I Want to Do Tot School. Now What?

Getting Started With Tot School

So you decided you want to start tot school activities with your little ones. Awesome!!! But maybe now you are asking yourself "Now what?" Below I am sharing some questions that are frequently asked or that I asked myself when I decided to start tot schooling and answering them in hopes that it helps you move forward on this new adventure with your tot.

Getting Started With Tot School: You have decided you want to tot school, but you don't know where to go from there. Check out this post that answers some of the frequently asked questions about tot school to help you get a plan for your family.

So what it tot school? Tot school is not really school, but rather a time to explore new topics through fun play based activities. Seriously as simple as that.

By nature, I like to make lists and have a plan for anything I want to tackle. Tot school was no different. I asked myself a series of questions to prepare for our tot schooling adventures. These questions can serve as a guide for your tot school planning as well.

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What types of things are you wanting your little one to learn from tot school? Remember that tot school is not “school” and is meant to be fun. For me, I love planning around themes. It makes coming up with activities so much easier. Once I come up with a theme all the rest falls into place. For the most part we will just be exploring overall themes that tie in with the time of the year, but we may also mix in things like letters and numbers for a bit of exposure. Children are not in the sensitive period for letters and numbers until the age of 3 so our focus will not be on them alone. Your number one goal should be to have fun and to play. So much learning happens during play.

Make a plan for when you will complete your tot school activities each day.  A time specific schedule often stresses me out, but a routine is something we thrive off of in this house. If I make tot school important and plan a general “time” for it each day we will better able to complete our activities. With children, you have to remember that things don’t always go as planned and that is ok. Don’t stress over it if you can’t get to the activities you had planned. Tot schooling is flexible and is meant to be fun for everyone. Currently, we do tot school activities shortly after breakfast because this is when everyone is the happiest and most likely to cooperate. The closer to lunch the “crankier” we all get. This is not to say that we don’t do activities at other times of the day, but the majority of the time we do it shortly after breakfast.

Toddlers are not meant to sit still for long periods of time and need play, play play. Keeping this in mind while planning, I personally make sure that all of our activities are very play based and can be completed in small bursts of time. If you plan an hour long craft activity I can bet you will not be completing this in one day. Toddlers attention spans are typically very short and they need variety. For our tot schooling adventures, I plan to focus on 4-5 different categories of learning activities: Themed Books, Fine Motor, Gross Motor, and Sensory/Craft. We will also have fun themed food. My plan is to do something in each category every day, but there may be some days we only do a couple of them. Again, remember it is ok to be flexible and it is ok if you don’t get to everything you wanted. In my opinion, it is better to be over-planned than under-planned. I plan to spend 5-10 minutes numerous times throughout the day on tot school activities depending on Little Miss' interest, which is about her typical attention span on previous activities.

You can download a supply planning sheet below  for you to use during your weekly/monthly planning. You can jot down all the items you will need for each activity and then use it as a shopping list of your house and then, if need be, the actual store. You do not need a crazy extravagant supply of materials to do tot school. Really just about anything you have on hand could be used and so many toys your little one already has would make excellent tot school activities. You do not need to spend hundreds of dollars to get started. I personally already had a lot of supplies on hand from teaching and have acquired many since then from yard sales and shopping sales. If you want in on a little secret, one of my favorite places for materials is Dollar Tree. So many things you typically wouldn’t think of can be used for fun learning through play activities. As you plan activities, try to pick activities that you have supplies for. This will help keep the cost low. I love activities that I can reuse the supplies over and over again.

Supply List pdf download here Supply List ppt download here

Once I have my list of activities planned out and my supply list made, I go “shopping” in my supply room and gather all the supplies I will need and take them to our school room. If I need to buy something I add it to the real shopping list and get it when we get groceries.


I add the thematic books to the book shelves in the playroom so they are on display for the duration of the week/month.


I then begin creating baggies of all the materials needed for each of the activities and store them in a tote. Each category has its own bag for each day of the week. The day is written on the bag and then each category has its own color of washi tape added to it to make grabbing the day’s bags easier. The books and food category do not have a bag. Some days not all bags will be needed due to not needing any supplies.  


If I will be needing to reuse a material from a previous day or I do not have something on hand at that moment, I will stick a post-it- note to the outside of the bag to remind me to grab it for that activity the morning of.


If a material is too big for the bags, I will just add it to the tote I store all the baggies in and then on a post-it write what is missing. I have several trays that I have collected that we use to complete activities on and will add these under the tote. I like collecting colorful ones from Dollar Tree and Walmart as the seasons change so we can do our fun thematic activities on fun colorful thematic trays. I also have the clear one from IKEA that I love.


Eventually our system of organization will change, but for now this system works just fine. We all have different materials available to us. We all have different organizational styles and organization needs. Do whatever works best for YOU. Do whatever will keep you SANE. We are all moms and dads and completely understand what life is and can be like with toddlers. Sometimes it is survival friends :)

If you have appropriate activities available, tot school can happen as young as before 1 year of age. Obviously what works for a 9 month old will not be the same as for a 2 year old. We personally started doing more structured playful learning types of activities around 18 months. We did things before then as well, but just here or there. Obviously not all activities are suited for all these ages and as your child gets older their abilities and interests will change. Your activities will want to tailor to these interests and needs. Some of the activities we do may not work for your child in the way that I present them, but with a little adaptation you could be able to complete the same activity. For instance, if my daughter is using a paintbrush but your child is unable to hold one then let them us their fingers. We use all sorts of different painting mediums and each time Little Miss has a different reaction and different learning experience. Again flexibility and adaptation are KEY to Tot Schooling. Keep it FUN!!!

1. Do not make tot school stressful. Tot School is supposed to be fun .  If your child becomes uninterested then you need to STOP!
2. Tot school needs to be based around play.
3. What works for me and my child, may not work for you and your child and that is perfectly ok. WE are all different and our children are all different.
4. Remember to be FLEXIBLE and make it work for you and your family.

We hope to be a resource and inspiration for you and your tot school journey. We will be sharing all throughout the week in our Facebook Group and on Instagram so feel free to follow along there. We would love for you to share and tag us @letsplaylearngrow in any activities you are doing alongside us. We also do alot of our planning using PINTEREST. You can find so many ideas here.

Happy Totschooling!!!!

You can check out our Theme Page for fun learning ideas we share here on the blog. 

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