Coming from a teaching background, it is ingrained in me to plan and have a purpose for activities and learning. When I first decided that I wanted to formalize the activities E and I do at home, the first step I took was looking for the preschool learning standards that I needed to cover. Standards are basically a list of knowledge and skills a student is to know or demonstrate by a certain age or grade level. These standards are supposed to be like a staircase of learning that progresses throughout the school years to eventually prepare students for college.
Up until a few years ago, different states had different standards for learning. Recently, though, there has been a push to have nationwide common core standards for grades K-12. Preschools are supposed to align their standards to have students ready for kindergarten. Although I can find the kindergarten standards on the common core website, I am not experienced enough with toddlers to know what to do to get them ready for the kindergarten standards (basically, to break those basics down into even smaller skills and steps). Luckily, though, I found a great set of learning guidelines from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for ages three through five. These guidelines have standards, indicators of child's progress, and teacher strategies and activities to put these guidelines into practice. These standards seem to be in line with the common core standards, as well. These guidelines are what I use to help make sure I am working on the skills E will need to have to begin Kindergarten.
From there, I decided I would pick unit topics that are interesting and timely to work to meet our standards. Holidays, vacations, animals, hobbies, weather, and favorite activities are the unit topics I am currently planning. This particular unit focuses on the five senses. I think this topic has a lot of possible activities and includes a lot of vocabulary and life skills that are important to learn about.
After I decided on a unit, I like to gather my resources. I started at the library. I used a key word search to find books, primarily non-fiction books, on the topic. It is so important to expose students to vocabulary, realistic pictures, and factual information about the topics. Above you will see the collection of non-fiction books I have collected so far for this unit.
My next steps in planning this unit is looking through both the standards with indicators and the various activities I have collected in hopes of using and/or modifying them with E. I try to match up the activities with the standards and indicators. Then, I try to think up activities to do to hit the standards and indicators we don't have any activities planned to cover. Many times we have books, music, toys, instruments, etc. that I can easily incorporate to help to meet the standards and indicators.
On top of that, we want to have FUN! Having fun and learning new things in the process are really what all of this is about!
Hopefully, if you are new to planning, my technique with give you a place to begin!