Brainstorming a theme and vocabulary words for preschoolers
So you and your child decided on a theme or topic for this season or month and you need help thinking of ideas for activities. You would like to introduce more vocabulary words to your child for language development.
Or, perhaps you and your child want to move on to a new theme, and you don’t know where to begin.
In my previous post, I talked about incorporating hands-on activities with 3-part cards which can help with learning new vocabulary words. I gave the example of a gardening theme because my daughter (two years and 9 months old) and I have been working in the garden, planting herbs and taking care of them.
My daughter is approaching preschool age. I thought it would be a fantastic idea to brainstorm themes and create ideas for more vocabulary words for preschoolers!
Extending the gardening theme
While exploring in the backyard and other local places in nature, my daughter has discovered new things. She found a bee, a dragonfly, a toad, a ladybug, birds, hummingbirds, squirrels, ducks, geese, flowers, a rainbow in the sky, and gardening tools. I name them and talk about them with my daughter.
While thinking about your theme or topic, such as gardening or nature, imagine you are a young child. Notice your senses and your surroundings. What do you see, hear, smell, touch and/or taste? What are you drawn to?
Notice the beauty around you as if you were a young child. Observing and taking note of the smallest treasures of your surroundings can help inspire you on developing your theme.
While exploring our backyard and other places in nature, I have come up with ideas for a more specific list of gardening and nature-related categories:
- backyard birds
- gardening tools
- plant growth and life cycle
- parts of a flower
With this list, you could dig even deeper and create a new theme for the next month! For example, under the insect category, you can list 8 different insects that could be local to your area.
First, you could create 3-Part cards for the 8 different insects. Second, which insect is your child most drawn to? My daughter talks about bees a lot and she’s fascinated by them. You could do a whole theme on bees! I created 3-Part cards for types of bees.
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Curriculum development project
A theme on bees made me think of when I was in my Montessori teacher training back in 2007. Part of our training was to create a curriculum development project. We had to choose a theme, expand on that theme, and create hands-on activities in all curriculum areas of the classroom (language, math, practical life, sensorial, science, social studies).
At the time, one of the teachers in my training chose to do her theme on bees, and I was amazed at how deep you could dig to come up with subtopics and activities for bees. For example:
- types of bees
- parts of a bee
- the life cycle of a bee
- pollen, flowers, and honey
With this list of subtopics on bees, you could create more subtopics. Choosing a theme topic can be expanded into several more subtopics and lists, which is a great strategy in expanding vocabulary words for preschoolers.
In another example, I chose Rocks and Minerals as my curriculum development project. I chose this because young children love to explore with crystals and stones, as well as rocks they find in their backyard. A rocks and minerals theme can also be expanded further with sub-topics and lists.
For example, you can brainstorm names of rocks and crystals (limestone, granite, slate, quartz), types of rocks (igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic), and further Earth science topics, such as volcanoes.
I discovered that the curriculum development project was a super helpful assignment because expanding themes into subtopics is the best way to plan and come up with new ideas and vocabulary words for the children. If your child is very interested in a particular theme, it is great to know that you can dig deeper and explore further with the theme.
Mind Mapping to brainstorm new ideas and new vocabulary words for preschoolers
While talking about our curriculum development project at the Montessori training, the instructors encouraged us to brainstorm and expand on our theme using a mind map. The instructors wrote the main theme in the center of the board and drew branches out from the central theme and gave examples for subtopics of the central theme. You could dig deeper and draw smaller branches from the subtopics to create more subtopics.
Mind mapping is a visual brainstorming tool. It’s a fascinating tool because it is compatible with how the brain thinks. Instead of writing down ideas in lists, like a hierarchy, you can create branches to visually illustrate your ideas.
There are no bad ideas when it comes to mind mapping; just get all your thoughts and ideas out of your head and onto the map. Then, like a tree, you can “prune” your “branches” to the most interesting and feasible paths and create your action plans for those ideas.
How I used mind mapping
I came up with a small list of ideas from the gardening and nature theme I started with my daughter. From this list, I created a mind map with paper and colored pens. I used different colors to label the different subtopic and I also drew a little picture to represent each subtopic.
Using colors and pictures are optional. But it’s helpful to use colors and pictures on your mind map because after all, this is a visual tool that your brain likes! Also, I find that it makes it fun and it feels less like work! Your mind map doesn’t have to be perfect. I made some mistakes while creating mine. The most important thing is that you’re brainstorming new ideas in a visual way that will help you plan your next theme, activities, and list of vocabulary words.
Also, you could do this with your child, and ask what she’s mostly interested in!
Mind mapping software
If you don’t want to create a handwritten mind map, that’s okay! You can use mind mapping software. I explored a few options that have a free version and a premium version. Below is the same mindmap I created in Mindomo, an online mind mapping software.
I thought Mindomo was very easy to use and created a beautiful, organized layout. Another option I played around with is Mind Miester, which was also very easy to understand and utilize. You can use the free versions which have limitations. But, it’s a great way to play with mind mapping to see if it’s right for you!
I created my mind map. Now what?
Now that you created your mind map, you can analyze what you brainstormed and decide which sub-topics have ideas that appeal to you and your child. You can pick out the next theme you’d like to work on next and decide on new vocabulary words.
Concluding Thoughts about vocabulary words for preschoolers
Mind mapping is a great brainstorming tool. Not only can it help you come up with new themes and extensions for vocabulary words, but it also helps to develop new topics without too much additional legwork.
Let’s face it… developing an overall theme does take time and effort. So if you can extend an existing topic into various facets, not only does your child develop a deeper insight into the theme, but you get many more activities with only a small time investment.
Once you have your theme extensions, you have now created so many more words for your child to explore! Vocabulary words are important because it certainly helps with language development and preparing your child for reading.
But, it also helps develop your child’s communication skills, speaking, listening, and preparing for writing. Try this mind mapping tool with your current theme and leave a comment on how it worked for you!