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Do you know what materials you already have for each theme? Do you know where they are stored? If the answer to any of these questions is no, It's time to take inventory!
Having a digital inventory list of your thematic teaching materials on hand, will help you save you time when you need to plan your lessons. It will also save you money the next time you spot a garage sale, or a run across an awesome sale this summer!
Why you should have one!
Having a list of all of your materials & resources on hand for each theme will save you tons of planning time. Not only will your inventory list tell you what materials you already have, it will also tell you where you have stored them, saving you additional time when you need to "ready" your weekly activities.
Many years ago, (a time my son would reference as "the dark ages"), before the advent of so much amazing technology, I used to manually record all of my thematic materials on a paper inventory sheet. Flash forward to today, instead of pulling out a 50 page binder, you can save even more time, by recording this information digitally!
An inventory list will save you money too!
Have you ever bought a duplicate book, or couldn't find something you know you purchased last month-only to purchase something else to replace it, and then find it a week later?
Having your Digital Inventory List at your fingertips will allow you quickly to search for the specific materials you own, so that you can avoid wasting your money on materials you already have.
It will also show you gaps in your curriculum, so that you can be more intentional about only purchasing materials you need for specific themes when your neighbor is having that awesome mega garage sale this summer!
What to keep track of on your inventory list?
Although organizing systems are completely customizable for the individual, I recommend you keep track of the following information on your inventory list:
Other information you can record: how many you have, the price you paid (for tax purposes), a photo of the item.
Free tools to help you create a Digital Inventory List for your thematic materials
With sooo many tools out there for creating a digital inventory list, it can easily get overwhelming to wade through them-so that's why I'm sharing 3 of my favorite tools to create a digital inventory for free.
Airtable is a free online platform that allows you to create your own database for just about everything imaginable (including your teaching resources).
You can create as many free workspaces as you need. You might want to create a separate workspace for your childcare program, your home, or one for each home school grade if you are homeschooling multiple aged children.
Within a workspace you create "Bases" (which are free for up to 1200 records). These are similar to an excel table where you can list all of your materials.
Airtable allows you to easily create custom fields for your categories, themes, and storage location. You can easily add additional fields such as text boxes, Check boxes, and website URL's. You can even upload files or images.
Airtable features allow you to easily search, sort, and group your items by theme, or category. It makes it easy for you to see what themes you still need to purchase materials for, and what materials you have on hand.
What I like about it: I use Airtable to organize all of our assets here at Pre-K Printable Fun. With over 300 products and over 1,000 individual activities, and blog posts to keep track of, Airtable handles it like a champ.
I like that I can use it from my desktop (because I prefer to use a PC when I plan), but II also like that they also have a free app that allows me to have access to my inventory on the go (no more shopping with a giant binder yay)! I also like the ability to easily customize the different field types including: single select, multiple select, UR, and even a checkbox option.
There is a slight learning curve with this application, but I am sharing a free copy of my Materials Inventory List base below to get you started. Be sure you've signed up for your free Airtable account first, before you copy the base!
Google sheets is another free resource for that allows you to manage all of your thematic materials digitally. Similar to excel (but free), Google sheets allows you to easily create the columns you'll need for an inventory list.
If you are tech savvy you can even create a drop down list for your categories or themes (to save you time from manually keying your entries). Googles apps make it easy to access the information on the go.
What I like about it: similar to excel, it makes it quick and easy to get started. There is no limitation on the number of records.
What you may find challenging: Formatting your fields can take a little longer if you aren't familiar with this platform. Since it's meant for numbers, longs strings of text can be hard to read.
Pinterest makes it easy for you to inventory your thematic materials. Create a secret "Theme Materials Inventory" Board (that only you can see), and within that board create a "Section" for each of your themes. Easily pin resources from the web to each theme, or upload images of your toys to their prospective "Theme" category.
What I like about: Most people are familiar with pinterest, and their mobile app makes it easy to search on the go. You can easily save product and book images from the web, and links to resources you plan to use. What you may find challenging: There isn't an easy way to tag your items by type, or indicate their storage location other than in the description box.
Build Good Habits
Small habits lead to big changes. These new organizational habits, will allow you to be more productive throughout the year freeing up time to spend doing other things you love. Commit to carving out a small amount of time each week, or each month to start on your inventory list. Once you have one, build a new habit of adding new materials you purchase, or find online to your list right away.
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