Daily program

daily schedules


Schedules organize the day. To meet children’s needs, the daily schedule must be consistent and balance physical, emotional, educational, and social needs. Schedules ensure that:


For children, a consistent daily schedule provides predictability. Without a schedule, children are likely to feel frustrated and tired by the end of the day. Schedules also help teachers know which materials and equipment they will need for the day.

While each day is different, knowing what will happen next offers children a sense of security, which helps develop self-confidence. A consistent schedule helps children understand the terms now and later, before and after, this morning and this afternoon, today, yesterday, and tomorrow. Schedules help teachers prevent chaos, boredom, and burnout. It is also the way children’s needs are met consistently.

Children’s schedules should:


Each classroom’s daily schedule includes the same elements for every child. These elements happen differently for each group, with make accommodations for individual needs. In the infant classrooms, each child’s schedule is individualized. Beginning with toddler classrooms, children are ready for a group schedule.

Children are best suited for learning when their physical needs are met, and they know what to expect. The daily schedule incorporates eating, bathroom, and rest times when they are most needed.


Plan a daily schedule that prevents boredom, waiting, and hurrying. Give children plenty of notice of transitions. Provide ample opportunity for children to relax and enjoy activities, including ones they can select themselves and move between at their own pace.


Activities should be designed to engage children. One key to prevent challenging behavior is to engage children with activities, peers, or adults. To promote engagement:


To keep children engaged and to prevent challenging behavior, plan for transitions as you plan for other parts of the scheduled day.


routines, rituals, + rules


Rules, rituals, and routines provide structure for everyone in the classroom, including the adults. Predictable routines teach children how that world is organized and how they can successfully interact within it. They give a sense of control and allow children to predict what is coming next, reducing anxiety and encouraging positive behavior.

A ritual may be a song, a rhyme, a game, a movement, or other activity used in a predictable and repeated pattern over time to communicate values, foster community, or remind children of behavioral expectations. Rules are most appropriate for preschoolers, whereas rituals and routines are more applicable to younger children

How routines help development

For infants, routines are individualized, providing a sense of security and comfort knowing their needs will be met. Feeling safe and secure enables babies to learn and develop. As babies get older, they move towards a more structured schedule. Predictable routines provide a foundation for daily events in their lives.

In toddlerhood, predictability is a key factor for growth. Toddlers need to anticipate what will happen next to feel a sense of control over themselves. Routines help develop the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls planning, sequencing, and decision-making.

Preschoolers’ sense of mastery of the world is beginning to strengthen, allowing them to take on bigger changes, transitions, and developmental tasks. Routines should support these developing skills and be simple enough for children to learn and remember. When children feel success in what they are doing, they gain self-esteem and self-control. Mastering routines gives children the opportunity for that success.

Routines should not be rigid, however. Some flexibility is necessary for children to explore, experiment, and learn to adapt to unexpected changes.

Common classroom routines


Create limits and expectations for behavior and share them ahead of time. State rules positively.

Teaching rules

Children need to learn rules to follow them. Some strategies for teaching children the expectations of the classroom:


Any early childhood educator can tell you that young children have high rates of not following teacher directions. Sometimes this is because of the way teachers give directions. Directions that are stated negatively (“Why haven’t you put up the toys?”) or directions that are stated as questions (“Can you help me put up the toys?”) may confuse children or make them less likely to follow. Strategies you can use to help children follow directions:

Visual cues

Although we receive sensory input from 5 different senses, 30% of our brains is devoted to what we see. It is important to provide visual cues and reminders for young children, especially those with special needs and for whom English is their second language. Visual cues and reminders help children learn the routines, expectations, and rules of the classroom and anticipate and make transitions. A visual schedule and a timer are good examples of visual cues.

daily program activities

Each day includes the following activities for each child. These activities happen differently for each group. Take care to respond to and make accommodations for individual needs.

Morning arrival

Morning arrival incorporates the morning routine, signing in, putting belongings in a cubby, choosing a table activity, and saying ‘goodbye’ to parent/caregiver. During morning arrival, we facilitate organized free play.

Helping a child with dropoff

A child’s temperament is unique and influences their day. How they transition into the classroom depends on how they deal with transition. Many children have an easy time transitioning into the classroom each morning. Some children find transitioning difficult at dropoff, which can stress the parent who goes to work with an image of their crying child.

Reassure parents that just because a child has difficulty being dropped off does not mean they are unhappy at school during the day. Nor is the difficulty necessarily indicative of a larger issue. It will usually get easier over time as the child becomes more comfortable with their new surroundings, friends, and teachers. Let parents know you are here to help!

Children arrive at different times in the morning. Greet each child upon arrival and assist them with settling in. Take cues from the how the child feels while entering and leaving the classroom. Use these to individualize the routine for each child. During morning arrival, organized free play activities and materials are set out for the children, which helps them engage immediately.

To ease the transition to the classroom in the morning, you can suggest these ideas to parents:

Clean up

Clean up occurs after each activity is completed. To teach self-help skills, have children assist in the clean-up process in a developmentally appropriate manner. Clean up is a great activity to implement classroom routines, including songs, chants, and special jobs.

Organized free play

Organized free play is child-driven play time. It lets children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their interests, and engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue. You should allocate a good portion of each child’s day at First Circle to this important activity.

Organized free play is time for children to have a free choice among a variety of activities, to play independently or cooperatively with friends. Educators should introduce activities for older infants and toddlers, but children are free to make choices about materials and how to use them. Preschool children work in small groups at tables or on the rug.

Some choices should be child-led, independent activities, in addition to 1 or 2 teacher-directed, structured choices. Activities can be offered at tables, on the rug, or in designated station areas. Table choices typically focus on small motor tasks, while rug choices incorporate building, dramatic play, and gross motor activities. This time allows children to practice and explore social interaction, with the benefit of educator facilitation.

Small group activities

Small group activities allow more individualized time for children and an opportunity for skill building. During small group activities:

Circle time

Circle time invites children to gather on the rug for teacher-led curriculum activities. For infants and toddlers, it is centered primarily around stories and songs and should be no more than 10 minutes. Teachers use this time to read a story to introduce children to the learning topic for the day.

Circle time for preschoolers typically includes music and movement, games, show and tell, discussions about weather and calendar, songs, etc. Circle time is another place where children can learn and practice social rules, be introduced to new concepts and learn to attend and engage for an increasing amount of time, the basis for developing a positive approach to learning.

Large group activities

Teachers often face challenging behavior during large group activities. It’s difficult to keep children interested throughout circle time. Here are some suggestions about how you can keep children engaged:

Gross motor activities

Gross motor activities happen daily, indoors and outdoors (weather permitting).  They include small and large muscle activities, aiming for at least 60 minutes of physical activity. Outdoor allows large muscle use, loud voices, and an opportunity to experience natural materials and textures. Children move and play on a variety of equipment, like push, ride-on and pedal toys, and swings. Infants walk in strollers or roll on mats outdoors.

Some outdoor choices are child-led, independent activities, and some are teacher-directed games and activities. Indoors, children exercise large muscles on our climbers, or during dance, fitness or obstacle course activities.

Fine motor activities

Fine motor activities develop skills for daily living such as buttoning and holding a spoon and get children ready for writing. Build fine motor activities in throughout the day, like play with small objects such as pegs and Legos, scissors use to practice cutting, Lincoln logs construction, pipe cleaner twisting, or clothespin use.

Meal + snack times

Meal and snack times are when children and educators should interact in a more informal way, to model manners and encourage children to socialize with each other. Meals and snacks are scheduled according to the children’s developmental stage. Whether eating on an individualized (infants) or group schedule (toddlers and preschoolers), it’s a time to practice and explore social interaction, with the benefit of teacher facilitation.


Meal and snack time is another opportunity to build classroom routines and teach children self-help skills. Starting with toddlers, children should get and put away their own lunch bags, make choices, and clean up after themselves. [See DAILY PROGRAM MANAGEMENT]


Transitions happen as children change activities. Multiple transitions occur during the day: when children arrive at school, move through learning centers, get ready for outdoor play, go out or come in from outside, get ready for meals/snacks, clean up, rest/nap or depart.

Most transitions have a well-known routine letting children know what to expect, as giving children a series of directions can help keep them on task. Smooth transitions keep the classroom peaceful.

Transitions also provide time for children to practice skills like walking in line, putting coats on, and listening.

Transitions should happen in a safe, timely, predictable, and unhurried manner using the following principles:


Departure begins as children prepare to leave school. All their items are packed and ready to go. Children engage in quiet activities until their parent/caregiver arrives. The school day ends with children saying goodbye to their friends and teachers and following school rules until they are safely in their car.