My preschooler recently became fascinated with police officers, firefighters, and sirens (partially thanks to this episode of Signing Time).
While he’s interested seems like the perfect time to work in a “community helpers” unit!
Because we love book-based activities around here, we checked out a LOAD of “community helpers” books from the library to accompany our activities.
As I found more great activities, this unit grew, so we’re stretching this unit out over almost 3 weeks. (He’s loving it so far, so I’m going with it!)
Occupations we covered:
-general “community helpers” activities
-emergency medical technicians (EMT/paramedic)
Our general plan: Spend 1-3 days on each occupation, reading one book and completing one activity (possibly two) each day. (Around 30 minutes total each day, not including any location visits.)
Read below for quick recaps of the activities we’re doing, plus two product reviews. These activities are geared toward preschool age, and you’ll notice a few modifications I used for my son’s special needs. Be sure to check out the awesome links throughout and take a look at the end of the post for a free printable!
General Community Helper Activities
Check out the books we gathered for this unit:
My son especially liked the “A Day in a Life” series. He kept picking up those books in particular and flipping through them on his own.
We completed two days of general activities about community helpers. (Disclosure: I was given a free copy of the following two products from Stone’s Education in exchange for my honest review. See full disclosure at the end of this post.) These “Community Helpers: Fun-to-Know Puzzles” cards made by Trends Enterprises were a great introduction to various helper occupations. As we flipped through a general community helpers book, we paired up a community helper with his or her work tool. This puzzle set comes with twenty person-tool pairs, allowing for a good variety of occupations. Each puzzle pairs up in a unique way, so if kids try to pair up the doctor’s prescription pad with the teacher, the puzzle pieces won’t fit.
Another day, we tried out this Listening Lotto: Community Helpers game (manufactured by Carson-Dellosa). I was extremely interested in trying this activity out, especially with my son being such a visual learner. The game comes with a CD of audio clues, 12 game boards (enough for a co-op or small class), and 120 small paper markers. The audio CD calls out descriptions of community helpers, and the child marks the appropriate person on his or her card. Though you could choose to have a “winner,” we typically choose to play until each person’s card is filled.
The phrases the audio tracks used are very age appropriate for preschool and early elementary (“find the person on your game card who cooks at a restaurant” or “find the person on your game card who helps us when we are hurt or sick”). The tracks themselves are only 10-15 seconds long, so I did have to pause the tracks to allow time for my visual learner to think and look for the answer. (Older kids would be able to move quicker.) Perhaps due to my son’s special needs, he needed help occasionally with a few extra keywords or signs, but I helped less than I thought I would! He caught on to how to play the game quickly. A few of the pictures could be a little confusing for younger ages, but practice quickly increases familiarity. This game is especially good for review, but could also be used as an introduction to the unit to gauge what kids know. It’s a great activity for transferring audio clues to visual representation.
We also used some location photos and these community helper cards to match the person with the location. (I got these from Stone’s Education a good while ago. They seriously have a rockin’ catalog.) I set 4 photos out at a time, gave him one helper card, and asked him where that person worked. A very simple, but effective activity.
Specific Community Helper Books and Activities
Book: A Day in the Life of a Librarian
Activity: Go to story time! Make “thank you” cards for two librarians.
Doctors and Nurses
Books: Doctors in Our Community and Community Helpers: Doctors
Activity: Pretend play with bear! We took Bear’s temperature and tried to do a mini check-up on Bear. Pretend play challenges my boy, so this activity only lasted a few minutes.
Garbage and Recycling Collectors
Book: A Day in the Life of a Garbage Collector
Activity: Recycling Center sorting – A simple sorting activity with some recycling materials. I placed out two bowls and several pieces each of paper and cans.
The first round, I put one can in one bowl and one piece of paper in the other bowl. I asked my son to finish sorting. He did with lightning speed! The second round, I left both bowls empty and asked my son (with much fewer directions) to put the cans in one bowl and the paper in the other bowl. He completed this task, too. Categorizing can be tough for kids with special needs. I was pretty excited about his performance.
Book: Community Helpers: Garbage Collectors
Activity: Shapes Garbage Truck craft from No Time for Flash Cards
We followed this activity fairly closely to how she describes it. Modification: I created a “model” of the craft first. Then I had my son follow the steps as described in Allison’s post. My fella needed a little guidance at the beginning, but then finished the craft much more independently!
Books: A Day in the Life of a Police Officer and Community Helpers: Police Officers
Activity: We completed portions of Homeschool Creation’s police officer PreK pack, including the tracing, clip ‘n learn, counting and fingerprint book activities.
Book: What Does a Police Officer Do?
Activity: Stoplight Craft from Homeschool Creation’s Kindergarten police officer pack. Visit police station and take “thank you” note!
Book: Community Helpers: Mail Carriers
Activity: “Write” (or scribble or color) letters to family members and really mail them! Let child put stamps on and place letters in the mailbox. (Coming soon: a post on our new “writing center” for preschoolers! Stay tuned!) Also, give “thank you” to mail carrier (or go to post office).
Book: Community Helpers: Firefighters
Activity: Portions of Homeschool Creation’s Preschool Firemen Printable Pack, including matching cards, tracing sheets, and size sorting activities.
Bonus activity: Fire station tour! Many town fire stations allow tours for families or small groups if you call ahead to schedule one. After our tour, we’ll pretend play with our diaper box fire truck, modeled after this one from No Time for Flash Cards.
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs)
We tried to visit a local example of each location throughout this unit. At each stop, we took a “thank you” card with colorful scribbles from the kids and a small plate of fruit and candy as a small gift of gratitude for their service. (I kept trying to think of something kind and useful to give that would stay in our budget, too, and couldn’t think of much else. Any ideas? Please let me know in the comments!)
A Personalized Community Helper Book
Also at each location, I tried to take a picture of the building/location itself and a photo of my son with one of the community helpers. At the end of the unit, we’re making a simple “My Town’s Community Helpers” book to read and love! And, if it blesses you, you can download a copy of the template I made for free!
Each “helper” has two pages. One page has a sentence about that community helper and a place for a photo. The other page has a sentence about where that community helper works and a place for a location photo. You can paste 3″ x 5″ photos on each page or insert the photos digitally with PDF-editing software (or even draw pictures if you’d prefer not to use photos). After printing, you can bind the pages one right after another, or flip the pages so that you have a two-page spread each time you turn a page. We usually hole punch the “spine” and tie the book together with yarn. I might laminate these after we attach our photos, too!
Click this link to download the My Towns Community Helpers Photo Book Template PDF! (Thanks for downloading, and I hope it’s useful! Please share this blog post rather than the direct link to the document itself.)
For more resources, check out my “community helpers” Pinterest board for more ideas and activities!
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What activities have your children loved to learn about community helpers? I always love gathering resources, so please share in the comments!
Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of the “Community Helpers: Fun-to-Know Puzzles” and “Listening Lotto: Community Helpers” from Stone’s Education in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and I only share what I believe to be helpful or useful.
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This post is also linked up with The Homeschool Village’s Ultimate Homeschool Link-Up, Homeschool Creation’s Preschool and Kindergarten Corner, In Lieu of Preschool’s Tuesday Tots, UpsideDown Homeschooling’s Hearts for Home linkup, and the Weekly Kids Co-op.
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