Updated: May 26, 2021
A Companion Guide to Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool Curriculum
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Community Helpers to the Rescue
This unit was a life-saver because it just happened to fall during those few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas break when life gets a little crazy. This theme was super engaging because there were so many opportunities to connect our learning to real life (and because there were lots of additional activities to keep my toddler busy)! We were having so much fun that I actually stretched it from two weeks to three weeks. I even broadened the theme of “community helpers” to become more like “occupations” to capitalize on his interest in other jobs people do (like astronauts). Best of all, it opened my toddler's eyes to the idea of a community where everyone has a role and we all do our part.
Building Background Knowledge
I was thrilled to discover that my local library had a Community Helpers Subject-in-a-Box with books, a DVD, puzzles, flashcards and figurines (see additional resources below). I just had to figure out how to use it all in a way that made the most sense to my toddler. In the end, I decided to spend the first day introducing the idea that some people have jobs that help other people, and reading The Berenstain Bears Jobs Around Town. We also watched part of the DVD but I can't say I really recommend it. I would use one of the first two video links below instead.
After that, I spent each day focusing on one career. I found an awesome YouTube series called “Can You Imagine That?” where children talk about what career they want to have and imagine how they would do their job. There is a video to go along with (almost) every career we covered and some extras to explore for fun.
The Learning Station - Occupations ← Introduction
Alphabet Occupations Song ← Introduction
More "Can You Image That Videos" by Radical Jr.: Actor, Animator, Architect, Astronaut, Astronomer, Artist, Animal Shelter Worker, Baker, Camp Counselor, Chef, DJ, Engineer, Entomologist, Farmer, Film Director, Fisherman, Floral Designer, Geologist, Lifeguard, Marine Biologist, Paleontologist, Photographer, Pilot, Singer/Songwriter, Toy Maker, Travel Guide, Video Game Designer
Community Helper Trivia ← A fun review game
*Books with an asterisk are my Top 5 Picks to Add to Your Home Library for this unit
Helpers in My Community - Kalman, Bobbi (diverse representation)
National Geographic: Helpers in Your Neighborhood - Evans, Shira (diverse representation)
Whose Hat is This? - Cooper, Sharon Katz
Tinyville Town Gets to Work - Biggs, Brian
Let's Meet a... (Cloverleaf Books) --> see full list below
ABC's of What I Can Be - McDonagh, Caitlin
Additional Book List
Books in bold are also suggested books in another unit.
Thank You, Helpers - Hegarty, Patricia ←released in 2020, this book focuses on healthcare workers and other pandemic heroes
The Berenstain Bears Jobs Around Town* - Berenstain, Stan & Jan ← This series can be hit or miss but this is a good one.
Community Helpers A-Z - Kalman, Bobbi
Show Me Community Helpers - Edwards, Clint (diverse representation)
Here Come the Helpers - Kimmelman, Leslie
Daniel Tiger: The Helpers in Your Neighborhood - Cassel, Alexandra (diverse characters)
Even Superheroes Have to Sleep* - Crow, Sara ← This is a favorite in our house and show lots of different careers, including a mommy (diverse characters)
When I Grow Up I Want to Be... - Lloyd, Rosamund ← Cool interactive book
When I Grow Up I Want to Drive... - Lloyd, Rosamund← Cool interactive book
Let’s Meet a Fire Fighter - Beliisario, Gina
Let’s Meet a Doctor - Heos, Bridget
Let’s Meet a Police Officer - Bellisario, Gina
Let's Meet a Firefighter - Bellisario, Gina
Let’s Meet a Teacher - Heos, Bridget
Let’s Meet a Librarian - Bellisario, Gina
Let's Meet a Doctor - Heos, Bridget
Let’s Meet a Dentist - Heos, Bridget
Let’s Meet a Construction Worker - Heos, Bridget
Let’s Meet a Veterinarian - Bellisario, Gina
Delivering Your Mail (Mail Carriers) - Owen, Ann
Keeping You Safe (Police Officers) - Owen, Ann
A Day in the Life of a Police Officer - Adamson, Healther
Hooray for Garbage Collectors - Kenan, Tessa
Where Do Garbage Trucks Go? - Richmond, Ben
TRUCKS Lift-the-Flap* - Priddy, Roger
Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do - Heling, Kathryn ←Making Inferences
Whose Vehicle Is This? - Cooper, Sharon Katz ←Making Inferences
Whose Tools Are These? - Cooper, Sharon Katz ←Making Inferences
Whose Hands Are These? - Paul, Miranda ←Making Inferences (diverse characters)
Career Day* - Rockwell, Anne (diverse characters)
What Shoes Will You Wear? - Cook, Julia
When I Grow Up - Yankovic, Al
Daniel Tiger: Daniel Visits the Doctor - Friedman, Becky
Daniel Tiger: Daniel Goes to the Dentist - Schwartz, Alexandra Cassel
The Berenstain Bears Go To the Doctor - Berenstain, Stan & Jan
The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist - Berenstain, Stan & Jan
A Day at the Firestation - Scarry, Richard
Curious George and Firestation - Rey, H.A.
Pete the Cat: Firefighter Pete - Dean, James
If My Love Were a Firetruck - Reynolds, Luke
Goodnight, Gorilla - Rathmann, Peggy
A Sick Day for Amos McGee - Stead, Philip C. ← Caldecott Honor Book
If I Ran the Zoo - Dr. Suess
The View at the Zoo - Bostrom, Kathleen Long
Wild About Books - Sierra, Judy
Library Lion - Knudsen, Michelle
The Berenstain Bears We Love the Library - Berenstain, Stan & Jan
Buster the Little Garbage Truck - Berneger, Marcia
I Stink! - McMullan, Kate and Jim
My Teacher - Ransome, James
Thank You, Mr. Falker - Polacco, Patricia (characters with disabilities)
A Letter to My Teacher - Hopkinson, Deborah
Seven Little Postmen - Brown, Margaret Wise
The Jolly Postman* - Ahlberg - Janet & Allan
This unit lends itself to a lot of free play and role play, so I didn't have to come up with many additional activities, but I did provide my toddler with tools and resources to engage with. Use what you already have, or check these out:
Puzzles and Games
Trend Enterprises Community Helpers & Careers Pocket Flash Cards (Match the occupation with the tools they use) ←These will grow with your child
Daniel Tiger's Welcome to Main Street Game - Practice social skills, turn taking and counting by spinning your way to the doctor's office, post office, etc.
Figures and Vehicles
Melissa and Doug Reusable Stickers Vehicle Pad with Backgrounds - Super inexpensive and can be used with Transportation and Construction units later
Marvel Education: Pretend Professional 12 Career Figures - These came with the subject in a box from the library but they were good talking tools.
Little People Sending Letters Mail Truck - ←This will grow with your child! My son got it for his first birthday and we keep coming back to it.
Fisher Price Doctor’s Kit - Bought this and I like it but the stethoscope doesn’t fit in little ears... but maybe that’s the point?
Melissa and Doug Spin and Swipe Cash Register - ← Love this for many reasons, one being the baby can play with it too!
Developing Life Skills: Write a thank you note or letter and mail it to Grandma or someone in another town. Be sure to tell them you are learning about community helpers or what you want to be when you grow up! Have them send you a picture of the letter when they get it to close the loop!
Field Trip: Meet a community helper. Visit the library, a fire station or the animal shelter. We happened to encounter a nice police woman at the library and she let my toddler sit in her patrol car and made the siren sound. It blew his mind!
Educational App: We strive to be screen-free during learning time (other than short videos for background knowledge) but my toddler loves Daniel Tiger and I appreciate the lessons the show teaches. We found a FREE app on our PBS.org that lets your child play doctor with Daniel, feed his fish, etc.
We got an amazing deal on this Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet with Kid-Proof Case at Christmas. I know screen time is a slippery slope but this came with so many free educational apps and digital books but most importantly, I have complete control over what is available on it.
With self-correcting puzzles, start with just a few your child will recognize and build from there. Same with flashcard matching tools to occupations - just offer 3 pairs at a time. You want your child to be successful, not overwhelmed.
Save the books that require your child to make inferences like "Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do" or "Whose Hat/Vehicle/Hands" for the end of the unit once your child is familiar with all the occupations. It won't make much sense if they don't have the background knowledge to offer an educated guess/prediction, but it is really good practice as making inferences is a skill your child will need in the future!
What was your favorite part of this unit? What other books did you read? What other activities did you do? Please share your photos and feedback in the Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler Curriculum Facebook Group in Photos/Albums/Year 1 Themes → Community Helpers
Until next time, may your coffee be warm and your toddler be busy!
Up Next: Playing Preschool: Unit 10 - Transportation
See Also: Introduction to Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler, A Companion Guide to Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool Curriculum, Unit 1: Apples, Unit 2: Colors, Unit 3: Nursery Rhymes, Unit 4: Clothing, Unit 5: Food, Unit 6: Five Senses, Unit 7: Teddy Bears, Unit 8: Things That Go Together