Creating a Toddler Lesson Plan That Works

Updated on July 26, 2017
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Cholee has worked in childcare for over ten years and has taken several early childhood development classes.

Despite what most teachers and parents believe, young toddlers are capable of learning and sitting still for more than 2 minutes at a time. The key is routine and structure. Without structure and routine your room or home will ultimately fall into chaos.

Following a structured routine will ensure that the toddlers know what to expect and how to behave each day. Breaking up the learning with movement activities will allow toddlers to sit again for learning without feeling the need to get up and move around.

For example, a toddler can sit for fifteen minutes at a time learning and reading stories, especially if that time is followed by fifteen minutes of dancing or running around outside.

Many of my co-workers think it's crazy to make my toddler class sit that long, however they can and most days they like to sit and learn. Some days are harder, so you shorten the time and get up and move a little longer, and try again later in the day. The key to a successful learning session is watching and taking cues from the children.

When I started in my classroom I could not get the children to sit for even 5 minutes, however 2 months later they will sit for fifteen sometimes twenty minutes at a time asking for more. They choose to sit because they enjoy learning and know how the day goes, because I follow a structured routine that is easy for them to follow and remember.

Below is a sample lesson plan complete with pictures of art projects and books we read in my toddler class which is primarily a class of one year olds.

Some of the Eric Carle books we read in my toddler classroom.
Some of the Eric Carle books we read in my toddler classroom. | Source

Eric Carle Lesson Plan for Toddlers:

At the daycare facility I work at the themes and materials are given to you for each lesson plan. However, most of it lacks creativity and imagination so I have been bringing in my own ideas to create a lesson plan that follows the given theme, yet allows for the children to create 3D art projects that take more than 2 minutes.

For those of you who may not know who Eric Carle is, he is a children's author. He wrote the books "Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See", "1,2,3 To The Zoo", "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", among others. Trying to plan your day around this theme can be difficult, however I have found a foolproof way to stick to the theme and create a lesson plan that toddlers can understand and enjoy.

Toddler Lesson Plan:

Day of the week
Musical Instruments
I'm A Little Caterpillar
Language Development
"Little Cloud"
"The Very Hungry Caterpillar"
Art/Sensory Exploration
Make Clouds
Coffee Filter Butterflies
Imaginative Play
Be Weather people
Act Like Butterflies
Gross Motor
Follow the Leader
Run Outside
Fine Motor/Self-Help Skills
Play and Name Instruments
Find Bugs in Pom-Poms
Sing Weather Songs
Craw Through Tunnel
Animal Action
Walk Like An Animal
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
"Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See"
"1,2,3, to the Zoo"
"From Head to Toe"
Marble Paint Brown Bears
Make Alligators
Learn Senses Through Pudding Art
Act like Animals
Be Zookeepers
Play Dress-up
Play Copycat
Animal Action
Jumping Jacks
Animal Puzzles
Play-doh Creatures
Build with Legos
Color Matching
Animal Flashcards
Flannel Board Stories
Flannel Board Stories
Table Top Toys

Lesson Plan Explained:

The table shows individual learning categories and the activity that we did for each learning category. The day did not necessarily run in the order shown. This particular lesson plan is harder to follow, but is the one we have to use at my facility.

You can make an easier lesson plan by writing out fifteen minute time slots and filling those out with learning activities to do with your toddlers. These time increment lesson plans work out better, because you have the ability to see how each activity will flow into the next. These types of plans also allow you to identify where transitions will be made. Noting where transitions are is crucial, as most toddlers will have a hard time with transitioning from one thing to the next until they can establish some sort of routine. For your toddlers that are having a harder time, I recommend using songs or rhymes that are easy for them to learn. These songs will help them recognize when it is time to change activities, making the transitions easier for them. You can read about easy songs for transitions and why they work here.

You can start your lesson plan at 8:00 a.m. and go until 6:00 p.m. putting down specifics for each time slot. For example thirty minutes for breakfast, fifteen minutes for art, thirty minutes outside, two hours for nap, and so on until the last child is scheduled to be picked up.

Art Projects for an Eric Carle Lesson Plan:

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Egg carton alligatorsOur marble painted brown bears.
Egg carton alligators
Egg carton alligators | Source
Our marble painted brown bears.
Our marble painted brown bears. | Source

Planning Ahead:

Early morning circle is a great way to plan learning and teaching of the alphabet, numbers, simple rhymes and songs, colors, and animals. Each morning I separate learning numbers and letters with songs and reading stories. Or looking at animal flashcards with singing simple songs.

The toddlers love it and they get to learn important things too. Allowing fifteen minutes for circle followed by fifteen minutes of dancing is a great way to start the morning in my toddler classroom. They get some learning in and are still able to dance and get the wiggles and giggles out before art projects and more fun learning.

Planning ahead is key to any classroom running smoothly. In this case, I would advise creating a lesson plan like the one above and then making sure to gather materials and other items needed for the upcoming week. For example on Friday the week before, we made sure we had egg cartons in the classroom so we wouldn't have to go searching for them the day of.

Staying organized and planned will help not only the day, but the lesson run smoothly. You have more time to spend with the children and you will spend less time running around looking for things you need to complete an art project, or trying to find that book for your daily reading.

Personal Classroom Accomplishments:

After only two months of teaching this toddler class, my children can now name and identify animals such as hippo, zebra, orangutan, and seal. When I started most of the toddlers didn't talk and would use hitting or biting as a way to get what they wanted. If you are having trouble with biters in your classroom this hub has some great insight in how you can help prevent future incidents. Today my toddlers use their words and can carry on a short and simple conversation with me and the other teacher. Many of these same children can use simple sign language such as more and please.

Toddlers can be taught, through patience and persistent teachers it is possible. All the children need is a little structure and someone who believes in them.

© 2012 Cholee Clay


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    • Shesabutterfly profile image

      Cholee Clay 2 weeks ago from Wisconsin

      Hi U Avalos,

      I didn't provide descriptions for some of the activities, because they can be done in several ways and all of them are perfectly acceptable. I left some of the activities open to imagination and interpretation for that reason.

      For the clouds I like to have a predrawn cloud picture that they then glue cotton balls to. Cotton balls create a texture element and young children really benefit from learning about textures. Another one of my favorites is using puffy paint. Same concept, having a predrawn cloud and letting the kids paint it. Puffy paint has an airy texture and works great for giving the illusion of real clouds. You could also use plain blue construction paper and let them go crazy with the puffy paint and then cut them into cloud shapes later or leave the paper as is.

      For sensory instead of art, I've done whipped cream and pudding. It's fun for the kids to swirl around, and is non toxic if they decide they must try it; which almost always happens. They don't always turn out like clouds, but with sensory my main focus is on the texture not the actual "clouds".

      Hope this helps!

    • profile image

      U Avalos 2 weeks ago

      So where are the descriptions of the activities. For example, "Make clouds"... i could think of a couple of ways of doing that...

    • mkjuett profile image

      Mary Juett 5 years ago from Omaha, NE

      That's exactly what I was looking for. The struggle I have with designing the right program for us is trying to remember that little kids are learning with everything they do and see. Formalized lessons aren't necessary because they learn through play. I'm just trying to get a good balance so I can start transitioning them to more "lessons" as they get older. I like seeing what other people are doing to get ideas and compare/contrast my practices. Thanks for sharing, I appreciate it!

    • Shesabutterfly profile image

      Cholee Clay 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      My toddler class is there from 7:30 to about 5. Between that time we probably only do an hour to an hour and a half of education.

      In the morning we do 15 minutes of learning and reading stories. (We practice counting and the alphabet as well as simple songs such as The Itsy Bitsy Spider). As well as 15-30 minutes of art and sensory learning were we teach them about textures or how to glue paper together.

      In the afternoon we have another 15-20 minutes of learning were we read stories from the morning (for repetition) as well as practice shapes, counting, alphabet, or songs. Really depends on the day and how long the children are willing to sit for on a given day. But I really try to "teach" throughout the day. Either by teaching sharing or taking turns and other development learning.

      The rest of the day is made up of center play which basically means the children get to explore different toys in certain, trucks/blocks, bugs/magnifying glasses, etc. Which we teach them how to use the items properly and talk about the items.

      Hope this helps:)

    • mkjuett profile image

      Mary Juett 5 years ago from Omaha, NE

      I've been creating units as well. I use books to provide the base topic, then we read the book(s) several times during the week to create repetition, and build activities for different areas based on the focus of the book. Thanks for answering my question, but I think I needed to clarify it better, sorry, lol. What I wanted to know is for toddlers, how much time do you spend total in one day on education? Some days I spend an hour or so, others I'll spend up to four hours. Do you do the same, or do you have set school hours?

    • Shesabutterfly profile image

      Cholee Clay 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      mkjuett--I always found lesson planning fun, especially the trial and error stage when they are little:)

      Most lesson plans I make are only a week long, unless I can stretch it into something really fun and still have the children interested in learning about it. For example our water, sand, and sun unit is two weeks because it is such a broad subject you can add quite a bit of material to it.

    • mkjuett profile image

      Mary Juett 5 years ago from Omaha, NE

      Love this! Thank you so much. I'm a sort of newbee homeschooling mom, meaning my kids are still little (2 & 4), so it's been fun figuring out what projects and lessons formats will work for them. It's all about testing it out and seeing what works! Anyway, my question is, for the above lesson plan you give, what is the approximate time frame for it?