How to Create Unit Studies For Less Than $5

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Are you planning for the new school year? Unit studies are a great way to teach little ones about different topics while having fun! Here are some easy ways you can create simple unit studies for less than $5!

Are you planning for the new school year? Unit studies are a great way to teach little ones about different topics while having fun! Here are some easy ways you can create simple unit studies for less than $5! #homeschooling #unitstudies #homeschoolingonabudget

How to Create Unit Studies For Less Than $5

When we first began our schooling journey at home I had such a fun time planning all of the activities we are going to do throughout the year with our oldest. We hoped to better understand the learning techniques of our children and how they will do best in school and also show them that school and learning can be fun.

I took a whole summer setting up and putting together our unit studies for the year. We will do one unit each week for 34 weeks (with a few breaks for holidays in between). As I’ve mentioned before, due to their past, our children function best on a schedule and on a routine so it’s important that we have a plan before we get started.

We began this plan when our littles were in preschool but it seems to have worked because now that we are getting into different grades, we still have a deep love for a good unit study. They are just so fun!


Here’s a glimpse at the overview of our Preschool year. We have a fun variety of topics we will be learning about. We only “do school” for a short amount of time each day when they are this age and we are only do schooling 4 days a week because one of our days is usually full of therapies so we don’t want to make it overwhelming.


I organized our units into containers on bookshelves in our schoolroom. Each time I head to the store I pick up a few more. I still don’t have containers for each week (as you can see by the pile of books in the picture) but it works for weeks to come. Each week is clearly labeled so if I find something else that would be fun to add to the week I can simply toss it in the correct box.

The amount spent on each box will depend on the theme but here are some simple ideas to get you started creating unit studies for less than $5.

1. Make a list

I’ve written out the activities planned for each week. They consist of simple crafts made from household items and other crafty things (that I buy from the Dollar Store!) We are using some crafts from a few different books that I have or was given as well as some crafts and activities that we just made up. Each craft/activity goes along with the main theme of the week. Our first unit is Blue Week.

2. Start planning early.

I started planning our school year as early as possible so I could take full advantage of what I could find at thrift stores, rummage sales, and some of those nice 50% off Hobby Lobby coupons!

3. Shop after-holiday sales.

I picked up several things last year after certain holidays. Themed activity books, bowls/cups for stacking and sorting, stickers, or other  small items (like pencil erasers) that can be used as math manipulatives are a great addition to your unit study and can be found on clearance.


4. Make a list of books that go with each theme.

One other thing I’ve done is to make a list of books pertaining to each of our themed weeks. Now when we go to the local library (which does not use an electronic system so I can’t look these up ahead of time!) we have a list of books to search for to add to our week. A great addition to our week…for free!


5. Use what you have.

A lot of our supplies and games are some that we already had or were given to us as gifts. I also ended up finding myself with a huge amount of old formula containers so that’s what we used to organize our craft supplies! They worked great and fit perfectly on the cheap shelves we have up right now. Plus they are easy to wash out in case anything spills!

Below are some examples of the fun unit studies I’ve created for less than $5 for our family.


Colors Week Unit Study

Here’s a peek inside of my box for the colors week. This box will actually be used for 3 weeks since we have 3 different color themes planned. The Colors book is a wipe-off book I picked up for $1 at Mardel. The picture of fruit with colors next to them are window clings I found at the dollar store. The books in the picture are ones that we had that happen to be about colors. The Colors book in the box is a magnetic activity book, I found it for $5 from Rainbow Resource. Colors and Shapes is a game I got at the thrift store for $0.50 and the flashcards I found at the dollar store. The bowls with spools is a color matching game I made. I found the wooden bowls at a garage sale for $1 and paid $2 for the spools from Hobby Lobby.

Everything in this box cost me a total of $10.50 or were things I already had, so minus the cost of crafty supplies that would be about $3.50 per week. (since we will use this one 3 times)


Bugs Unit Study

Here’s a sample of our plans for “Bugs Week”. My son loves all bugs so he is going to love this week!


Here’s what I have inside my Bug Unit Box right now. A bug measuring game that we were given. Insect flashcards from the dollar store. Some books about bugs that we already had. A little magnifying glass that we were also given. Some bug shading cards that I found for $0.10 at a rummage sale. And a honey bee wooden puzzle from the dollar store.

Not including the crafty supplies, this box cost me a total of $2.10 to put together.


Valentine’s Unit Study

One more sample week for you to see! This is our “Valentine’s & Hearts Week”. This week is fun because we are going on a “field trip” to the post office to mail off valentines. 🙂


Not much in this box yet but so far I have some heart foam stickers that we will use for crafts. I can’t remember where I got them so I will guess the dollar store! The Valentine’s Day coloring book was from the dollar store as were the Valentines which I had leftover from last year. The heart stamp I used a coupon for at Hobby Lobby and paid $2 and the rest are books that we had on hand about Valentine’s Day.

Minus the craft supplies needed I paid $4 for this box.

My children are always excited to start on school thanks to the fun unit studies that we add into our curriculum! Do you homeschool.. when are you starting?

Looking for more ideas? Check out these fun busy bag ideas out for extra activities to add to your unit studies.

Frugal Preschool Busy Bags 

Toddler Buys Bags for under $1

You can learn more about saving money here also: Saving Money on School Supplies.

What are some ways that you save money on school supplies and curriculum?


This post on How to Create Unit Studies for Less Than $5 was originally posted on Little House Living in August 2015. It was updated as of August 2019.

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      1. Hi, I have 3 boys of 8, 6, and 4 and would love to make unit studies. I started homeschooling in January and just a few weeks ago i discovered what unit studies and i loved them. Right now I’m im using Abeka curriculum and love it but wantto change some things. Im already searching for next year curriculums etc. How can i make unit studies for my boys?

  1. Love the little boxes with the themes. I also was smiling when I saw your re-used containers. I usually buy the cheaper candles at A.C. Moore – they are made in glass containers with lids that seal! So I have been washing them out to re-use for sewing, crafting and school supplies…plus I can see what’s inside! I also asked my church if I could keep the old plastic coffee containers that they use up every week. This will hold additional supplies and once spray painted, will look pretty!

    Love your blog. (Oh, and the Busy Book has a lot of great ideas to help with pre-school and kids in general…lots of simple craft ideas and motor skills work.)

  2. I love this! We’re still 2 years away from starting school but I need to try to remember things like this. I guess it’s also never too early to snag those clearance deals for future use! Brilliant use of those formula containers. Wish I had kept mine!

  3. Awesome, i love this system you got going here 🙂 I have a 2 year old boy and a 1 year old boy, so we still have a couple years before we truly start schooling, but i’m already collecting up ideas, methods, activities, etc… And this is something i’ll definitely keep in mind for my future little preschoolers!!! 🙂

    1. A unit study is just a focused area (or topic) of learning. Some unit studies can last a month or two, some (like mine) are just for a week or two.

  4. Love the boxes and collecting things for each week. My girls preschool plans based on interest so if the kids see a rainbow and start asking questions about rainbows then they will do a unit on it.

  5. You look really organised! We have done unit studies before, and are just about to start a new one, but I really like your idea of having them all prepared in boxes. Thank you for sharing it 🙂

  6. We’ve got our “crafty supplies” in a bunch of plastic boxes that textbook materials had come in from my former classroom – I love having everything in matching containers, so I’m sure you will, too!

  7. Wow, these look great. 😀 I am just beginning to look into homeschooling my 3 and 2 year old boys in Pre-K this year and these are some great ideas! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  8. I am not Homeschooling my son but I did do my daughter but it was a long time ago. If school does not get better though I will also be doing Charlie.

  9. My sister would love to homeschool but feels very overwhelmed by the idea. I have encouraged her to try “homeschooling” preschool so she can see that she is capable but I am afraid she will give into fear and peer pressure and just send her son to a traditional preschool. Would you consider making your printouts available for printing so that she (and others) who don’t know where to start can have some sort of direction or plan?

      1. Hello! Thank you so much for this post (I realize it dates a little, but is none the less a god send for me.)
        I currently live in France and I would like my son (3 years old) to have a rich English learning atmosphere at home. I would love to homeschool but I am a bit overwhelmed by the idea, having no real training nor basics in the field Would you consider making your printouts available for printing so that I can have some sort of direction or starting plan?
        Thank you for any help you can provide. (All my resources are either printed, send from my parents (FL, USA), or ordered of the internet when needed) so any documents you are willing to share would be so greatly appreciated 🙂
        Very kindly,
        Krystal (an American mom doing the best she can in a foreign world)

          1. Thanks I love your blog and I have you PINNED to my favorites menu.
            I really love your organisation layout for your lesson plans, I too am only able to teach my son for a few hours a day so they are perfect! If your are planning to make them available I will definitely be keeping an eye out. I would like to start his English School Year in May/June ( my parents are coming to visit for the summer and my son will be immersed in the language so it seems like a good time to start). Would we willing to share your lesson plans by email if they won’t be on your website by then?

            I really can not say enough about how WONDERFUL I think your lesson plans are, they seem in depth and creative. I love the hands on activities, so great.

            I don’t have access to the library for any English resources, and consequently order my books off of Amazon, are the books you recommend with your units available on your site?

            Thank you again for being a great resource and inspiration for all of us who are just starting to figure things out.

  10. Great tips! I love creating unit studies for our homeschool! Thank you for sharing these tips at the #SmallVictoriesSundayLinkup!

  11. Love the organization. I think having things prepared and organized in advance certainly makes things easier on the kids. Thanks for sharing at Merry Monday.

  12. Pre-school is so fun! It looks like you’ve put together a wonderful year. I’m so impressed by how organized you are. Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop!

  13. I feel like i have not been on the site in forever!! with the end of the summer garden season and getting things ready for the fall planting.Then getting this years homeschooling lessons ready and started plus going back to work in the evening for the first time in 4 years. I have felt this overwhelming busyness right now. I love being able to come on here and look at everything its my relaxing moment before the kids crawl out of bed!!! Thanks for the helpful tips!

    1. Wow, you have been busy! So glad you came back for a visit! We’re honored that we could give you a bit of rest!

      LHL Assistant

  14. The library can be a Homeschooling mama’s best friend. I know we go to ours everyweek.At our library if you get a letter from your local school board saying you are your childs teacher you can get a teachers card.That will allow you to be able to keep more books for months longer so you can plan those unit studies when the boys are bigger and need to learn more topics. Good luck with all the homeschool plans it takes alot of work but it is so worth it. Mine are in 5th,2nd ,and preschool and im so happy that i can spend so much precious time with them!

  15. I love the concept of unit studies and love how you have them organized in their own boxes. I am starting to think about home schooling my son for preschool and love the inspiration for topics. Thank you so much.

  16. i would love if you could share more of your activity pages. I am doing similar themes for my 1st grader and have found the ones you posted very inspiring.

  17. The Prairie Primer, an older homeschooling unit study book uses the Little House books as the theme for the studies. My family loves Farmer Boy. We are fortunate to be a couple hours away from Burke, NY where Almanzo grew up. We camp out there every year-I have two grandchildren that hang out in the barn and pour the dried corn in their shirts, cover up with it, and just have a great time. Before Five In A Row and Five In A Row are nice books for someone with pre-school and younger children to get started with unit studies. I picked apple drops from the farm last year so when we return I’m bringing my Wilder Farm applesauce too! Check out your local libraries as some are now putting together packs of books to check out that daycare providers use. They are similar to unit studies.

  18. Hello,
    Can I please get a list of your unit titles. I trying to start something like this. I just looking around to get a good list of themes.

  19. I love your ideas. You seem to be supper organized and I admire you so much for that. I also like how simple you make it look. I have a special needs 5 year old, an almost 3 year old, and a 15 month old. I am a stay at home mom and am also homeschooling. I’m always looking for good ideas. I really appreciate your site. Thank you so much!

  20. Do you have a printout of the book you show in the examples? With the activities and all the units you did? Did I miss the link when I was going through the post? Thanks!

  21. So are unit studies used as opposed to workbooks? I’m planning on starting homeschooling next year (2nd grade) and I’m not sure what to do. My daughter is definitely an active child so more hands on and on-the-move learning is what I’m leaning towards, but I have no clue what to do. I don’t want her falling behind on math and English (she’s a great reader), but I don’t know everything there is about language arts so I was wondering about workbooks. Im just so lost and consuming as much info as I can for next year! Thanks so much!

    1. We use unit studies to go more in depth on a topic, they usually aren’t a replacement for other curriculum we are using. That being said, I’m pretty sure you could put together a unit study that would be all-encompassing so that you wouldn’t need other curriculum.