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Rita Gold Early Childhood Center
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Rita Gold Early Childhood Center

Rita Gold Early Childhood Center

Our Classrooms > Toddler Classroom

Toddler Classroom

2 years to 3 years


Kara reading with toddlersIn the Toddler Room, there is always a bounty of activity as the children play, explore, and construct their own knowledge through interactive and cooperative experiences. The different areas of the classroom encourage the children to engage in a variety of activities: quiet and active, social and independent, constructive play and pretend play, etc. Most of the materials are set up for easy access, encouraging the children to make their own choices and help themselves. Some things are out of reach, promoting language development as the children communicate their need for assistance to teachers, peers, or family. The social environment unfolds as the children grow and develop together in the classroom. The teachers facilitate learning through play, and families are encouraged to spend time in the classroom.



Hari with legosThe Toddler Room is a mixed age classroom. We start the year with children ranging in age from just under 2 years to 3 1/2 years old. We usually begin the Fall semester with 10 children and increase to 12 children during the Spring semester. Working with young children, the teachers and children are involved in caregiving routines throughout the day. The teachers strive to build relationships with the children through the daily routines while simultaneously fostering independence and interdependence. The classroom caregivers include two head teachers, two graduate assistants, and student teachers who are enrolled in an Infant and Toddler Seminar class. Similar to the Infant Room, we practice the "watch, wait, and wonder" approach in coordination with responsive teaching, providing the space for the children to initiate activities on their own as we observe the minute details of their development.  We engage in ongoing observation to discover how we might challenge their development and encourage growth.


Our curriculum is based on the philosophy that children are competent, self-driven learners, who benefit most through exploration and their interactions with each other. The curricular approach in the Toddler Room is play-based and child-led, emergent and integrated. Through careful observation and consistent communication with families, the teachers become very attuned to the interests of the children and provide the materials and support to scaffold each child's learning in a way that is fitting to his or her development, strengths, and challenges. We also believe it is important to introduce new concepts and ideas to the classroom to ensure that the children are experiencing a range of activities that further support their growth and development. As activities in the classroom emerge from the children's interests, we strive to provide integrated learning experiences that encourage development in all domains.


The ratio of adults to children is minimally 1:4.  In the fall semester, our group size is 10 children and we begin and end the day with 3 adults in the classroom, one of whom is a head teacher.  In the spring, we expand to 12 children.  There are additional caregivers mid-day, when the children begin transition routines to go outside, have lunch and prepare for nap routines. 


Box fortOur daily schedule is responsive to the needs and interests of the children. Our day begins at 8:45 a.m. as families enter the classroom. Some families begin the day by transitioning their children with a small snack or breakfast and others read a favorite book or do another activity together. After transitioning, the children are encouraged to explore the classroom materials, engage in dramatic play, and participate in gross motor activities. Small group activities, such as cooking or art, are often part of our morning free-play. Once or twice a week we have a group music activity with our music teacher or a group art activity. We leave as a whole group around 11:00 a.m. to go outdoors to a neighborhood playground, the Teachers College courtyard to ride bikes, a farmer's market, or on a nature walk. In inclement weather, we go to the Dancespace, our indoor playspace where the children can run, experiment with balls and hoops, dance, or climb and jump on mats all while watching themselves and each other in the wall to wall mirror. During our outings, the children from the Infant and the Preschool classrooms frequently join us. We return to the classroom for lunch and nap at around 12:30 pm. Our afternoons provide open time for snacks and free-play or another outdoor activity.

Our Classrooms