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Teaching Toddlers in Daycare Centers

written by: Kara Bietz • edited by: Jonathan Wylie • updated: 3/2/2012

Use the ideas in this article to create balanced lesson plans for toddlers in a daycare center environment.

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    Teaching toddlers in a day care center is not without its challenges. Children develop by leaps and bounds during the toddler years, and it will be the teacher's job to keep up with these milestones in development. Flexibility in scheduling and lesson planning is the key to having a successful toddler classroom. This article contains ideas for toddler daycare lesson plans for teaching in a center atmosphere.


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    Getting started

    As the children are arriving in the morning, a welcoming activity can help the teacher greet each child and assess their temperament as they come in the door. A happy and warm greeting, followed by a simple task, such as putting their jacket on a coat hook or washing their hands at a sink will give the teacher ample time to speak with and greet each child.

    Circle time activities for toddlers should never last more than ten minutes. Developmentally, toddlers are unable to sit still in large groups for long stretches of time. Asking them to do so is inappropriate and will create discipline problems in your classroom that otherwise would not exist. Make sure your circle time activities consist of a blend of sitting still activities and movement activities. For example, if you are reading a story, make sure there are opportunities for children to join in by moving their bodies, clapping, or even chanting or fingerplay along with the story.

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    Center Activities

    Provide several different options for toddlers to choose from, arranged in learning centers. There should be a mixture of quiet activities (such as reading) and noisier activities (such as a sensory table) available every day. All center options for toddlers should be limited to small group activities. If possible, an adult should be available to assist at each center during this small group time. If there are a limited number of teachers available for this, be sure to float between centers and provide assistance to the children as needed.

    Transition times can be tricky in any classroom, and toddlers are no exception. When it is necessary for children to get ready for lunch, for example, it is important to give the children a warning and a countdown. Announce when it is five minutes, two minutes, and one minute until clean-up time. Sing a familiar song during transitions so toddlers make a connection. Assist toddlers as much as necessary with hand-washing, toileting, and clean up. Allow toddlers to help set the table for lunch. Give them simple tasks such as passing out napkins or plastic cups.

    When nap time is over, allow more time for small group learning centers. These can be a repeat of what you provided in the morning, or a whole new set of activities. Allow children to move freely from one activity to another, but make sure your centers are not becoming overcrowded.

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    Finishing up

    A very short circle time activity can be a nice end to the toddler's day. Quickly review what you did that day, and talk about what types of activities will be available the next day. Be sure to say goodbye to each child, and spend a few minutes with each child as the end their day, just as you did in the morning.

    Using the hints above, create your own toddler daycare lesson plans for teaching in a center atmosphere.