids in the class see it). Then have one of the pair (child A) go up to the board and give their partner (child B) one of the other group's alien drawings. Child B has to describe the picture well enough that child A can replicate it. The difference between the original alien picture and the one on the board can be really funny. Then continue until all pairs have had a turn. I did this with ESL kids, but it could work for all children.

Other themes that have been popular are the Middle Ages, with kids designing and making a shield. (Knights could be recognized by their family crests and other symbolic pictures, so children can draw whatever symbols are meaningful to them.)

American Indians, and make different dwellings, like adobe houses, tepees, longhouses, etc.

Masks go well with lots of themes--Mardi Gras, Africa, Japanese theater--and are fun to make.

Family, if you can get them to bring in pictures to make a collage or scrapbook. Also good for vacation or travel themes.

Mythical animals. As an activity, cutting pieces of animals out of magazines and gluing them together to make their own creations. Or, two teams and someone at the board. The teacher writes down three animals on some pieces of paper to be drawn from a hat and the student has to draw one animal with characteristics of all three. (ex. lion, eagle, dolphin, so they draw a lion body with wings and a fin or tail). The first team to guess and write down all three animals correctly wins. This one was always a hit.
posted by martianna at 1:19 PM on September 3, 2010

Response by poster: With the help of you nice folk and the links people pointed me to, I've got a quick first draft of a list. Some things might be overly broad or specific, and others are repetitive or could be grouped. Still, it's almost 50 themes, more than enough for a school year, even with trimming. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Alphabet/Books/Writing/Paper, Archaeology, Balloons, Boats, Cars/Trucks, Celebrations, Clothing, Colors, Construction/Buildings, Cows, Dinosaurs, Egypt, Fall, Farm animals/Farms, Flowers, Flying/Airplanes, Fruits, Horses, Houses, Human Body, Insects, Jewelry/Adornment, Jungle animals, Maps/Globes, Middle Ages/Medieval Times/Royalty, Money, Music, Myths, New Jersey, Nighttime, Numbers, Peace, Penguins, Pets, Shapes, Space, Specific Foods (watermelon, carrots, bread…), Sports, Spring, Summer, Superheroes, The Ocean, Time, Toys and Games, Trains, Trees, Vegetables, Winter
posted by booksherpa at 7:43 PM on September 3, 2010

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