A Balanced Preschool Schedule Supports Healthy Learning and Development

What kind of schedule should you look for in a quality preschool program?

Some of the essentials are consistency, flexibility and balance. At Little Sunshine’s Playhouse & Preschool®, we offer a range of play-based learning activities that stimulate interest and promote cognitive, social, emotional and physical development.

Our Reggio Emilia-inspired Creatively Shine™ curriculum features monthly lesson themes, such as dinosaurs, creepy crawlies or space, which are integrated throughout the day so that kids get to apply their new knowledge in lots of fun and exciting ways.

Here is a summary of 7 key characteristics of an effective preschool classroom schedule.

#1: Balance of Consistency and Flexibility

The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends a consistent schedule with just enough flexibility to adjust to the needs of individual students and the class as a whole.

  • Children feel more secure when activities occur at the same time, in the same order, every day. Consistent scheduling promotes involvement with the subject matter and can minimize behavior problems.
  • Sometimes, the teacher may notice that the children need a little more time to stay immersed an activity, while at other times things move along more quickly. It’s okay if activities vary in length from day to day as long as they occur in the same order and very close to the same time.
  • If the school has a special activity planned, such as a paleontologist coming to share some cool fossils, teachers should give frequent reminders and visual cues, so the children know ahead of time to anticipate a visitor.

#2: Use of Learning Centers

A well-organized classroom with designated learning centers, along with a consistent schedule, makes it easier for kids to know both what to do and where to go at the appropriate times.

  • Science
  • Math
  • Manipulatives
  • Kitchen
  • Housekeeping
  • Gross motor
  • Quiet/reading
  • Writing

Even the playground can be organized into outdoor centers such as vegetable gardens, bird feeders, and labeled plants such as trees, bushes and flowers.

#3: Teacher- and Child-Directed Activities

Many grown-ups dismiss unstructured play as merely “goofing off,” but it actually teaches independent decision making, creative thinking and good social skills.

A quality preschool offers a variety of teacher-directed learning experiences as well as plenty of time for child-directed play.

  • Learning centers should contain open-ended toys like blocks, puzzles, games, dolls, “pretend” tools, crayons and paper. This lets each individual child discover their own unique talents and passions.
  • Kids love seeing themselves represented in the materials used at school! Books and dolls should depict diverse ages, races, cultures and family arrangements.
  • It’s okay if a child wants to play with other kids or alone sometimes, but teachers must be prepared to intervene if any aggressive behavior occurs.

#4: Large and Small Groups

Children benefit from taking part in a nice mix of large and small group activities.

  • Large group activities typically involve the whole class and might include storytime, presentations or learning a new dance. It’s a great chance to listen to questions and comments from their peers and to see first-hand how everyone has unique strengths and challenges.
  • Small groups might consist of 2 or 3 students working together on a project, such as learning to play a number game, building a tower out of blocks or making up an original story. This is an excellent way to practice social skills like cooperation, teamwork and respecting different opinions.

It’s also appropriate to include a few individual activities. Children develop a sense of pride and self-confidence when they can look at an original drawing they just created and think “Wow, I made that!”

#5: Active and Quiet Time

Toddlers and preschoolers are full of energy, and a good early childhood program will tap into that by encouraging lots of movement and even a little bit of noise! It’s also important to provide some quiet time to avoid overstimulation.

  • Active, “noisy” activities can be great for cognitive and motor development, and might include exploring outdoor environments, acting out a storybook, playing musical instruments, and anything else that encourages walking, running, jumping, clapping, stomping or climbing.
  • Quiet activities can include reading, writing or creating an art project, or attending story time or a presentation by the teacher or a guest. This teaches children to reflect on what they are learning, listen attentively and wait one’s turn to speak.
  • A daily nap helps kids recharge both mentally and physically, so they are ready for the rest of the day’s activities. Napping also supports brain development and helps your child remember all the wonderful things he or she is learning at school.

#6: Indoor and Outdoor Time

While lots of important learning takes place inside the classroom, it’s equally important to step outside sometimes. Ideally, children should get at least 60 minutes of outdoor time a day when the weather is good.

From learning to grow a garden to recognizing different insects to observing weather patterns, outdoor areas offer lots of learning opportunities across the curriculum.

Going outside increases physical activity through both organized games and free play during recess, which supports your child’s physical and mental well-being.

#7: Effective Transitions

Sometimes toddlers and preschoolers have difficulty with sudden changes in routine. Others may enjoy one activity so much that they become upset when it’s time to stop and do something different.

This is why the best preschool teachers understand how to transition between activities with minimal disruptions.

  • This is one of the many benefits of a consistent schedule. Knowing that it’s almost storytime helps children focus on that activity more easily.
  • Teachers can build anticipation for the next event with a five-minute “warning bell” so children know it’s time to finish up the current activity and get ready for the next.
  • Appealing visual cues, like colorful footsteps on the floor or arrows posted on the walls, are very helpful when it’s time to line up for the next learning center.
  • Transition time is also more fun when teachers build enthusiasm for the next activity by “introducing” it with a silly song, poem or dance that everyone performs together.


Little Sunshine’s Playhouse® gives individual locations and teachers the flexibility to customize the daily schedule to meet the needs of the class and individual students.

Need more information? Reach out to the location nearest you today!


Check out our previous blogs to learn more about what makes a great preschool program:

When Is the Best Time to Transition to the Next Preschool Classroom? Annual vs. Development Based   

What Makes a Great Preschool Teacher?   

Wondering What to Look for in a Preschool?