The summer sun is out, and the world is full of life! But the kids are also out of school, and now, we have to figure out ways to keep them learning. Use it, or lose it, right? AND we also have to get our little soon-be-schoolers prepared for life in the classroom.
So here, you’ll find some short and sweet unit study ideas to get those brain juices flowing in your little one. Each unit is designed to be spread out over one easy and fun week. They only take 1-3 hours of the day, depending on how in-depth you and your kids want to go. And you can choose to get all of the day’s activities done at once or break it up into morning and afternoon activities.
We opted to break ours up. It’s great because the activities don’t take so long that the kids lose focus, get bored, or are bombarded with too much information. So they stay entertained and educated at the same time.
(Psst.. If you homeschool your kids, these units would be great to do during the year too! Just use these ideas as a starting point, and build from there.)
In addition to these activities, my kids also practice their letters and numbers, either by writing them on different surfaces (i.e. paper, chalkboard, dry-erase sheet, etc.) or by using a sensory tray like this one.
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You’ll notice that I have a different song for every day. I don’t know about your kids but mine are in love with music, so starting off each lesson with a fun song gets them engaged and interested in the topic of the day! We kick off this lesson with “I’m a Star” by the StoryBots. You can find any of the resources I’ve used by clicking the links throughout this post!
On day 1, we also read Pete the Cat: Out of This World. My kids love Pete the Cat, and it opened up the opportunity for us to learn about some spacey stuff like astronauts, gravity, and comets.
And what’s better than topping off your first day learning about space with staying up late and looking at the stars in your back yard? Parent bonus points for using a telescope like this one.
What better way to learn than with lots of hands-on activities? You can find a Montessori-inspired one by exploring how planets orbit the sun, at Gift of Curiosity. And at Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls, you can find a fun science experiment about what melts in the sun light. Finally, wrap up your day by making cute sun catchers from Rainy Day Mum.
Read: The Berenstain Bears on the Moon (by the way… do you remember these books being called the Berenstein Bears? If so, you’re totally not the only one. There’s a whole crazy theory. Look it up!)
Kids learn best through play. So a fun way to talk about the difference in gravity on the moon versus Earth would be to play freeze tag with a twist: everyone has to move as if they’re on the moon!
Round off the day with this fun moon dust painting activity from Learn-Play-Imagine.
There’s a good chance your little one loves sensory bins (or will, if you’ve never heard of them). They’re simple, foster kids’ imaginations, and are super easy to throw together. You can just buy little toys from Amazon to stock them with. And you can steal this idea from My Mundane and Miraculous Life.
Every child in the world also seems to be obsessed with slime (and making it) right now, so you could strike up a conversation about the Milky Way Galaxy by making some galaxy slime from Schooling a Monkey.
And of course, a simple and free activity to talk about our very own planet is to go take a walk and enjoy it. Talk about the life all around us that is unique to our planet and you wouldn’t find on the others.
When I was a kid, I LOVED the Magic School Bus books and show, so I was excited to pass it on to my little ones by reading The Magic School Bus Lost In The Solar System. Afterward, we came up with as many space words as we possibly could. Pulling from their memory bank helps to solidify what they’ve learned throughout the week.
Finally, you can end your space journey by having your kids paint their own planets and name them!
The Deep Blue Sea
Read Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef. Afterward talk about coral and other questions your little ones may have. Next head over to The Science Kiddo to recreate their fun and easy science experiment on salt water density. Round out the day with making puffer fish paintings using a bouncy ball like this activity on Crafty Morning.
Song: “Baby Shark” by PINKFONG
It can be hard to get little minds to understand how big something really is. Today, start off with doing a fun activity to show your kids how big a great white shark really is! Take some easily removable tape, and make a shark like this one that’s 13-21 feet long (depending on how much space you have). Then they can take turns lying down inside the lines. Get at a good angle (like standing on the stairs), and take their picture.
Next create this sand and water sensory bin from Fun Learning for Kids, and let them have at it! Maybe throw in a few shark toys while you’re at it to keep the theme going.
Finally, make some cute shark hats like these from Glue Sticks and Gumdrops and use them to play freeze tag (with a twist). Whoever is wearing the shark hat is it. All other players are the “fishies” and have to try to swim away! Of course, this only works if you have more than one child. If not, you can find another silly way to play with your newly-made hats.
Read the much-loved story, The Rainbow Fish. Then do this cute craft from Crafty Morning to let your kids make their own rainbow fish. And because sensory bins are much fun, let them play in this sea foam sensory bin from The Crafting Chicks.
Give your kids an idea of what the different ocean zones look like by recreating them in a jar with this activity from I can Teach my Child. You can use this time to talk about different creatures that live at the different levels.
Read Pete the Cat: Scuba-Cat (because obviously, there’s one for every occasion). Afterward talk about oceanographers, marine biologists, and other ocean-based professions. Then wrap up the day (and the ocean unit) by taking a big cardboard box and making your own yellow submarine like this one from Little Tiny Learner. Ask your little one about what animals are outside the submarine windows and what ocean zone he or she is diving down to (anything to make that info stick!).
Read If You Happen to Have a Dinosaur. This book has all kinds of fun examples of different dinosaurs and is perfect to bring up the difference between carnivores and herbivores. You can even talk about your own diet in your home (as your kids will most likely want to do).
End the first dino day with this fun frozen dinosaur eggs experiment from Little Bins for Little Hands.
Jump into the day by measuring dinosaur footprints with this activity from The Many Little Joys. Just like shark day during ocean life week, this will give your kids an idea of just how big some of the dinosaurs were.
Take a little break by making an herbivore snack, consisting of your kids’ favorite fruits and veggies. You can let them help out by taking a trip to the farmer’s market and letting them pick which yummy plants to buy.
Afterward you can all sit down to do a little crafting and make dinosaurs from basic geometric shapes like this idea from Little Family Fun.
Today, you can revisit our favorite kitty by reading Pete the Cat: Cavecat Pete.
Afterward, dive into a discussion on archaeologists and paleontologists by doing a fun dinosaur bone dig. My son got one for Christmas that he loved doing! You can find it on Amazon.
Get your little ones outside early in the day to dig in the sandbox or a sensory bin for little dinosaur toys. You can even find those at a local dollar store. Or reuse the ones you hatched earlier on in the week! Afterward, come back inside and do some simple worksheets like these from Easy Peasy and Fun. Wrap up the day by getting their little hands messy with paint. Make a handosaurus like these from Fun Handprint Art.
Read The Dinosaur Who Lost His Roar. Afterward, get your little dinosaur up and moving by using a movement cube like this one from Creative Little Explorers to choose dino moves. End out the dinosaur unit by making fossils like these from Learning 4 Kids.
These aren’t going to be enough to get you through a whole summer. But they sure are a great start! And not every week has to have a unit study.
One thing that would be cool… if you’re taking a vacation, use wherever you’re going as inspiration for a study of your own. Find ways to make it come even more alive for your little explorers.
The Best Tip
My very best tip to give you while doing these preschool unit studies: just have fun with it!
I’ve been known to get uptight when things don’t go according to my plans. But man, that sucks the joy out of everything.
If you have high expectations, get frustrated easily, and lose patience, it’s going to show. And your kid is not going to enjoy his or herself. And they definitely won’t enjoy learning.
Just breathe. There’s no pressure to teach them everything they need to know right now.
Create a fairly casual atmosphere and just let the experience be fun. Don’t expect to follow everything I included here OR to only do what I included. Use these ideas and tailor them to fit your little tribe.
Let their curiosity take the front seat this summer!
Until next time,
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