Teaching the Toddler Years in Daycare

By Kara Bietz

The toddler classroom is often the busiest, happiest and noisiest place in a child care center. It is important for teachers to remember that toddlers are not just short preschoolers, but that they require a specialized curriculum and activities that are suited just for them.

Toddler Growth and Development

The toddler years are roughly defined by the ages between a child's first birthday and just before his third birthday. While toddlers may sometimes look and act similar to a preschool aged child, their needs and emotions are very different. For example, toddler attention spans are much shorter. Also, growing toddler bodies thrive on plenty of movement, while preschoolers often have the ability to sit still for slightly longer segments of time. When one is starting to teach a daycare curriculum, it is important to keep in mind these subtle differences in toddler growth and development. Creating a curriculum for preschoolers and expecting toddlers to be able to navigate their way through the day successfully is a recipe for disaster. In order to provide an engaging, safe and appropriate environment for these young learners, you must first understand their growth patterns and development nuances. Here are a few basic notes on toddler development to browse through.

Creating a Toddler Curriculum

Now that you understand a bit about toddler growth and development, it will be easier to plan a great toddler curriculum and daily lesson plan. When planning your day, remember to leave a few open blocks of time for toddlers to discover the materials you have available in the classroom at their own pace. Plan short activities that children can choose to participate in or not, and encourage the children to join you in the project. Given the choice, most toddlers will choose to participate with the group if an adult is close by. Provide plenty of time for toddlers to explore the outdoor world, and also pay special attention to offering as many sensory opportunities as possible each day. Browse through these ideas for classroom setup and daily lesson planning for toddlers.

Toddler Art and Sensory Activities

Often, a toddler's favorite part of the daycare day is when they are able to participate in art and sensory activities. Toddlers love to get their hands into the materials and explore. Many times, toddlers will not create a product when they are participating in art, but rather just enjoy exploring the materials and manipulating them in a way that they choose. Try not to discourage this kind of exploration, as there will be plenty of time for teacher-directed art projects at a later date. For now, showing toddlers how to appropriately use the materials and then letting them discover on their own will have many benefits. Here are some fun and appropriate ideas for art and sensory play for your toddler classroom.

Learning Across the Curriculum

In addition to art and sensory activities, you may also want to include a few circle time activities, music and movement, outdoor games or science exploration activities to your daily lesson plan. Keep in mind that toddler attention spans are very short, and forcing them to sit still for long periods of time may result in frustration for both you and your class. Keeping activities for toddlers short and relatively simple will insure that children have a positive experience in your classroom. Here are a few lesson plan ideas, as well as a few simple activities to help you begin planning a great toddler room curriculum.

Between the ages of one and three is when many children are first starting daycare. Teaching these small children is a privilege that few can experience. Toddlers are a very special group of youngsters! They are growing at a tremendous rate and need teachers and a daycare curriculum that can keep up with their development needs. Remember to keep toddlers unique traits in mind when creating a lesson plan or daily schedule.