Planning daycare activities can seem like a daunting task. Making lesson plans is time-consuming but you can save time by using a few of these tips.
Planning Daycare Activities
Making setups for the kids to use, printing up supplies, laminating them and making resources to use can take a ton of time. One great way to cut down on the time you spend preparing for the day is to minimize how much you plan to do. Kids need a lot of free play to learn and they don’t need every second of their day planned out.
At Little Sprouts, we have one teacher-directed activity a day and the kids create a lot of the rest of our plans. Kids need free play inside and outside, they need meals and they need rest, so the time that’s left is minimal.
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I don’t like doing busywork, so I prefer not to make a ton of folder games or activities like that for the kids. You can buy a memory game, a deck of cards, and a set of magnetic letters and numbers and have a lot of what those things would teach. I love to find little sets of sorting and matching activities and they usually are very inexpensive.
If you like printing, coloring, cutting and laminating, go ahead and do that. We all need to do what makes us happy. Being overly busy isn’t good for us, so doing things just to be busy is not a good habit. Do what you enjoy doing and find ways around the rest.
I love to save a ton of time by bulk planning. For me, and don’t let this overwhelm you, it works best to plan the whole school year and the whole summer at one time. I will take about a week and plan out the whole summer and before August I take a couple or three weeks and plan out the whole school year. This eliminates the dread for me and it’s less overwhelming.
If you feel overwhelmed by planning a whole school year, don’t do that. Just plan out a month at a time. Whatever works for you. I would suggest doing at least a month because personally, if I don’t plan ahead, I will look up and 6 months will have passed and I realize I wasn’t covering the bases I should have been.
I like to do “school” on Mondays. We work on spelling names, learning last names, parent names, phone numbers and all the things a child would need to get found if they were lost somewhere. I think it’s important for safety and its good business for parents to see kids coming home with knowledge like that.
When planning, you have to consider what will make your parents say, wow, that’s cool that my child is learning that, and tell all their friends. Word of mouth runs our business. When kids show signs of being ready, we start working on writing their names too.
Daycare activities list
On Tuesdays, we do science or math (or both). We might use magnets, playdough, do an experiment with an eggshell, plant seeds, mix paint to make a different color, dig the seeds out of a pumpkin and explore the good and count the seeds, some kind of science or math activity.
On Wednesdays, we have music with instruments and free art. I let the kids select a music channel and we turn it up real loud and have a dance party. I have a basket of instruments for the kids to use with dancing scarves and ribbons. They love it. Afterward, we get paper and some kind of art medium they choose (or several) and they create whatever they want. It’s usually crayons, colored pencils, markers, or paint markers. But sometimes we add paint, chalk, scratcher pages, stickers, scissors, and glue or some other supply they may suggest.
Planning daycare activities for a month
On Thursdays, we do an art project. Once in a while, we might do a craft, but I’m not into project art as much. So, we might have collage materials and a sticky sheet or glue sticks, pipe cleaners, yarn, a mask with stuff they can stick to it, pom poms, beads and string, or something like that kids can create a project with. Sometimes we use clay, sometimes it’s a premade wooden car or birdhouse or snake they can color or paint, there are endless possibilities.
I am the queen of looking through the recycling bin for tubes or boxes or scrounging around the art supplies I already have and coming up with projects that don’t cost me more money. I mean, let’s face it, this is not a lucrative job, we need to save where we can. Buying pre-made craft kits is NOT where I want to spend my money. If you do, that’s great, but we all have to do what works for us.
Fridays are fun Fridays and we spend extra time outside; we may get out the jumping stones or playhouse tent or something like that, but there are no teacher-directed activities on Friday and the kids get to watch a movie that day.
Planning activities with the kids
A great way to get some cool ideas that kids are interested in is to ASK them! What do you guys want to do? You can get your themes that way, or themes and activities that way. Kids will love to do what they planned.
You can have kids plan the whole thing if that’s what works for you. I like to get some themes ready, ask the kids for activity ideas, fill in the rest, and plan sparsely. When they show more interest in something, we can keep stretching it out longer.
I love the idea of kid led learning, but I haven’t learned quite how to wrap my mind around how to have all the supplies they need so I plan a few things, basically one thing a day four days a week, and then have them flesh it out by adding their ideas as we go along.
And for instance, if we are studying polar animals, and the kids show no interest in learning about how animals get food in the frozen tundra, but I made a polar ice shelf and it’s in the freezer, I may not use it.
I will just move on to do something the kids are interested in. Hey, who wants to do playdough today or who wants to make their own lunch? There’s no point in trying to force kids to learn about your theme when they aren’t interested.
Getting things done
So how do I sit down and plan a month of activities at a time? First, I print out two copies of a calendar for the month. I find them free by googling free printable monthly calendar.
You could use a planner or whatever works for you. I write across the top on Monday school, Tuesday Science/Math, Wednesday Music/Free Art and Thursday Art. We do our themes for 2 weeks if the kids are interested, so I decide what they will be. For January we are doing snow and hibernation. The kids have been LOVING learning about hibernating animals. It’s been so fun!
So, I write that on the first Sunday of the two weeks. Then Wednesday is already planned, Monday is already planned and Friday is already planned, I need to fill in Tuesday and Thursday for the month. I look at hibernation and think, what could we do.
If I don’t have ideas that I can think up (after 25 years I usually do) I will get on PreK pages or DTKL or some other website and look for ideas to fill in. Sometimes I would rather do that to find something new.
Finding ideas for daycare activities
If I am scrolling through Facebook and someone posts a fun idea, I will jot it down in my notes and find a place to add it to my schedule. I have a notebook full of ideas I can flip through. You can also type it in on Pinterest and let the photos inspire you and click through to a fun idea to find the details.
I think it would be fun to let the kids color on a paper bag and then roll the end of it up to make a bear cave for a stuffed bear to hibernate in. So, I’ll need to make sure I have paper lunch sacks and stuffed bears. I write that on the top of my calendar page. Buy: and add those items. We used a tissue for a bear blanket and I always have paper lunch sacks, so I just had to write bears and find some little stuffed bears.
That’s one art project, so I need to come up with another one. We could do bear paw prints with paint, make something out of brown fuzzy fabric, focus on another kind of hibernating animal-like frogs, ladybugs or hedgehogs, whatever sounds fun with the group of kids I have.
I plug those ideas into the two Thursday slots and then move onto science and math. So, I could let the kids use counting bears or ladybugs. Or I could let the kids mix playdough colors to make brown and then make bears out of them. I could make an activity with the science of staying warm while you sleep all winter.
All I need to do is decide what we are doing and then add any needed materials to the top of the sheet in supplies. Once I finish the whole month and am happy with it, I recopy it neatly onto the second calendar.
Lesson plans for daycare
Of course, there are a ton of ways you could do this electronically, but I’m a pen and paper person, it works for me. If I find an activity that’s new, I’ll write the directions to it on the back of the calendar if I think I’ll forget what I wanted to do that day.
If you need ideas for themes for planning daycare activities, you can check out our polar animals, dinosaurs, circus, pumpkins, summer, garden and plant, caterpillar and butterflies, valentine’s, dental health, science, camping, zoo, dr. Seuss, all about me, fall, Olympics, friendship, butterfly life cycle and more on the blog.
Lesson plans and planning daycare activities doesn’t have to be super complicated. I like simplicity. If the kids want to add more activities, you can stretch it. Then, if you find something super fun that goes with it, add it. If the kids lose interest or you have a hard day, scratch it. It’s okay. No one can do it all.
Here are some quality pre-made lesson plans you can purchase to save time too at Daycare Time Solutions.
Batching your tasks when planning daycare activities is the best way to improve productivity. You focus in and do all the science, math, art, or whatever is on your list of things to do at once and you’ll be surprised at how much you get done and how much less time it takes than you thought it would.
If you feel overwhelmed by a task, again, just set a timer for 15 minutes and do what you can. You will probably be surprised at how much you can get done in that time frame. Set a reminder on your phone right at the beginning of nap time each day and do it. You’ll have it done before you know it.
Daycare provider productivity
Productivity improvement for planning daycare activities can be accomplished with just a little bit of focus and using small amounts of time to break up big tasks. This job can be overwhelming, but learning how to streamline what you do will help a ton. Repetition makes you faster at it too.
Once you have your daycare activities planned, just check the night before what tomorrow’s activities are and get your supplies ready before you go to bed. Then they are ready for whenever you can get to them. If you are a morning person, get up early in the morning and get supplies ready for the day. Do whatever works for you.
For more productivity improvement ideas, check out preparing for taxes, finding more time in the day, getting your paperwork done, keeping up with the mess, how to handle all the food prep, decluttering your finances and decluttering your supplies with a 30-day decluttering schedule coming soon.
For more help in being productive, check out this daycare daily planner and productivity pack on etsy.
For more tips for daycare providers, click here.
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