Overview: A toddler curriculum is just what I needed, but I also wanted to follow a child-led approach. Here’s my solution.
Welcome to our Starting Tot School series. Be sure to check out all the other posts in this series to learn my step by step process to getting started with tot school.
1. What is Tot School?
2. Planning the Perfect Tot School Schedule
3. Toddler Learning: What Do Toddlers Really Need to Know
4. How to Plan for a Child-Led Tot School
5. Loose Parts for Toddlers: How to Use Them Effectively
6. Toddler Curriculum: Hands-On, Child-Led, Process-Based
When setting up Tot School for my daughter, I spent hours searching Pinterest looking for fun and engaging learning activities and/or a toddler curriculum for us to do.
Then, as is a toddler’s prerogative, she would show no interest in the activities I had selected and planned. As you can imagine, this led to many wasted hours that I could have spent teaching and playing with my toddler.
I took a look at different toddler homeschool curriculums that ranged from the expensive to the academic. Some of them had amazing lesson plans for toddlers, but ultimately did not fit what I wanted to achieve with Sicily.
It was then I decided enough was enough! Using all of my experience as an early childhood educator, I created my own unique, flexible child-led toddler curriculum. No more hours spent searching Pinterest! I could spend valuable time and resources with my daughter and encourage her love of learning.
The Birth of The Toddler Experience Curriculum
After spending months researching and speaking to peers and other parents about what they wanted in a curriculum for toddlers, I was able to create a program that is:
–Focused on play
-Full of hands-on, child-led and process based activities
-Gives exposure, but not a main focus, to academic concepts like counting, letters, colors, shapes and more.
And now, I am super excited to be able to share The Toddler Experience Curriculum with you. My daughter is enjoying her Tot School days using this toddler curriculum, and she is learning a lot too!
What is the toddler curriculum about?
The Toddler Experience is a toddler homeschool curriculum full of lesson plans for toddlers ages 18 months through 2 years old. The curriculum is totally child-led, hands-on and contains process based activities. There are no worksheets or workbooks, but it still has an element of academics. It’s simple and flexible to use, and adapts to each child’s own pace and interests.
Related: Play and Learn: Can You Do Them at the Same Time?
Why am I qualified to design a toddler curriculum?
I am a former teacher of 11 years, and have taught in preschools, head starts, private schools, my own family daycare, and public schools. I have my AA in Early Childhood Education and BS in Elementary Education. Lastly, I have taught every age group from infants to middle school. Plus, I’m a mom to an amazing toddler.
What is The Toddler Experience’s philosophy?
The Toddler Experience is based on several guiding principles. This was the first thing I wrote when I started designing this early childhood curriculum, and it was forefront in my mind while I created every activity.
Here is a quick overview of the main guiding principles and how it is incorporated into the curriculum.
A toddler curriculum should follow each toddler’s unique interests.
This is what I love about The Toddler Experience. With this curriculum the possibilities are endless! It’s constantly developing and being added to with amazing ideas and themes suggested by you!
The Young Toddler Section
The curriculum begins with The Young Toddler section.
This is designed for toddlers aged between 18 and 22 months. However it can be started with any toddler.
Each month there is a new theme based around a color and shape. Every monthly theme in this section has at least one exposure to a new art material.
This section is more laid back, and is designed to ease your child into the concept of Tot School. This means you can take your time learning about their interests, how they learn, and develop your own routine around their natural flow.
Related: Creating the Perfect Tot School Schedule
When you’ve completed The Young Toddler section you have a choice between two different sections:
The Letter Themes
The Extra Themes
There is no right or wrong theme to pick and you choose what works for you and your toddler’s interests.
Related: The Secret to the Toddler Attention Span
The Letter Theme Section
This section includes a theme for every letter of the alphabet with the main focus being on the theme with a little exposure to the letter.
Each theme in this section includes tot trays, theme activities, letter activities, STEAM activities, a literacy connection, sensory bins, a book list, color activities, a shape activities, related YouTube videos, and songs/fingerplays.
The Extra Theme Section
This section includes themes that are not covered by The Letter Themes, and new themes are added EVERY MONTH!
Themes in this section include holidays, seasons, and your toddler’s interests.
Each theme in this section includes the same as The Letter Themes.
The great thing about this toddler curriculum is that its accessible through the website with a login. This allows me to constantly update it with new themes every month!
If your toddler starts developing a new interest, you can send me an e-mail and I will create a relevant theme for you at NO EXTRA COST.
This means if your child loves pirates the same way Sicily loves farm animals they can each have themes that are going to be relevant and interesting to them.
A toddler curriculum should be child-led and hands on.
All the activities within the curriculum are child-led and there are no workbook pages.
The idea behind the child-led mentality means that your child guides the learning. Meaning they are able to explore and discover at their own pace and discover new ways of doing things we as adults would never consider.
They can choose when to start and stop an activity. If they are having fun they can simply choose to play on. After introducing the activity, it’s then left up to your toddler to figure out the best way to do it.
To give you an example, I once tried to do a scooping activity with Sicily. My initial goal was to get her to practice scooping gems with a spoon from one container to another.
First off, I went through the activity, showing her how to do it. Sicily had other ideas and poured the gems directly into the other container. She clearly understood the concept but chose, and learned, to do it her own way. That’s the beauty of The Toddler Experience Curriculum!
You’ll notice in the majority of the directions it’ll tell you to show your toddler how to do the project, then just step back and let them create or explore.
By leaving your child to create freely you are helping them develop strong problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, as well as that all-important creativity and imagination.
Remember the activity is about the process, not the end product!
A toddler curriculum should focus on building a love of learning.
This is the whole point of Tot School!
It’s not the time to master skills. Learning letters, numbers, counting, colors, and all those academics, is a slow and gradual process.
These toddler years should be about having fun and learning through exposure to these concepts, rather than a structured, academic based system.
Toddlers learn most of their lessons about life, society and these academic principles through play and discovery. It’s all about enjoying learning, asking questions, and discovering the world and everything in it!