31 Fun Preschool Themes for STEM Educators

ALI Staff | Published  March 11, 2024

Preschool themes are a fun, creative way to structure the school year with activities that both meet your needs as a teacher and tap into the curiosities of your students.

When it comes to STEM, they’re about turning classrooms into a hub of exploration and discovery.

Immersing our youngest learners with preschool themes allows them to connect to concepts on a deeper level, grow as learners, and have fun while doing it.

For STEM educators, it means students are better prepared for their educational experience beyond preschool.

Let’s dig into a primer on preschool themes, including why they’re important, and our list of favorite themes that will surely spark engagement in your preschool students. 


An image of a preschool classroom


What are preschool themes?

Preschool themes are learning units that include one overarching theme or subject.

This type of theme-based learning may integrate several content areas, but the focus is always on high-engagement activities that motivate students and help them meet academic goals.

By centering lessons and activities in this way, those lessons and activities become child-centered. Students know what to expect when themes are introduced, which can build confidence.

Common themes in preschool are about the alphabet, weather, colors, and shapes. 


Why are preschool themes important?

Preschool themes are important because they provide a framework for learning, make lessons more relatable for students, and support a deeper understanding of new concepts.

That last part is particularly powerful when kids are able to see a real-world connection to the material.


Our Favorite Preschool Themes for STEM Educators

This first group of themes for our youngest learners is linked to the most popular concepts in preschool education. Introducing themes in the classroom isn’t about making huge changes to the curriculum but working within that base to engage your preschoolers.


1. The Alphabet

Literacy is a key component to accessing STEM, and you’re likely already doing some version of an alphabet theme in your classroom.

Try to be more purposeful about teaching students about how letters look and sound in and out of context with a dedicated alphabet theme.

This can be as simple as giving students different ways to experience each letter, like alphabet songs, rhymes, and hands-on crafts to help them feel the shape and form of letters. Create alphabet STEM posters with relevant vocabulary for each letter.


2. Animals

Most young children love learning about animals, and there are so many directions you can take with animals as the broad idea.

Narrow it down to birds, animals by habitat, or animals with shared characteristics. Lead students on an animal study after one of their favorite read-alouds.

Explore the diverse world of animals through interactive activities, stories, and crafts that weave STEM and literacy with play-based learning that makes the classroom more fun.


3. Seasons & the Weather

STEM for preschoolers is all about hands-on learning, and learning about seasons is a great way to introduce students to simple experiments.

Themes can be centered about weather and activities by season, like planting flowers in the spring or hitting the beach in summer.

You can also teach children about weather systems in general, with themes on rainy day activities, snowflakes, and Ice Age dinosaurs.

Help students connect to their natural environments with themes about how those environments change from month to month.


4. Community Helpers

Introduce children to important helpers in their community, like firefighters, doctors, and postal workers. This kind of theme promotes awareness and understanding of people in the community they may interact with at some point.

This theme can also be more specific. Role-play scenarios at the dentist or doctor’s office or help students brainstorm helpers unique to their community.

If they live in a rural environment, they may want to learn more about farmers. These are all easy to customize.

Use any opportunity to use math language around shapes in the classroom.

During free play, play games like Candy Land and Tic-Tac-Toe to introduce concepts about lines and linear movement. This kind of simple exposure prepares students for kindergarten and beyond. 


5. Colors

Colors are a great way to introduce concepts about patterns, similarities, and differences. Turn simple color lessons into opportunities for hands-on play.

Use building blocks to guide students in creating towers with alternative colors or sort classroom objects by color at clean-up time.

For educators with a STEAM focus in the classroom, teach students about color mixing with art projects where they learn how different colors come to be.

If there are certain holidays approaching, have students think about which colors are associated with those holidays.


6. Transportation

This one can go beyond children’s love of toy trucks and cars to dive into different modes of transportation.

Have students think about the kinds of vehicles they see in their daily lives and how they get to and from school. A school bus theme is also an option here.

Create opportunities for imaginative play where students think about simple types of engineering at play to get from one point to the next, like bridges, train tracks, and roads.

This is true preschool STEM at work.


7. Space

Spark interest in all things space with a theme about planets, stars, galaxies, or all of the above.

This is a great way to get students thinking about the vastness of the universe and their role in it. Start simple with sensory bins where students touch things like space sand or moon rocks.

Introduce opportunities for imaginative play with students as astronauts operating a space station.

Build rocket ships and brainstorm possible space missions. Introduce math concepts like counting backwards with “blast off” games.


8. Shapes

Learning about shapes is basically preschool geometry.

Create opportunities for students to both see and touch different shapes so they can feel the differences. Have them use their bodies to create common shapes and get a movement break in the process.

Allow opportunities for the art piece in STEAM with projects where students create objects using single shapes or show off shape monsters.

Count and graph the different shapes students see in the classroom.


9. The Five Senses

Most preschool classrooms have tactile activities covered, especially during free-play activities.

Themes around the five senses give students the opportunity to explore all of the others with activities where they can see, hear, smell, taste, AND touch.

If your students already have a good sense of their senses, take them on a nature scavenger walk where they report back on what they see, smell, touch, and hear.

They probably shouldn't taste anything while they’re out there, but they can brainstorm what they could eat if they had to.


10. All About Me

This is a popular activity at the beginning of the year, but you can also introduce related themes about family trees and student interest areas at any point.

Students love talking about their favorite things, and finding common interest areas with their peers can be powerful.

Create opportunities for STEM connections by thinking about what makes students unique with hands-on activities where they create images of themselves out of classroom materials.

Use shadow activities to celebrate differences and build social-emotional skills.



More Themes for Preschool Students

We’ve shared our favorite preschool themes with you, but there are so many others that are accessible for young learners.

Think about your students’ interest areas and how those interests fit into your curriculum. Consider your immediate surroundings.

The best preschool themes are the ones that students can connect with on a personal level.

Here are some more that might be a good fit in your classroom.

  1. The Ocean
  2. Fruits & Vegetables
  3. Animal Habitats
  4. Favorite Foods
  5. Pets
  6. Trees
  7. The Beach
  8. Farm Life
  9. Holidays
  10. Fairy Tales
  11. Insects
  12. The Circus
  13. The Desert
  14. Plant Life
  15. Family
  16. Water
  17. The Zoo
  18. Rainbows
  19. Baking
  20. Feelings & Emotions
  21. Book Study


Preschool Themes & Story-Based Learning

Preschool themes are a great way to set the stage for activities you’re already doing in the classroom.

Story-based learning, in particular, is easy to weave into any theme and create more opportunities for engagement and hands-on activities.

Think of preschool themes as the framework and story-based learning as a tool where narratives become a tool within that framework.

Both support comprehension-building, tap into student imaginations and lend themselves to a multi-sensory exploration of concepts.

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to playful inquiry in your preschool classroom, Kide Science offers a full library of materials.

Engaging child-led activities tap into basic science, math, and literacy concepts with a colorful cast of characters we know children will love.






Which STEM subjects are of interest to you?

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