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Best Sample Daycare Schedule for Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

Best Sample Daycare Schedule for Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

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Creating a daily daycare schedule is no small feat. As a daycare owner or childcare director, your day-to-day can be hectic. Daily routines are the key to maintaining order. This goes for daycare staff, children, and even families. In this guide, we'll teach you how to create a daily schedule for infants, toddlers and preschoolers that perfectly balances structure and flexibility.

The basics of a daily daycare schedule

Building a daycare schedule can be a challenge. You’ll need to factor in available resources, licensing requirements, developmental needs, and space constraints. While every childcare provider has different rules and program offerings, there are some general guidelines to follow when building a daycare schedule. Regardless of age group, your daily schedule must incorporate ways to meet all of your children’s developmental milestones while ensuring the safety and well-being of your children and your staff.

There are four key areas to consider as you craft a schedule that works for your center.

1. Licensing requirements

Adhere to your state's daycare and childcare licensing regulations when creating a schedule for your center. These vary depending on your location and will provide you with a framework to start from. Are you required to provide 30 minutes of daily exercise for your three-year-olds? What are the rules regarding staff ratios for each age group at your daycare? Do you need to document health checks for your infants every morning? Are there regulations on cleaning tasks during the day? Do your due diligence to ensure that you build both the required and the recommended components into your daycare schedule template.

2. Developmental needs

Consider that 80% of brain development happens in the first three years of life. More than 1 million neural connections are formed every second during these years. Not to mention the rapid physical development that occurs during this stage of childhood. The good news is that there are easy-to-follow recommended guidelines for meeting the daily needs of each age group, whether it’s hours of exercise per day or types of play activities. As such, all daily daycare schedules should be built to support each age group's developmental milestones and prepare each child for the next developmental stage and classroom. Your schedule will contain blocks of time dedicated to supporting physical, social, and cognitive growth through structured routines and activities. It will also consider the necessary physical needs of each age group, such as naps, feedings/meals, and diapering/potty training.

3. Facility logistics

Depending on your daycare facility and available resources, daily scheduling can become a puzzle to piece together. Different age groups may need to use your outdoor facilities at staggered times. If you have a multipurpose room for special events or guest activities, you’ll need to work this space’s availability into your daycare schedule template. If the toddlers and preschoolers share a wall between their rooms, you may want to schedule some quiet activities while the toddlers are having their nap. If you offer flexible options, such as part-time mornings or afternoon schedules, you may have programs that share a room, so you’ll need to build transition time into your daily schedule.

4. Staff logistics

Another building block of your daily daycare schedule will be staffing needs. Your childcare staff will need regular breaks throughout their day. Will you schedule a floating staff member to provide these breaks throughout the day? Or will these be built into each classroom’s daily schedule, depending on the activity block? Staff will also need time to perform all other duties that don’t involve direct supervision in their rooms, from prep time and cleaning to record-keeping and assessments. Another common practice is consolidating classrooms at the end of the day as children are picked up at different times. This helps to maintain ratios while keeping staffing costs down. Some daycare centers plan to pull a teacher in the afternoon as students leave to perform non-supervisory administrative or cleaning duties. For example, you may want to schedule outdoor time at the end of the day for toddlers and preschoolers so that the groups can be combined as needed depending on the ratios each day.

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Creating daily lesson plans will help you organize and stick to your daycare schedule. Download our free daily lesson plan template and customize to suit your teaching style and children's needs. 

Daily Lesson Plan Template - brightwheel-1

Download our free daily lesson plan template!

Infant schedule

The infant daycare schedule is typically designed to meet the needs of children between the ages of six weeks to 18 months (or when they begin walking). Building opportunities to engage with infants one-on-one will help encourage their progress on all developmental milestones.

To inform your schedule, you’ll need an understanding of benchmark behaviors and abilities in this age group.

Developmental milestones for four-month-olds

  • Reaching for toys

  • Holding up their heads unsupported

  • Starting to roll over

  • Recognizing faces

  • Returning smiles

  • Imitating facial expressions

  • Babbling and imitating sounds

 

Developmental milestones for nine-month-olds

  • Sitting without support

  • Pulling themselves up to stand

  • Starting to crawl

  • Playing “peek-a-boo”

  • Showing preferences for favorite toys

  • Exhibiting the beginnings of separation anxiety

  • Understanding “no”

  • Copying sounds/gestures

 

Developmental milestones for infants one year to 18 months old

  • Speaking a few words
  • Repeating words/trying to say words

  • Waving goodbye

  • Working at standing/walking

  • Banging objects together

  • Drinking from a cup

  • Crying when a parent leaves

  • Responding to simple requests

 

Infant schedule guidelines 

Infants need as much interaction as possible as they are learning about the world around them. They also need plenty of exercise — even newborns! The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends several minutes of tummy time a day from when they come home from the hospital.

Daily schedules for infants should contain a lot of flexibility and variation since you’ll likely deal with a range of needs throughout the day. Infant programs typically have a higher staff-to-child ratio to handle all of the physical tasks that accompany caring for a group of infants. You may also face some stringent licensing guidelines around documentation of naps, feedings, or diapering, so these activities may need more thorough planning than is provided in our sample below.

Many centers opt not to post daily schedules for infants, given how varied the needs are and how rapidly they are changing. However, it is still best practice to have a guideline to work from to ensure they are getting the support and interaction they need to grow and learn.

 

Sample infant daycare schedule

8:00am - 9:00am

Drop-off + bottles/breakfast

9:00am - 9:30am

Diapers

9:30am - 10:00am

Circle time (books + songs + puppets/finger plays)

10:00am - 10:15am

Bottles/morning snack

10:15am - 10:30am

Diapers/clean up

10:30am - 11:30am

Naptime

11:30am - 12:00pm

Bottles/lunch

12:00pm - 12:30pm

Story time (books + songs)

12:30pm - 1:30pm

Outside play/gross motor time

1:30pm - 2:30pm

Naptime

2:30pm - 3:00pm

Bottles/snack

3:00pm - 4:00pm

Sensory or art activity

4:00pm - 5:00pm

Individual play time

 

 

daily-daycare-scheduleSource

Toddler schedule

The toddler daycare schedule is generally designed to meet the needs of children from 18 months to three years old. This group is newly mobile and working hard to communicate verbally. Plenty of time to work on language and gross motor skills will be the basis of the daily schedule for toddlers as you help them progress on all of their developmental milestones.

Developmental milestones for two-year-olds

  • Walking confidently
  • Throwing a ball

  • Holding a crayon

  • Experimenting with defiance and independence

  • Copying others

  • Engaging in simple cooperative play

  • Simple vocabulary of names, everyday objects, and body parts

  • Speaking in two to four-word sentences

  • Can follow simple instructions

Developmental milestones for three-year-olds

  • Showing affection and concern for friends

  • Taking turns in games

  • Engaging in joint activities with a common goal

  • Following multi-step instructions

  • Starting to carry on conversations

  • Can be understood by most adults

  • Running

  • Jumping

  • Pedaling a tricycle

  • Climbing stairs and playground structures

Toddler schedule guidelines  

Once your children are mobile toddlers, their daily schedule will change some, with the biggest difference most likely being the absence of the morning nap. Daily schedules for toddlers will contain ample outdoor/gross motor time to foster the important physical development happening at this age. The AAP recommends 60 minutes of active play per day for toddlers, with at least half of that being led by adults.

Toddlers need plenty of group play time to explore the beginnings of cooperative play. Your schedule should encourage interactions during activities or at play centers in the classroom. The younger ones will benefit from observing the older toddlers as they begin to play and interact with each other. Imitation is key as they start to build a real understanding of how to work with others around them.

 

Sample toddler daily schedule

8:00am - 9:00am

Drop-off + breakfast

9:00am - 9:30am

Independent play/play centers

9:30am - 10:00am

Circle time (morning routine + songs)

10:00am - 10:15am

Morning snack

10:15am - 11:30am

Outside play + physical activity

11:30am - 12:00pm

Lunch

12:00pm - 1:00pm

Sensory or art activity

1:00pm - 1:30pm

Story time (books + songs)

1:30pm - 2:30pm

Naptime

2:30pm - 3:00pm

Afternoon snack

3:00pm - 4:00pm

Group play (puzzles + games + center activities)

4:00pm - 4:30pm

Closing circle

4:30pm - 5:00pm

Choice time/outside play

 children drawing together

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Daily preschool schedule

The preschool daily schedule will meet the needs of the oldest children at your center, typically three to five-year-olds. The shift for this age group will focus more on fine motor and language/cognition abilities and other kindergarten readiness skills. Building more structured activities with an increasing academic focus will encourage progress on this group’s developmental milestones.

Developmental milestones for four-year-olds

  • Hopping 
  • Catching and throwing a ball

  • Walking backward

  • Using scissors

  • Copying shapes

  • Dressing themselves

  • Engaging in imaginative play

  • Cooperating with others

  • Having interests/likes/opinions

  • Following some basic grammar rules (using “he/she” and “over/under” appropriately)

  • Telling simple stories

  • Singing songs such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “The Wheels on the Bus”

  • Writing capital letters

Developmental milestones for five-year-olds

  • Skipping

  • Doing somersaults

  • Using the swings

  • Drawing shapes and people

  • Telling the difference between what’s real and make-believe

  • Exhibiting more independence

  • Wanting to please their friends and be like them

  • Speaking very clearly

  • Using future/past tense and more sophisticated grammar

  • Telling stories with full sentences

  • Writing letters and numbers


Preschooler schedule guidelines

This is the age that the afternoon nap is starting to drop off, so naptime can also turn into quiet reading time for those who aren’t able to fall asleep. The other big shift will be towards more cognitive and literacy skills in preparation for kindergarten. Your daily preschool schedule should include more table and task-centered activity blocks to ensure they leave your center fully equipped to handle the transition to school.

This age group still learns a lot through imaginative and fantasy play, as they build a stronger sense of self and cooperative relationships with each other. According to the AAP, they also need even more physical activity, up to two hours daily. This group will work on improving balance and coordination in both fine and gross motor activities.

 

Sample preschooler daily schedule

8:00am - 9:00am

Drop-off + breakfast

9:00am - 9:30am

Circle time (morning routine + songs)

9:30am - 10:15am

Activity center

10:15am - 10:30am

Morning snack

10:30am - 11:00am

Outside play + physical activity

11:00am - 11:30pm

Table work (literacy/math)

11:30am - 12:00pm

Lunch

12:00pm - 1:00pm

Art or sensory/fine motor activity

1:00pm - 1:30pm

Story time

1:30pm - 2:30pm

Naptime/quiet time

2:30pm - 3:00pm

Afternoon snack

3:00pm - 4:00pm

Group play (puzzles + games + center activities)

4:00pm - 4:30pm

Closing circle

4:30pm - 5:00pm

Choice time

Final reflection

Whatever your variation on these schedules is, it’s important to post your daily schedule in the classroom and share with your families to keep everyone informed. Following your daycare schedule framework will ensure that each age group’s developmental needs are met, which will help build trust with your families. Follow your daycare routine as much as possible and allow flexibility as special events or opportunities arise.

 

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