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Nurturing Curiosity: How to Create Lesson Plans for Toddlers

Running a childcare center takes plenty of planning, organization, and flexibility. Child care center owners that don’t plan lessons in advance often find themselves scrambling each and every day. We get it: with all you have on your plate, the idea of sitting down to plan lessons can seem daunting. The good news is that creating compelling lesson plans for toddlers isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds, especially when you use a systematic approach, like the one outlined in this guide, to make the process more fun and efficient.

Many childcare centers throw lesson plans together at the last minute, or simply come up with activity ideas on the fly. While this can still provide some of the benefits early childhood education offers, it won’t provide the same caliber of positive impact as lesson plans that are well thought out and intentional.

If you’re ready to revamp your lesson plans for toddlers, look no further than our guide below.

The Importance of Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education is the educational period between birth and enrolling in kindergarten. Educational needs change throughout infanthood and toddlerhood, and a quality early childhood education is important for developing basic cognitive, physical, emotional, and social skills.

Aside from helping children get a head start educationally, early childhood education can also help toddlers discover new interests that just might stick with them for the rest of their life. Early childhood education programs introduce children to art, computers, nature, reading, and several other activities that can dramatically shape their interest in school in the future and keep them engaged in their community.

Unfortunately, children who don’t receive early childhood education before kindergarten are often behind their peers who do. Worse, children that are behind in kindergarten have a difficult time catching up with their classmates without significant interventions. The best way to help a child prepare for kindergarten and beyond is with early childhood education, though many families find it difficult to find or afford quality childcare in their area.

Wonderschool seeks to address these challenges by offering a search tool to provide early childhood education options that are vetted for quality. We also provide educational resources and tools to child care centers that can help them with the operations of the business, so they can better focus on developing engaging lesson plans and providing the best child care possible.

Toddler Learning Activities

When developing a lesson plan for toddlers, it is important to include activities that enhance several different skills in each of the four main types of development: cognitive, emotional, physical, and social. Each category is just as important as the next, and they are all interwoven with one another in childhood development. Focusing too much on one skill set can leave children lacking in development in the other categories, which is why it’s important to include at least one activity in each category per day.

Here are a few examples of activities that work to develop each skill set for toddlers:

Cognitive learning activities

Cognitive learning activities help toddlers develop their abilities to collect, process, and organize information about the world around them. These types of activities can enhance logical thinking, problem-solving skills, and language development. Some examples of helpful cognitive learning activities include:

  • Matching games and puzzles
  • Sorting objects into categories
  • Counting and number games
  • Alphabet and letter games

Emotional learning activities

Parents and teachers are well acquainted with the fact that toddlers have plenty of feelings, but they get frustrated easily because they can’t always express them the way they want to. The main way to help emotional development is through playing with other children, not just those that are the same age. Some helpful emotional learning activities include:

  • Reading stories about or drawing pictures of feelings
  • Playing pretend
  • Singing and dancing for self-expression
  • Child-led play

Physical learning activities

Physical learning activities are important in enhancing hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and a lifelong love of physical activity. Physical learning activities help children get out some of the abundant energy they have, which also helps them stay more focused during other, less physically active activities. These types of lessons can also help with their physical and emotional health when done regularly over time. Some examples of physical learning activities include:

  • Walking like different animals
  • Hopscotch
  • Bean bag toss
  • Balancing an egg on a spoon

Social learning activities

Social development impacts a toddler’s ability to share, feel empathy, make friends, and develop relationships with new people. Children in childcare automatically have the opportunity to interact with other children on a regular basis, but there are plenty of social learning activities that can help develop their social skills further, including:

  • Follow the leader
  • Simon says
  • Improvisational stories
  • Games that require taking turns

Example Lesson Plans for Toddlers

Creating a full year’s worth of lesson plans for toddlers from scratch can end up taking hundreds of hours and plenty of other resources that teachers and daycare centers simply don’t have. We highly recommend using a systematic approach to creating lesson plans, as this ensures each child gets enough exposure to activities that target different developmental areas each day. Many educators find it helpful to assign at least one activity from each developmental skill set per day.

For example, one of your weeks may look like this:


Cognitive: Matching game

Emotional: Drawing pictures of emotions

Physical: Bean bag toss

Social: Improv storytelling


Cognitive: Category game

Emotional: Singing and dancing

Physical: Balancing the egg on a spoon

Social: Follow the leader

And so on for each Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Once you have a few weeks down like this, you can mix and match activities to fill each skill set each day. Of course, you will want to ramp up the difficulty of these activities as the months go by and the toddlers begin to master certain activities at lower difficulty levels.

For example, a category game can start off relatively simply by putting objects into categories based on color. As a toddler gets better at that challenge, you can begin to introduce category games that sort wild animals versus pets or objects found in different rooms around the house.

There are hundreds of different activities for each category available online or in pre-written lesson plan books for purchase. Your childcare center probably already has dozens of activities for each development area that you already use on a regular basis, and you can seamlessly integrate those into a new, revamped lesson plan.

A Note on Assessments

One of the most important aspects of lesson plans for toddlers is the assessment portion. Assessing toddlers on a regular basis can help teachers understand how each child is progressing, allowing them to pivot lesson plans in an individualized manner to focus on areas that could use more nurturing

Toddlers’ brains develop and change quickly, making it hard for parents and teachers to spot missed milestones unless they are looking for them. Fortunately, developmental issues that are addressed properly during this period of growth can often be resolved with a few tweaks to routines and intentional lesson planning that caters to their developmental needs. Regular assessments help ensure that children are hitting their milestones, which ultimately allows them to become well-rounded toddlers as they make the transition to kindergarten.

Set Your Child Care Business Up for Success

No two toddlers are the same, and each may require a slightly different set of activities to reach critical milestones in development. Although toddlers’ brains don’t develop quite as rapidly as infants’, the toddler stages are also a critical time for developing important skills in the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive areas of life.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or lost about how to create lesson plans that both capture the attention of toddlers and help them grow, Wonderschool is here for you. Wonderschool’s mission is to bring child care centers that are both growth-minded and safety-focused to every neighborhood, giving families better access to quality childcare that helps their children get a great educational start. We offer dozens of valuable resources to childcare centers like yours to help foster an environment conducive to development and growth.

If you’d like to learn more about who we are and the tools we have available for providers like you, please contact us.