Theme Programming Carried
Throughout the Month
Debbie Bouknight, BS, ACC, CDP

It is quite common for Activity Professionals to use themes as a basis
for developing programming, especially for special events, parties, etc. However, how
many Activity Professionals take a theme and continue it throughout the month on a
regular basis? This is what I would like to suggest you try. Whether you do thematic
programming monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly, there is so much you can do with this
idea. It is also a so much fun and educational for those you serve.

The first thing to do is choose the month and the theme for that month. At the
community where I work, the residents are given a list of themes and they vote for their
favorite during resident council meetings. They recently chose a “French” theme. The
Activity Professionals then plan activities for the month related to that theme. The
Dietary/Nutritional Services Departments plan a special meal based on the theme.
Special napkins, placemats, and table decorations that reflect the theme are utilized for
the special meal. I suggest making individual menus for this meal, especially if you
have access to a color printer. The menus can be placed on the tables with each place
setting.

The sources for ideas for your activities are endless; however, I have found the Internet
to be the best. Once the theme has been chosen, you can search for games, crafts,
food, party ideas, trivia, etc., related to the theme. The theme forms the basis for your
activities throughout the month.

Invite speakers in to present informational topics related to the chosen theme.
PowerPoint presentations can augment the presentations if you have access to a
laptop, screen, and LCD projector. You can create unique programs by importing theme
related images from the Internet into the PowerPoint program.
The library is also an excellent source for ideas related to the theme. There are many
websites containing numerous ideas, e.g.,
www.birthdaypartyideas.com. I am
continually able to get a number of theme related ideas from this site. Enchanted
learning is also another good site. There are sites that help you make theme related
bingo cards, word search puzzles, crossword puzzles, etc. Search engines like Google
and Ask.com can take you to these sites.

Theme Ideas

The following are a few theme ideas;

Butterflies/Ladybugs/Critters

This can be fun and educational. There are numerous websites where you can order
live ladybugs and watch them grow. They can be placed in small jars for your residents
to “let loose” outdoors. You can also order live caterpillars online (www.insectlore.com).
and watch them turn into butterflies before releasing them outdoors. You can find
educational books about both subjects at the library or Online. Use this information to
provide informative educational sessions, discussion groups, etc. There are numerous
craft ideas online or through Oriental Trading Company that are related to this theme.
There are games you can play and an Internet search engine can take you to many
sites with instructions and ideas. For parties and social activities, decorations related to
the theme are numerous and easy to find. Piñatas are available almost anywhere.
Thematic songs such as Butterfly Kisses and There Ain’t No Bugs on Me, can be found.
Videos such as It’s a Bug Life can be shown. Decorations can be made or purchased
from a variety of sources. Theme related scrapbook papers are available for
scrapbooking and craft ideas. Storybooks are available at the library and can be used
for an intergenerational program. Walkers and wheelchairs can be decorated for a
parade. Try a thematic dress up day for the staff and invite them to come to work in bug
related costumes. Hold a discussion group and talk about Entomologists and what
they do. If possible, invite an Entomologist to speak to the residents about his or her
profession. If you’re lucky enough to have a butterfly conservatory in your area, this
would be a nice trip.

Cruise Theme

Start by naming your ship. During a craft class, have the residents make passports for
everyone. Take digital pictures of the residents and affix the pictures to each passport.
As the residents “travel” to different ports of call throughout the month, you can stamp,
or use stickers to denote each destination on their passports. Have activities
throughout the month with educational and information programs about the different
ports of call. Decorate common areas to designate each specific port. At our
community, because we are so large, each unit chooses a different “port” and
decorates accordingly. Poster displays can be made using pictures from the Internet,
which are reflective of the various locations the residents visit. You can go online or to a
travel agency and pick up cruise brochures and DVD’s to show the residents. You can
make your own decorations or purchase them. I have found that some travel agencies
may have some posters you can have. Have a cruise ship casino activity one day and
then there is the ever popular cruise ship bingo! Every ship has a “ship shape” center of
some sort and so can you, with exercise, yoga, and Tai Chi being incorporated into the
facility’s fitness program. Special parties with cruise related food and decorations make
“cruising” lots of fun. And of course, don’t forget the tropical drinks, with or without
alcohol, depending on your policies and population. Invite speakers from the library,
local colleges, etc., to speak about any of the ports you’ve chosen to visit. We actually
had someone come in from the zoo when we did this program. The individual had
recently returned from Australia (which was one of our ports), and he spoke about his
trip and had pictures for the big screen. Trivia games based on the ports of call can be
scheduled. This type of information abounds on the Internet. Have a “spa” activity for the
ladies, with cucumber eye treatments. You can even bring in a massage therapist for
neck and upper back massages if allowed and not contraindicated by the residents’
conditions. Obtain maps of the various ports to display during activities. Go online and
download cruise related songs such as Come Sail Away, Sailing, The Love Boat
theme, South Pacific, etc. Have a day to discuss the Titanic and maybe show one of the
movies or a documentary about this famous ship. Serve foods indicative of the various
ports, or have cooking demonstrations. Have a dress up day for the staff and the
residents. In addition to the other types of programming ideas mentioned above, here
are some of the ports we visited for our cruise month: Paris (served French pastries
and sparkling grape juice in plastic wine glasses); the Bahamas (pictures from a staff
member’s cruise where brought in and someone from the library came in and told
stories); Alaska (cruise ship video and decorations of igloos, totem poles, moose,
eagles, etc.); Jamaica (picture display and videos); Puerto Rico (one of the
Housekeepers brought in many items and pictures to show and told about living there).

Medieval

Go back to the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable. There are
numerous movies about this era: Camelot, First Knight, etc.). Go online and get
information to discuss the history, dress, customs, etc., during this time period. You can
use this theme to talk about dragons and folklore, as well as show Puff the Magic
Dragon and sing the novelty song about Puff.  During a craft class, have the residents
make shields and decorate them with various Coats of Arms. The residents can make
a “tapestry” (using a roll of paper) and design a medieval scene. Cut out swords and
cover with foil before hanging them in a crisscross fashion as decorations. Holde a
feast and use a trumpet before announcing each resident’s name as they arrive at the
door of the dining room. Build a sand castle. Entertainment ideas can include anything
from stories, jugglers, poetry, or music from this era. Evil wizards were common during
this era as was Merlin. Wear a graduation robe and make a cone shaped hat to portray
a wizard. Play “slay the dragon” with a piñata.  Serve grape juice in plastic goblets or
wine glasses. Thematic party ware can be ordered online. Talk about the Holy Grail and
have a “search for the Holy Grail” game (hide a silver goblet or foil covered one and let
the search begin)! Or, make paper goblets and tape them around the facility for the
residents to find. Hold a discussion group about the phrases that had their origins
during this time (a search online will lead to these). You can find craft and game ideas
online as well. Look for Medieval and Gregorian music at the library. For authentic
foods, search online for Medieval related food items. You can purchase and download
a book called The Ultimate Medieval Themed Event at www.questexperiences.
com/quest2/products/medievalbook.asp. This book has 175 unique and creative ideas
for this theme.

This is just a small sampling of what you can do with a theme. I know how creative
Activity Professionals are, so I’m sure you’ll create even more ideas. Simply take
whatever theme is chosen and look for as many ways to celebrate as possible. The sky
is the limit
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