Overview: Trying to plan a schedule for Tot School can be a challenging task. With my step by step process, you can create the perfect routine for your little one and family.
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
In the past 7 months, I’ve been experimenting with our Tot School schedule and methods. I’ve tried numerous schedules I’ve found on Pinterest that said it was the best schedule out there. But I’ve learned that there isn’t one schedule that will fit everyone. That’s not what this post is about.
I’m going to walk you through the steps to develop your OWN Tot School schedule that works best for your family.
Tot School Schedule Step One: Observe
Plan a week where you do nothing but play. This observation step is super important to defining your perfect schedule.
During this week, your job is to pay close attention to your toddler’s behavior and engagement level. You will use these notes to help you plan the schedule.
You want to take note of your toddler’s most active times, most focused times, and most tired times. When I say the most active times, that’s when they are running around like a nutcase and have energy out the wazoo!
The most focused times are the times they are sitting and focusing on an activity. It may be an activity that you choose or an activity they choose.
Related: How to Set the Perfect Preschool Routine at Home
I think it’s important to note here that the toddler attention span varies tremendously and depends on the activity. One activity may keep them focused for an hour where another may only hold their attention for 5 minutes.
For scheduling purposes, it doesn’t matter how long they are focused. You just want to note the times they are most focused. Sicily is most focused in the morning after breakfast and again after nap time. Some times that focus is 10 minutes while others can last over an hour.
Step Two: Plan it Out
Now is the time to sit down and plan your perfect schedule using the notes from the previous week.
Active Times= Outside Time
Focused Times= Learning Time
Tired Times= Snack/Meals/Nap
You should be able to see some sort of pattern in your notes from when you observed. With toddlers, your schedule may not be broken down into specific times, but instead may follow more of a routine flow.
That’s how my schedule is with Sicily. I know that the times may vary because of the mood she is in or the activity she is doing, so we have a routine more than a schedule. Here is what our day looks like:
Get Ready for Our Day
Snack during Free Play
Most of our activities are invitations, so I set them up for her during our free play. Sicily knows that she can spend as much time as she wants on the learning activity and move onto whatever else she wants to play.
I always leave the learning activity available throughout the day, so she can return to it if she wants. Most of the time, if the activity is a tot tray I will put the tray on the shelf to play with the rest of the week when she chooses.
Step Three: Test it Out
Give your new schedule/routine at least two weeks before changing it if it’s not working. Toddlers are very routine oriented, so changing it dramatically may cause them to have a few bad days. Don’t blame the schedule right away. Once your little one gets use to the new routine, their days will get better.
What About Other Kids?
Many of you have other kids you homeschool, so creating the perfect schedule may be a bit more challenging. The key here is independent activities.
I think it’s important to work around the most focused times, since this is where they will need you the most. During your toddler’s focus time, you can plan independent activities for your older kids.
When your older kids need you, schedule free play for your toddler. Keep the environment engaging and rotate the toys frequently, so your toddler doesn’t get bored too quickly.
Every family will have a different schedule. It just takes time, observation, and a little tweaking to make it the perfect schedule.