For the Teacher
Inside of Class
Toddlers develop at different rates so don’t be surprised if one toddler sits still and pays attention to the lesson longer than the other children. The others may be distracted or engaged in something totally different. That’s normal for this age group (1- through 3-year-old).
Some toddlers may potty train earlier than your child, or walks, or talks before your child. Everyone is different, but they will all have teething pain at some point and almost all of them want attention. By the time your toddler becomes a preschooler, he or she will most likely be able to walk, talk, and go potty. Some toddlers will even be able to read and count a little.
There are some things that almost all toddlers have in common. Toddlers have very short attention spans. They are easily distracted. They are impulsive. They often don’t listen. In short, toddlers are very independent. That’s why a parent needs to be patient, very patient.
A parent, grandparent, or legal guardian needs to be present and active in class, every class. Most toddlers are shy and quiet to some extent around strangers. The toddler trusts the parent feels comfortable when they are in class working with them. In short, the parent is the teacher’s best helper. The parent is an extra set of eyes and ears, arms and legs.
Parents make this class work. The toddler needs a parent to be present and actively engaged with. It is okay for the parent to do the work with the child. Let the toddler see the parent drawing and coloring, dancing, and doing everything else. They need to see how it is done. They need to copy the parent. Parents should be encouraged to preview the lesson plan for the next class so that they will be prepared to participate.
Many toddlers want to stay near mommy or daddy. That’s a good way to help the child learn faster and feel more comfortable in class. Encourage the parents to follow your led, but caution them when necessary not to get flustered if the child persists in going in a different direction. The parent being in class also helps when the child has to visit the potty. It won’t disrupt class if the parent slips out with the child for a few minutes and then quietly return.
Other toddlers have an independent spirit. Use that independence to your advantage. You know what you want to accomplish during class. You have a set of goals and objectives. You have a learning plan for each class filled with activities that are designed to be simple, short, fun, and easy to understand. You have resources and other teachers to communication with if you need help or want to offer it to others, and you have the parents contact information should you need to discuss
Plan for Peace but Expect Chaos
Expect a certain amount of chaos in a toddler class. It’s okay. It’s normal. Deal with it or better yet embrace it and flow with the ups and downs and the twists and the turns. If you as the teacher can do that teaching toddlers will be fun and tremendously rewarding. You and the parents will see growth and development beyond your collective imaginations.
If the chaos is unsettling you can still do it. You can still help teach the class. It will just be a bit more stressful until you learn that it’s all good. You can’t teach them calculus but you can put them on the path of spiritual development, of cultivating virtues, building a strong character, and instilling a love of learning. That’s more important than any academic subject they will learn later on.
It is amazing how well toddlers can focus for longer periods of time when they become interested in something. If a toddler really wants to play with playdough nothing else will matter and they will play quietly far longer than you thought possible. Yet, on another day, the toddler will show little or no interest in playing with playdough.
Recognizing that toddlers are a diverse group of individuals it is perfectly okay to have several threads going in class at the same time. Presenting the primary learning objectives early in class is wise. It is more likely that toddlers will pay attention to you less as the class progresses.
As attention spans fray and distractions mount, it is perfectly okay to encourage a parent and his or her child branch off into other activities if necessary. Use your discretion. As you work with the children you will quickly learn their strengths and weaknesses, and the parent should be encouraged to be flexible as well.
Toddlers, like adults, have good days and bad. They have periods when they really enjoy doing one thing, maybe to the exclusion of everything else. And like us, they may change their mind and want to do something else. That’s okay. If they throw a temper tantrum, or are just having a bad day, ask the parent to take them outside so that they can cook down and return when the child is ready.
Sparking the Sense of Curiosity
If you are able to spark the sense of curiosity about life and living, toddlers will almost always be willing to try something new. Curiosity is one of the key virtues that should be cultivated in toddlers as soon as they are older enough to understand that their world is bigger than mommy and daddy.
Curiosity is the driving force that propels the toddler to try new things. Coupled with an innate sense of fun, you can provide the specific activities that will introduce the concepts behind the virtues that are the building blocks of spirituality and character building.
Be positive when you introduce new words and new concepts. Keep your words short and simple. Speak slowly and deliberately. Smile and let them know with your body language and movements that it is okay to have fun, and that it is fun to learn new things and try new things. If you can do all that teaching toddlers can be the most rewarding and fun age group to work with.