Lesson planning is an essential skill for teachers to have. As educators and caregivers, a large part of the job involves harnessing children's natural curiosity and providing them with engaging learning opportunities that help them develop new skills and knowledge. Creating effective lesson plans for toddlers is an essential part of this process, but it's not always easy to know where to start.
With so many different factors to consider, from attention spans to developmental levels, it can be hard to know which elements to include in your plan to keep your little learners engaged and excited about learning. In this article, we'll explore some tips and tricks for creating effective lesson plans for toddlers that will lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning.
The importance of toddler lesson plans
A lesson plan is a detailed guide that helps teachers organize the key objectives that children need to learn and how that learning will happen in the classroom. It’s similar to a roadmap showing the learning trajectory for each lesson. Lesson plans help teachers thoughtfully prepare engaging and meaningful activities to stimulate children’s overall development. Teachers ensure that the lesson is aligned with established learning standards and each child’s different learning level so that children can meet learning goals successfully.
Lesson planning also allows teachers to assess the quality of their instruction and make any improvements to their delivery. Teachers can easily monitor class progress and determine what changes they need to make. Planning can also save valuable instruction time by establishing a clear weekly or monthly outline that teachers can follow, while also allowing for flexibility to meet the unique needs of each child.
Finally, lesson planning also encourages collaboration between teachers and families. Families can see what their children are learning each day and continue reinforcing learning objectives at home. They can get a clearer understanding of where their child is excelling and what skills or areas need extra attention.
Elements of a lesson plan for toddlers
A well-structured lesson plan ensures you are prepared to help children reach their educational goals. To create a successful lesson plan for the children in your childcare center, you'll need to consider five components:
- Learning objectives
- Lesson materials
- Lesson procedures
- Related requirements
Learning objectives are goals that you hope to achieve with your lesson. Include at least one objective per lesson that states what children will learn and which cognitive, physical, social, and emotional skills they will develop by completing the lesson.
Learning objectives can focus on skills such as understanding the relationship between cause and effect, learning pattern recognition, and identifying colors.
For example, a learning objective for a necklace threading activity may be: “Children will develop their fine motor skills and learn to identify colors and recognize patterns by threading colored beads.”
This lesson plan section lists the materials you will need to teach the lesson. Materials in this section can include:
- Handouts (like coloring pages, worksheets, and laminated flashcards)
- Necessary supplies (like crayons, pencils, paint, construction paper, and scissors)
Lesson plans for toddlers should also incorporate educational materials that encourage the children to play, such as alphabet blocks, musical toys, and color sorting toys.
A list allows you to purchase materials in advance, prepare a budget, and stay organized. You’ll also avoid altering lessons due to a lack of necessary materials.
This section of your lesson plan provides a step-by-step outline of the lesson and explains how you will introduce the lesson topic to the children. The lesson procedure may also describe the methods you will use to teach the material and explain the real-world applications of the skills the lesson will teach.
The constraints of your lesson procedures will differ depending on your teaching philosophy and methods. For example, if your childcare center utilizes the Montessori method, your lessons may prioritize hands-on activities that encourage children to explore materials independently and learn at their own pace.
If your childcare center utilizes a Reggio Emilia-inspired approach, your lessons may prioritize project-based activities that encourage children to explore through collaboration with each other.
No matter what teaching philosophy your childcare center uses, creating an outline of your lesson’s procedures will help ensure that your lessons are focused and aligned with your teaching philosophy.
Related requirements are guidelines that extend beyond the scope of your lesson. This section describes how your lesson aligns with national, state, and local educational standards and your childcare center's teaching goals.
This section describes how you will assess the children to determine whether they have met the lesson objectives. This section may include a wrap-up activity that tests the children's understanding of the new concepts, such as questions you can ask the children.
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Evaluating your lesson plan
After you teach your lesson, evaluate your lesson plan. Reflecting on your lesson plan will help you think critically about your teaching methods so you can improve the lesson for future classes.
To evaluate your lesson plan, take notes on how you presented the lesson. For example, suppose you find that you rushed while explaining the activities or explained them too thoroughly and lost the children’s attention. In that case, you may want to adjust the amount of time you allot for instruction before allowing the children to begin the activity.
Asking yourself the following questions after the lesson can help guide your evaluation:
- Did you stray from the plan you outlined?
- Did you allow enough time for the children to ask questions?
- Did the children struggle to complete the lesson or activity?
- Did the assessment show that the children learned the required skills?
- Did any children struggle to understand the lesson?
After asking these questions, consider what you would change about your lesson plan. These changes can help your lesson plan meet your children’s needs and better fit their unique learning styles. You can also better prepare for the children you will teach in the future.
Examples of lesson plans for toddlers
Toddlers thrive in an environment that offers routine and consistency, and a well-designed lesson plan helps to achieve this. A thoughtfully crafted lesson plan allows educators to cater to the individual needs and interests of each child, promoting engagement and active participation. Below are free lesson plans for toddlers:
This weekly lesson plan includes a variety of activities centered around the theme of the letter “A” and apples.
This template focuses on a different letter of the alphabet each week and encourages letter recognition through books, activities, and crafts.
This lesson plan encourages children to share about themselves with their teacher and classmates.
Customize this free, printable template to suit your teaching style and children's needs. Use this template to identify the learning objectives and record the developmental domains and pre-academic skills each lesson supports.
Engage families with lesson plans
Lesson plans enable communication and collaboration between educators and families, ensuring a cohesive and coordinated approach to learning. Keep families in the loop by sharing milestones, activities, schedules, and lessons through a daily report. This practice can improve communication with families, increase their engagement, and build trust in your program.
Weekly or monthly newsletters are another great way to bring curriculum visibility to families. You can easily share digital newsletters via email and they’re quick to update and distribute. When families see what their child is learning, they feel more involved in their child’s education and are motivated to engage in school activities and supplement those activities with other learning experiences at home.
Detailed lesson plans play a vital role in preparing you to teach your children new skills, assess their understanding of the material, and evaluate your teaching procedures. By incorporating key elements such as clear learning objectives, age-appropriate activities, and intentional teaching strategies, you can provide a structured and engaging environment for toddlers to thrive.
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