how to create a toddler lesson plan

How to Create a Lesson Plan for Toddlers

When writing lesson plans un early childhood education, it is so easy to find tons of ideas for preschool and older. But when it comes to finding toddler lesson plans, you can go down a long rabbit hole and before you know it, you’re ordering shoes from an Instagram ad! It isn’t easy to do, and there should be more resources out there for sure. Hopefully, this article helps you.

To start, it’s important to know what to look for and what you need in your classroom in order to create successful lesson plans. 

Developmentally Appropriate Toddler Lesson Plans

I know this is a “buzzword” phrase when you hear it, but it is so important to make sure that what you are expecting of toddlers is appropriate.  I should not walk into your two-year-old classroom and see children sitting all together doing a worksheet. Nothing makes my blood boil more! Toddlers are busy creatures who are learning important skills like running, jumping, climbing, lacing, drawing, painting, building, etc. so while there is definitely a place for learning to hold a crayon or listening to a story, this age group should not be doing worksheets or sitting for long periods of time. If your program has a set curriculum that you have to use, make sure it is play-based and center-based lesson plans to allow for exploration and growth at their own individual levels.

Embrace “Interruptions”

 A lot of times, toddler teachers say they “can’t fit it all in” when it comes to teaching because of diaper changes and feeding times. But guess what? That is developmentally appropriate curriculum, too!

Curriculum is not just doing a science experiment or paint on the easel. Curriculum is also happening during a diaper change when you have that one-on-one time with each child. You can ask questions, name body parts, look out the window, sing a song, etc. The possibilities are endless when it comes to diaper changing time! So, don’t look at it as an interruption, but instead, see it as a one-on-one enrichment time.

The same goes for mealtimes. When feeding toddlers, whether individually or in small groups, try to sit with them and eat, too. Model the different ways to have table manners and engage in some fun conversation. Point to what children are eating and talk about good and healthy choices. Ask questions and enjoy each other to enhance their social skills. This should be a big part of your lesson plans, and these “interruptions” are actually the most important parts of your lessons.

Play, Play, Play

When building your toddler lesson plans, make sure that there is enough time for pure play. Your room should have various learning centers including dramatic play, blocks, music instruments, open-ended art materials, etc. All of your toddler lesson plans should show blocks of time where children are exploring and playing. Then you as the teacher should be pulling a few toddlers at a time to work on specific skills that you’ve observed and want to see growth in.

Children should have at least 45 minutes of uninterrupted playtime if possible. Ideally, they would get a solid hour in the morning and a solid hour in the afternoon, also including outdoor play. We have all heard that famous Jean Piaget quote, “play is a child’s work,” most famously said by Maria Montessori, and that is certainly the truth. Children learn best through hands on activities, and it is our job to facilitate that.

Writing Toddler Lesson Plans

There are many ways to write a lesson plan for toddlers. You just have to see what works best for you. Some teachers prefer writing hour by hour while others prefer by learning domain. Some write paragraphs while others just use outlines. Find out what your childcare center supervisor requires and go with that.  My general rule for plans is that if you have a substitute teacher, will they be able to teach your class using your plan? If not, then make sure to make it user-friendly so that anyone can pick up your plan and teach from it! The most important thing to remember is that everyone is different, so find out what works best for you! 

Be sure to include the important things like materials needed, activity description, and the objective. It is always important to know the “why” behind the lesson. The objective helps to answer that question and keep you on the right track.

Sample Toddler Lesson Plan Template

This fun template is a great framework to start planning each day of the week! Click here to download and print.

toddler lesson plan template

Resources to Find Toddler Activities

There are so many great resources out there to gather inspiration and activity ideas for your toddler lesson plans. Be aware of ones that are not appropriate like worksheets and technology-heavy activities. Here are some of my favorites that I use regularly. The best part of the following resources is they all have social media accounts that I follow and get daily inspiration from:

When it comes to infants and toddlers, the biggest question they are asking (if they could talk) would be “am I safe?” so be sure to create routines and a loving environment where they will thrive. Having routine activities gives a sense of safety as well as being prepared so that you can be fully present with these little ones.

Your toddler lesson plans are only one tool in helping you organize your day. The main goal for these plans is to help them feel safe and loved through thoughtful activities that help them grow and learn. Be sure to remember that even the “little things” like diaper changes and drop-off/pick-up routines are all part of the toddler lesson plan. Embrace each moment and show yourself grace when it comes to “getting it all in.” Are they nurtured and loved? Do they feel safe? If the answer is “yes,” then your toddler lesson plans are sure to reflect that. 

Missy Knechel

Missy is a professor in the early childhood department at Eastern University and director of Victory Early Learning Academy, a childcare center that she started ten years ago. Prior to that, she taught Kindergarten and second grade for a total of 10 years. She has been married to her best friend, Jason, for 18 years, and together they have four beautiful children ages 8, 9, 12 and 13 in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. In her spare time, Missy loves to bake, read historical fiction, sing karaoke and travel to Central America on short term missions.


  • TAMI says:

    “Play is a child’s work” is a quote by Maria Montessori. Just in case you want to correct that.

    • She’s correct in saying that child psychologist Jean Piaget said “Play is the work of children” and many people quoted her like Maria Montessori and even Fred Rogers had his take on it. I love that quote because play is how their brains develop, how they learn, how the communicate, how they regulate their lives, how they understand and master concepts and can be healing! It’s so important!


    I would like to learn more about teaching a toddler

  • I have been thinking about this a lot. I have two older girls, 8 and 6 that I will be in my second year of homeschooling. I am planning to be more structured with them and am afraid it will stifle us, sigh. But what you say at the end is where I have been leaning with my 4 year old. She is a bright, cheerful little girl. And she sometimes asks for schoolwork and I print something fun out and give it to her. I think I want to keep it that way for this coming year too.

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