Daily schedules are an important part of any daycare center, as they are the foundation for children's learning. The social, emotional and physical development of toddlers is a core aim of daycare, and your center's programming is a direct reflection of that mission.
But these schedules are useful tools “behind the scenes” as well. To make the most of your toddler daily schedule, zoom out to look at how it will influence your center beyond the day-to-day. Schedules affect how your center runs, how your staff plans their workload, and how you communicate with parents. And they are the way that you shape the long-term development of children in your care.
There is often more to the child care forms and paperwork in your daycare than meets the eye, and you can streamline your own internal processes by using each one to its full potential. Schedules affect how your center runs, how your staff plans their workload, and how you communicate with parents. Beyond recommending a particular schedule, here are three ways you can maximize how you use toddler daily schedules in your daycare.
Toddler daily schedules help with parent communication
Parent communication starts before a family is enrolled at your daycare, when they are deciding where they want to secure a spot for their child. Including an example of a toddler daily schedule on your website and handing one out on tours of your daycare may convince parents to choose your program.
These sample daily schedules will give families a sense for how your center runs. Your philosophy on early childhood education is exemplified via the activities proposed and their order. Especially if you are following a particular pedagogical school (e.g., using the Montessori method), caregivers who may not be familiar with different models will be able to see how they affect the day-to-day activities their child will encounter.
This will help families determine if your program is the right fit, and if their expectations for what their toddler will do during the day align with your curriculum. Every parent has their own idea of what they want for their child, and there's no better way to see if your center is a good match than to give them a blueprint of what to expect.
Daily schedules also help families prepare their child for an exciting new environment outside of their routine, especially if it is the child's first experience with care outside of their home. Knowing when to expect snacks, naps, and potty breaks can help parents ensure that their child is ready for the rhythm of daycare by adjusting their at-home routines before their session starts.
Staff planning depends on the daily schedule
Toddlers aren't the only ones affected by their schedule — the staff is, too. In fact, it's the basis of your staff schedule in several ways.
- Break schedules depend on child:staff ratios. Each state and accrediting organization has their own stipulations about child:staff ratios, and within those regulations there are rules that will influence break schedules. For example, you may have a different child:staff ratio during nap time or outside play. In Wyoming, one staff member is sufficient to supervise naps. For shorter breaks, you may be able to have non-teaching staff supervise to keep your ratio in place.
- Planning follows the schedule. Staff can better split up planning for the week when they know what activity blocks are coming up and how much time they will have to dedicate to each area. Staff can rotate planning easily with a fixed schedule, because they will always know in advance what blocks they have to fill.
- Classroom ownership flows with your routine. When each day is set up in a predictable manner, staff can easily divvy up who will take the lead on different sections of the day in an equitable manner. This is especially important when you have a classroom setup that doesn't rely on a lead teacher but on shared responsibilities among several staff members.
In addition, a toddler daily schedule helps streamline the classroom experience for everyone. Staff can easily direct children from task to task, and everyone is aware of when to start gearing up for a transition. When a schedule isn't consistent, it is harder for staff to work in this coordinated fashion, where a clean and predictable routine makes a better environment for staff to get their jobs done.
The right schedule grows with toddlers
Toddlers experience a tremendous amount of growth in a very short time. At 12-18 months, children are just starting to walk on their own and even attempting to climb. As their hand-eye coordination develops, they become increasingly exploratory and may be able to stack large blocks or scribble with writing utensils. Fast forward to the 24-month mark, and children will be running and playing with balls. They will start to talk and link words together, and will imitate behavior they see in others and start to be more independent.
Creating a toddler daily schedule must account for and encourage this rapid growth. Think about how children will change while in your care. For example, you may start having outdoor time to encourage gross motor development with climbing equipment and toys in a sandbox. But by the end of your session, you may be ready to introduce soft balls or other games that are suited to more developed motor skills and physical abilities.
If you are in charge of an older group, consider ways to support different developmental needs in your classroom. Some children may not need to take a nap, so nap time might transition into a quiet activity and rest time instead.
Most importantly, cater to each child as an individual, and be sure your schedule is flexible enough for that. While children develop at roughly the same rate, it is inevitable that one child may be potty trained faster than another; one may pick up more linguistic skills early; and another may physically develop faster. The ideal daily schedule is one that can support each child where they are while encouraging them to grow.
Make the most of daily schedules
Every daycare uses schedules, but not every daycare takes full advantage of them — schedules have a greater potential than their use as a classroom to-do list for the day. They are valuable tools for communicating with parents. By using daily schedules as a roadmap for how staff plan their workload and duties, you are streamlining your planning. Taking a long view of your schedule helps you better plan for different stages of toddler development. By taking a step back, you can make the most of what's in front of you.
To get started working with toddler daily schedules, check out our template here!
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