Let’s face it – toddlers can be hard work! Sometimes the job of teaching two or more toddlers at the same time can be mind boggling for everyone involved and they will do things that you will least expect. Their attention span is short, they need constant surprises and teachers and parents need constant ideas. Even the most experienced of teachers can be “frazzled” at the idea of teaching a group of toddlers and anyone who say’s that teaching a group of toddlers is easy is simply wrong!

Here are some tips for toddler lesson plans I have used over many years and in loads of different situations with many different groups of toddlers. The ideas also work well for one on one situations.  Feel free to use as many or as few as you wish and as always, and let me know how you get on by leaving a comment or feedback below.

These ideas are all based around the general theme “Bears”. Toddlers all identify well with bears and they will be happy to bring their own teddy bears along to show off!

Tip #1- Use an introduction song- “Rock a Bye Your Bear”

An introductory song is a wonderful way to generate enthusiasm and action straight away in your lessons. Repetative songs which children are already familiar with and which promote a little bit of action are wonderful starting points for any music session.

Thanks to the childrens rock band group ” The Wiggles” , Rock a bye Your Bear works well everytime. You could use it as an introductory song for a whole year and toddlers would never get bored of it- what’s even better is that if you have parents involved in your sessions – they will love it as well.

You could choose whether you wanted to use teddy bears with the song or not. Beginning students love using their own teddy bears or  bears that are already in the classroom and doing the actions with the bear rather then doing it themselves. Older toddlers are quite happy to do the actions to the song themselves or with their parent/ carer.

You can find “Rock a Bye Your Bear” on many CD’S from the “wiggles” or you can download it onto your own Media Player for a minimal cost using Amazon or iTunes. Of course you must check the licensing issues before using any music for commercial purposes.

Click here to listen to a small sample, and you can click to purchase this track from Amazon:

Tip#2 – Play some instruments- “Here Comes the Bear”

Toddlers  just love hands on activities and Instrument playing as a group and it is very rewarding for everyone involved. Toddlers just love the independence of having their own instrument to play and learning action and sound while playing.

A song called “Here Comes the Bear” was always a favouite in my toddler sessions. I found that the tambourine was a great instrument to use for this song as we incorporated action and playing together.

Just to get a bit more specific about how to play the tambourine with toddlers, get them to put the instrument on the floor and play with both hands – otherwise they will be unable to concentrate on playing.

Here are some playing ideas for the song (I know this song is very Australian, but it is very cute as well!):

Listening Cue : Playing Action

Here comes the bear : play Right Hand Left Hand on the tambourine
Kangaroos Jump : Use both hands together on the tambourine
Here comes the Snake : Make a ssss sound and shape on the tambourine with pointer fingers both hands
Wombats Crawl : Crawl your fingers over the skin of the tambourine

Just a few guidelines to remember when using instruments with toddlers are;

Keep the activity short for each instrument
Toddlers get bored quickly and they will wander around or become uninvolved very quickly especially if you spend  a whole lesson on each instrument. I always found that using one instrument type at a time  for 2 or 3 minute intervals each with minimal explanation and role modelling by doing rather than talking worked best.

Have identical looking instruments if possible
It doesn’t take much  for a toddler to cry. Even if you had one instrument that wasn’t quite the same as all of the others, guess which one they would all want? and then the tears roll in, but not only that…. once one starts to cry so do the others and that becomes the focus! Sounds crazy doesn’t it – but its so true.
The best way to avoid any of this is to have the same durable instruments which are the same colour which are all in good working condition with no bits falling off and have one for each student and each parent/carer involved in your lesson.

Toddlers love packing Up
Toddlers love to be helpful, so there is no reason why they can’t learn to do it well. Establish good habits and routine by getting the children to handle the instruments carefully and putting them away gently in a designated area in the classroom.

Expect small amounts of progress at a time
Toddlers will not be able to play an instrument well the first time. For most, it is  a totally different experience and they need to feel totally comfortable with it before they even play at all. The first time they have an instrument, they may just only look at it, but over time they will do more and more.  We are role models and the children may just watch us for weeks on end before they do anything at all. This is not an indicator that they are not learning it is completely normal. If they are watching they can quite often be taking in much more information. Just keep doing the activity even if they are showing no signs of progress and one day they will surprise you. If you have parents/carers in your session assure them it is completely normal for their children to want to watch rather than take part also.

Some other untuned instruments to have in your classroom could include maracas, castanets, bells, claves and triangles.

Tip #3 – Do some “Bear” craft activities.

Craft is  a great way to break up the session a little bit and can be done by toddlers in minutes if it is a little bit pre-prepared by the teacher.

Paper Bag Bear puppets work really well with a “Bear Theme”. Click here to download my template that you can print directly onto a brown paper lunch bag, and get the children to stick on ears, nose and any other bits you like to make your bears look cute.

Tip #4 – Do a Role play adventure

For this activity you could use teddy bears or paper bag bear puppets and take them on a musical adventure.
If you are piano savvy, you could play short little themes to represent specific actions or you could use a classical piece of music with re-occuring theme to play along as you do it. I used to have a river rug in my room to use as a prop, but you don’t really need this.. it just adds a little colour and fun.

Here’s some ideas of what you could do:

  1. Take your bears skipping through the forest
  2. Find a river
  3. Catch some fish
  4. Skip back through the forest
  5. Find a cave and put your bear to sleep

Tip # 5 – Read a book

I would recommend either of these books to use in any session with toddlers. Check them out on amazon.com:

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear ”
A great toddler book with short easy to follow story, children can say words to go along with it

“We’re going on a bear hunt”
Probably more for the older toddler. Has  a little more story to it and is a little bit longer

Tip #5 – Play a game- Musical Memory Match

A simple version of “Musical Memory Match”  is a perfect game for toddler aged children. You could use musical notation or letters as your cards and to keep with the bear theme have a matching pair of bears as well.The object of the games is to make a match and just a little hint with toddler games to remember – Make sure everyone is a winner!

All you need to do is place all flash cards face down in  the middle of the playing area

Each Player uncovers two musical match cards. If they are identical then that player keeps them. Play continues until all matches are uncovered. At the end each person counts up their pairs. If you want to get some free musical notation flashcard designs, just go to musical-clipart.com.

Other musical versions of traditional games to play with older toddlers could include Musical Snap, Musical  Go Fish or Musical Snakes and Ladders. Templates for these games and many others are included with the Fun Music Company Product – Printable Music Games