You’re in a room with eight toddlers.  Some are not yet two-years old while others have just turned two-years old.  What should their day look like?  What kinds of activities should be planned?

Sure there is snack, lunch, naps, outdoor play… these are a given, I would hope.  But, what about some planned activities. Things that will spark their interests and get them engaged.

I recently discovered that one toddler room in a child care center was following weekly themes.  Each week was focused on a letter and it’s sound.  I’d seen this many times before.  I’d seen this type of planning in three- and four-year old preschool classrooms.  I’d also witnessed it in many Kindergarten classrooms.  So, why I wondered– would these be done in a toddler room too.

Is this really appropriate or meaningful for toddlers?

For example, during the week of “J”– one day was “Jam” and they used purple paint on brown paper, “Jam on bread.”  It’s cute enough.  The toddlers did get to enjoy playing with paint… but is it meaningful?

The next day the activity was about “Jets.”  The toddlers were going to try and look for airplanes.  From playing with and observing the toddlers I know that most of them love to see the planes in the sky.  So, the plan to look for jets sounded like a good one.  But I wonder, instead of J, why didn’t the teachers plan for the theme of transportation or planes.

The toddlers would love to spend time playing with toy planes.  I already know they enjoy looking for real planes.  Teachers could support the toddlers developing language as they read about and talked about planes and jets.  The conversation could also move to include other things that fly.  Some of the children are always quick to point out the birds during outdoor play.  This type of theme or unit could go on for days or even weeks as it expanded based on the toddlers interests.

What sounds more interesting for a toddler the letter “J” or air planes?

We need to think about what will be meaningful to the students- pull a page out of Reggio Emilia’s play book, pull a page from “The Project Approach” (Judy Harris Helm & Lilian Katz, Sylvia Chard).  Let the children guide the planning.  Be open to possibility.

Picture from a Pinterest post-  Inspire.  The world is more than letters, and there is plenty of time to learn letters.  Let’s learn to talk first.