Your toddler can’t wait to start school, but you can giver her an educational head start with your own creative and simple lesson plans. When teaching a toddler, limit the lesson time to 20 minutes or less, so she doesn’t lose interest. You might find a weekly or monthly theme helpful to link your lessons together so each lesson builds on the previous one. Include crafts and stories that link to your lessons to keep your tot focused.
The calendar can provide ideas for creative lesson themes. Your lessons could focus on the seasons or holidays for the month and incorporate various topics, such as budding plants, St. Patrick’s Day, weather, baby animals, things that are green and shamrocks for March. With this theme, you might plant a few flowers and watch them grow, talk about how the sun and rain nourishes the plants and the need to protect the plants from unpredictable March weather. You can observe budding trees, scampering animals and new nests as you walk in the park, look for four-leaf clovers and watch the bees buzz around the budding flowers. Around St. Patrick’s Day, you can watch a parade, make shamrock cookies and read the story of St. Patrick’s life.
Your tot’s need for variety could lead you to use rotating lessons where each day of the week has a different theme. Mondays might include neighborhood helpers and nature because you usually run errands on Monday. You could point out people that make your neighborhood safe, such as police, firefighters, health care professionals and the postman. Walk through your neighborhood and point up the changing season, how the wind blows your hair and sends clouds and kites sailing, different types of living creatures your tot can see. Work on social skills, such as how to play nicely with other children, stranger danger and following rules that keep him safe. Tuesday could include exercise, recognizing numbers and healthy foods.
Field trips offer more than a reason to get out of the house. Your tot can explore a children’s museum, one exit at a time for months. A zoo offers more than a year of fun and learning as your tot learns about monkeys, birds or whatever animals fascinate her. A trip to the farmer’s market offers opportunities for lessons on growing plants, healthy eating, transportation, the environment and weather. A trip to your supermarket can include lessons on how food gets to market, why canned vegetables are in cans, healthy eating, recognizing colors and letters and learning the names of common items in a different language.
Children’s books offer many ideas for creative lessons. You can read a book and ask your toddler, “What’s blue on this page?” or “What do you think will happen next?” You can visit the library and incorporate social skills such as using inside voices, respectful speech, taking turns and caring for books. Choose books about kids to increase vocabulary, discuss feelings and appreciate other cultures.
- Fun with Mommy and Me; Dr. Cindy Bunnin Nurik
- Outings & Adventures with Children Ages 1-6 & Beyond; Lynda Morley
- Teach Preschool: Toddler Lesson Plan Overview
- The Everything Toddler’s Activity Book; Joni Levine
Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.