Nine Steps to Create the Best Daycare Curriculum

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A daycare curriculum is a plan for delivering effective early childhood education as part of your daycare business. It specifies the knowledge, skills, behaviors and attitudes that kids are expected to acquire as they attend your daycare. It also includes details about the activities and lesson plans that will be used to deliver the curriculum.

In this blog post, we’re giving you a step-by-step guide to creating the best child care curriculum that reflects your personal and organizational values, educational philosophy and core beliefs about teaching and learning. By the end, you’ll be able to design a thoughtful daycare curriculum plan that will prepare your kids for success.

Let’s get started!

Why Create Your Own Daycare Curriculum?

Creating your own daycare curriculum gives you the opportunity to teach in a way that reflects your own values and beliefs about early childhood education. You can follow the educational philosophy that you’re most comfortable with, the one that works best in your child care space, or create a daycare curriculum that helps differentiate your business from local competitors.

The best thing about building your own curriculum is that you can change, modify or improve it in response to feedback from kids and parents. When an activity or lesson plan isn’t connecting with the kids or having the desired impact, you have the power to make changes that support the learning process and improve each child’s experience in your classroom.

Next, we’ll go through nine steps that you can take to create an amazing daycare curriculum that will help each child reach their full potential as a member of your child care community.

Nine Steps to Create the Best Daycare Curriculum

Consider Your Personal + Organizational Values

As a starting point for creating the best curriculum, you might want to think about your personal values, the values of your business, and how those factors might influence the way you choose to teach.

Do you believe that kids should spend most of their time at play, or is direct instruction a better use of their time? Which kinds of activities do you feel are the most important or beneficial? What role should teachers play in the education process? When it comes to the practice of teaching, do you feel more comfortable as a lecturer or as a facilitator?

The answers to all of these questions can help you determine how you might create a child care curriculum that’s consistent with your values and beliefs about education, and effective for early learners.

Know Your Audience

When you’re setting goals for your curriculum, designing activities and creating lesson plans, it helps to know your audience.

Here are five factors you may want to consider:

  1. Age – Lessons in your curriculum must be age-appropriate, taking into account the physical and mental capabilities of the kids you’ll be teaching.
  2. Abilities – Depending on the ages of the kids you’re teaching, some may already be ahead (or behind) their peer group when it comes to academic ability. Identifying kids that need extra help or enrichment gives you the ability to craft a daycare curriculum that meets every child’s needs.
  3. Developmental Stage – Child care providers should be aware of child developmental stages and age-related milestones. A daycare curriculum should be logically structured to help each child reach the next milestone in their personal development.
  4. Interests – Understanding which hobbies and interests are shared by your students can help you create activities and lesson plans that get kids excited and engaged.
  5. Learning Styles – People have different ways of learning and absorbing information. There are eight identified learning styles, including visual, aural, verbal and tactile learners. Understanding the preferred learning styles of your students can inspire you to find new ways of communicating information that can accelerate in your classroom.

Review State Early Learning Standards

As you begin to document your curriculum and create lesson plans, we recommend consulting the state early learning standards where you live. These early learning standards describe the expectations for early childhood development from birth to five years of age, detailing the milestones of knowledge, skill and behavioral development kids are expected to reach.

Procare integrates all 50 states’ learning standards into its lesson planning and milestone tracking capabilities. You can access each state’s learning standards by clicking on the handy map on this page.

Cover the Four Developmental Domains

Your daycare curriculum should include lessons and activities that cover all four developmental domains. Instruction and practice in all four of these domains encourages kids to develop healthy habits and a well-rounded personality – attributes that will help them succeed in the future.

Lessons or activities should be targeted at one or more of the following four domains of early childhood development.

  • Cognitive – The process of learning to think, reason, solve problems and engage working memory.
  • Linguistic – The process of learning to communicate through language, including reading, writing, speaking and listening.
  • Physical – The process of learning and practicing movement skills, including gross and fine motor skills.
  • Social-Emotional – The social-emotional learning domain includes a range of mental skills such as working memory, mental flexibility, empathy, impulse control and executive functioning.

Establish Annual Learning Goals + Target Outcomes

Having defined your educational values, analyzed your classroom audience and reviewed state early learning standards across all four learning domains, it’s time to document annual learning goals and target outcomes for your curriculum.

If this is your first time building a curriculum, you may want to base it on the early learning standards for your state. Most states go beyond the four learning domains by providing learning expectations for individual subject areas, including science, social studies, mathematics, language, creative arts, tech literacy, social/emotional health and physical education. You should be sure to at least cover all of the subjects that are recommended in your state’s published early learning standards.

Choose a Teaching Philosophy

Once you’ve determined what you plan to teach, the next step is figuring out how you will teach it. That means choosing from one of the established teaching philosophies, or combining one or more philosophies into a hybrid that’s unique to your center. Below, we list some of the most popular teaching philosophies that could be used in your daycare curriculum.

  • Play-based Learning – This teaching philosophy says that kids learn by playing, and the role of the teacher is to facilitate play experiences where kids have fun while developing their skills and competencies across the four learning domains.
  • Academic Learning – In an academic learning environment, teachers function more like lecturers and disciplinarians than facilitators. Structures and routines are prioritized, and kids spend more time doing focused individual learning tasks, such as reading, drilling numeracy skills or completing art projects.
  • Montessori – In a Montessori classroom, teachers function as guides who provide the resources and feedback that facilitate the learning process. Learning happens through play, which incorporates materials provided by the teacher but is self-directed by kids. Independence, personal responsibility, and self-discipline are emphasized in the Montessori classroom, helping kids develop into good citizens as they grow up.
  • Reggio-Emilia Approach – In this approach, children are encouraged to take control of the learning process and develop new skills through direct experiences using the five senses. Children are encouraged to express themselves in different ways, and to explore their relationships with other kids and the external environment. Project-based learning is common in the Reggio-Emilia approach, and kids are encouraged to share their thoughts, perceptions and ideas, as well as ask questions to build their knowledge and understanding.
  • Waldorf/Steiner Education – The Walford educational philosophy for child care is essentially that children learn through immersion in an environment that allows them to imitate practical activities. Classrooms are designed to resemble a child’s home, and kids are encouraged to participate in everyday activities like cooking, cleaning and gardening.

Plan the Daily Classroom Schedule

By now, you should be well on your way to creating a first draft of your daycare curriculum.

You should have an idea of the learning goals you’d like to achieve, the educational philosophy you wish to follow, and how those decisions mesh with your personal values and the needs of your audience.

The next logical step is to plan the daily schedule, considering how your chosen educational philosophy will be put into action in the classroom each day. You’ll need to determine the following:

  • What time do kids arrive in the morning? When does the day start?
  • What are kids expected to do when they arrive at my child care center? What will be the routine?
  • What time will kids receive lunch? When will they get a snack? Will there be a break for recess?
  • What will “instruction time” look like? Will it be academic or play-based? How will I balance structured vs. unstructured learning in my curriculum?
  • How many lesson plans will I need to fill each day with high-quality learning opportunities?
  • Which subject areas must be covered, and how frequently?

Unify Your Curriculum with Monthly Themes

Before you start creating lesson plans to fill your classroom schedule, you may want to consider adding monthly themes into your curriculum.

A monthly theme helps provide context for lessons across different subject areas, allowing kids to make connections they otherwise might have missed. Holiday themes give kids the opportunity to learn about traditional celebrations, make seasonal crafts and learn thematic vocabulary. How about a Thanksgiving-themed worksheet that teaches math using apples and pumpkin pies? Or coloring sheets that incorporate fall leaves and turkeys?

Holidays aren’t the only great option for monthly themes – you can focus on a season, a type of weather, an animal or its habitat, a food or a hobby/activity. As an educator, focusing on a specific theme can help you develop innovative and original lesson plans that may never have been tried before.

Create Individual Lesson/Activity Plans

The last (and possibly the longest) part of creating your daycare curriculum is writing individual lesson and activity plans. Each lesson plan you create should include:

  1. The learning objectives for the lesson.
  2. The specific activities kids will engage in as part of the learning experience.
  3. A strategy for assessing student understanding and offering feedback to support student development.
  4. A sequenced plan for delivering the learning experience, from beginning to end.
  5. A realistic estimate of how long the lesson should take, allowing sufficient time for instruction, practice and for kids to ask questions. You may want to plan an extra activity in case you finish the lesson early.
  6. A few extra minutes scheduled to wrap up the lesson, answer any final questions, emphasize key information, and preview upcoming lessons or topics.

It’s also possible that you’re pursuing an educational philosophy where this process doesn’t quite fit, such as Montessori. In that case, your lesson plan might consist of a list of sensory play materials you will provide, along with some learning prompts to help child care providers steer kids toward intended learning goals.

Once you’ve finalized your lesson plans and worked them into the daily classroom schedule, you’re ready to start delivering your daycare curriculum – congratulations!

Track Daycare Curriculum Success with Procare Solutions

No matter what educational philosophy you choose, or what your values are, Procare is here to help you deliver amazing learning experiences through your daycare curriculum. Procare provides trustworthy, helpful and easy-to-use child care software with the ability to help you manage every part of your center.

With Procare, you can plan customized lessons that align with state early learning standards and track each child’s progress across all four developmental domains. You can manage staff-to-child ratios to make sure each child gets the attention they deserve, and you’ll be able to communicate with parents about their child’s development and upcoming lessons through our parent engagement app.

From the time your first kids arrive in the morning, until the end of the day, Procare will be your all-in-one solution for delivering a curriculum that helps each child grow and achieve.

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About The Author

Mike Braun

Mike Braun is the Senior Product Marketing Manager at Procare Solutions, where he focuses on product positioning, messaging, competitive differentiation, and enabling the Sales and Support teams to give our customers an exceptional experience.

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