The Toddler Classroom
Whether you are opening a new child care center or just opening a new toddler room, it is important to know what kinds of toys and equipment you will need. While each state differs slightly in the requirements, there is a basic list of equipment needed for a daycare toddler room. Please make sure you check your state guidelines when equipping your toddler classroom, as the state guidelines are the very minimum standards allowed for early childhood classrooms.
When creating an environment for toddlers, it is important to keep in mind that toddlers are not just small preschoolers. Their developmental needs are very different from that of a preschooler and therefore, should have toys and equipment made just for them. Many preschool toys are not developmentally appropriate for toddlers.
Basic Furniture and Equipment
Many classroom furniture companies make tables and chairs specifically for toddler classrooms. This furniture is free of sharp edges, easy to clean, and available in several heights. The NAEYC recommends a ratio of one adult to every five children, with group size not exceeding ten children. Keep this in mind when purchasing tables and chairs for a toddler classroom. There should be space for each child and adult to sit while eating meals, without overcrowding. Three tables with four chairs each will give adults a chance to sit with and assist children while eating without becoming overwhelmed by a large group.
Most toddlers are capable of resting on a cot. Not having cribs in the classroom leaves more space for climbing equipment and other toys. Cots should have removable sheets that are washed weekly. Cots should be labeled with children's names and only used by one child per school year.
Toddlers are very busy creatures, and need safe places to climb, crawl and hide. A soft playscape can provide a challenging yet safe place for toddlers to explore their developing gross motor abilities.
Each child should have a place to put his personal belongings such as a cubby, a coat hook, or plastic bin. Be sure to label each cubby and place all personal belongings, such as extra clothes and diapers, within it.
Toys and Play Materials
Toddlers are still in the sensorimotor stage of development, meaning that they often explore materials with their mouths. Do not provide any toys in your toddler classroom that may be a choking hazard. Check toys often for pieces that may be missing or broken, and discard or fix these items as soon as possible.
Library: Provide board books and bathtub books for toddlers to explore on their own. Offer comfortable places to sit, such as beanbags, in the library area. This is also a good place to put stuffed animals and a few sturdy pillows.
Dramatic Play: Toddlers enjoy imitating adult behaviors. Dramatic play equipment should be basic and include pretend telephones, dishes, sturdy baby dolls, simple dress up clothes that toddlers can put on and off by themselves, and play food.
Manipulatives: A large part of a toddler's day includes filling and dumping and transporting toys. For this reason, fine motor manipulatives should be put in baskets or easily transportable buckets. Large duplo blocks, stacking rings, and three piece knob puzzles are perfect for this age.
Blocks: A simple block center should contain soft foam blocks, large cars and trucks, plastic animals and people. Heavy unit blocks are not appropriate for toddlers yet because of their weight and size, but large foam blocks or cardboard blocks are perfect for this age group.
Sensory: Sensory play is extremely important for toddlers. Toddlers in the sensorimotor stage of development learn by touching, tasting, and smelling. A sensory table, which can be easily cleaned and filled with things such as sand, rice, or water, is appropriate for a toddler classroom if it can be closely monitored. Teachers can also make sensory buckets. Some ideas for sensory buckets include soft scarves, material scraps in a variety of textures such as fake fur, leather, cotton, and corduroy. Sensory buckets can also contain simple musical instruments such as bells and cymbals.
Gross Motor: Toddlers need plenty of room to push, pull, ride and run. Child-sized shopping carts, ride on toys without pedals, and other push toys are all important items to include in your toddler environment.
Before planning a list of equipment needed for a daycare toddler room, be sure to check your state's minimum standards.
"The Right Stuff for Children Birth to Eight: Selecting Play Materials to Support Development"; Martha B. Bronson; 1995