Toddler in Day Care with No Structure

Updated on March 18, 2011
S.G. asks from Warminster, PA
14 answers

Hi All!

Well my son is almost 2.5 years old and I work full time. So he goes to day care. If anyone out there has a child that is in day care full time let me know if your day care differs from mine in the AM.

I walk in with him and it is about 8:15am. It is free play all morning until 9:30 snack time. The kids are wild they are running all over the place the 3 year old room is crammed in with the 2 year old room until 9am. There is no structure in the am when I get there. My son clings to me and looks for structure, so I get a puzzle out for him and he sits in a chair to play. The same puzzle every day while everyone else is running around like wild indians. Today another little boy bopped my son in the head with a doll over and over again as my back was turned to put his food in the fridge. The teachers did not notice so I had to discipline the other child.

Does anyone else experience this out of control free play time in the AM when you drop your kids off to day care? I am trying to figure out if this is normal or out of control. My daughter went to day care but that was 10 years ago so I dont recall.

What can I do next?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I agree with others. Free play time in the morning is pretty standard, waiting for all the kids to arrive. But free play should not mean out of control. In my daycare, free play times means that activites are out to play, and kids can choose which one they want. But there is a max of 4 kids per activity so that there isn't chaos at any 1 particular activity space.

And the ratio of kids/teachers shouldn't increase (and should be based on the youngest children in the room, not the oldest) even when it is free play time, so there is no excuse for the teachers not noticing a child misbehaving for more than a moment or two.

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answers from Spokane on

Every daycare is going to be different depending on it's size and budget - which mean there will be a different number of staff and different ratio of teacher/child, and different age groupings depending on the facility. I've worked in several daycares, and I specialized in infants and toddlers. Toddlers are like wild animals! haha It is VERY hard to keep structure in the morning during the drop off hours. For example, I had a mom who was ALWAYS at least 45 minutes late, which had her dropping off her daughter at 9:45 at the earliest. Do you know how hard it is to monitor four two year olds with paint, and help another two year old say goodbye to her mom at the same time? You are dropping off at 8:15, if the center is open at 6-6:30am, then that means you are dropping off in the middle of diaper changing time... again, changing 4 diapers (and working on pottying) and saying hello to a child and helping them say goodbye to mommy gets pretty chaotic sometimes. There really isn't a "good" time to get toddlers seated together and working diligently on an activity until ALL the kids are there and ALL the moms are gone. This being said, we always made sure that there was a teacher on the floor helping kids engage and keeping hands to themselves, another teacher on standby to hold or rock a crying child while mom left, and another who was getting art supplies ready or changing a diaper. BUT, at this facility we had a 4:1 ratio (four kids for each teacher) - this is WAY below state regulations (we could have had 10 kids for every teacher - yes, with two year olds, if you can believe that, good ol CA). I would discuss the issue with the teacher, and the director, and see if things change, or if they have suggestions on how you could help them. Sounds like getting the puzzle out and settling your child is very helpful, but the behavior of other children should definitely be monitored more closely. This said, sometimes the teachers are focused on other things that are also important, and "head bopping" happens - they can't catch EVERY incident that happens every day all day long. But if this is a regular thing that you are seeing, they need to change something up so they always have a set of eyes on the class as a whole. Daycare is a wild and crazy place, good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Allentown on

Hi, S.:

Ask the Director to give you the structure for this daycare and
the daycare norms for the children.

If the information is not what you observed, report your observations to her.
If you are not satisfied with the collaboration, tell her to suggest to you a new daycare center.

This gives her an opportunity to clean things up in her daycare.
Just a thought.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Our daycare had a similar routine where they would combine some classes until enough children had arrived to separate them to their normal classrooms. I don't think I ever saw more than about a dozen kids lumped in there together. They would also do "free play" during this time but it was never out of control. In fact, it was usually fairly calm.

It sounds like you are unhappy with this situation. You need to voice your concern to the director and if it doesn't improve then look for another daycare.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Every pre-school that my daughter has ever gone to had free-play until breakfast. At most places kids slowly come in anywhere between 6:00 AM and 9:00 Am and it is virtually impossible to start a structured activity with all the drop offs.
At our current school we have to be in by 9:30 so they can start structured activities at that time without interruption.

However, free play also does not mean running amok in the room and lack of supervision. No matter when I drop my daughter off, one of her two teachers will always greet us and help my daughter find something she wants to play. Free play is important for kids, but it does not equal chaos.

I would talk to the teacher about how you can help your son get settled in the mornings. If you don't get anywhere with the teacher ask for a meeting with the administration and voice your concerns.
Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Well, there is usually a routine.
Not just the kids self-managing.

Daycare is different than Preschool.

But, each Daycare is different. Some being more structured.
Did you ask them about their schedule/activities before you signed him up?

Also, what is the adult to child ratio?
Also, you need to speak up... telling the Care Provider, that another kid hit yours.
THEY need to know these things.

They do seem chaotic.
So, speak to them.
Tell them your concerns.
It also seems crowded... .
That is also a long 'free play' timing.
You should ask them and they should tell you, the schedule of the kids' entire day....
How do they discipline? Ask them that.
Is there a nap time? Ask them that.
WHEN are the kids fed? Ask them that.
DO the kids/Parent, check the child in? Is there a sign in sheet? Ask them that.
Then upon leaving, is there a sign out sheet? Ask them that.
How do they supervise the kids? Ask them that.
What is their policies? Ask them that.

Speak to them and ask them, all your questions.
If not satisfactory, find another daycare or a Preschool.
Depending on what you want for your child.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Davenport on

I am having the same issue right now, too ...

The daycare I send my daughter to doesn't have much structure - or doesn't appear to at least. I send her to an in-home daycare where there are about 6 other kids (ranging in ages 9 mo's to 4 years). I drop her off at random times since I only work part time (but pay for full time daycare) and each time the kids are playing on their own, running around the room. Doesn't seem to be much structure there - but I am not there all day so I can't say that for SURE!! I talked to my daycare lady about it one time, since my daughter is behind in speech, and she said it's hard for her to get structure when the kids are in such different stages and ages. I know other in-home daycares have structure though so maybe she needs to do some research but I don't know. I am at a loss what to do also ...

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answers from Kansas City on

Sounds normal to me. It's pointless to have structure first thing in the morning, especially with 2 and 3 year olds, when they are constantly turning to see who opened the door to be dropped off. It's also normal to have the kids combined until around nine because of the drop-off thing. The kid to teacher ratio may not be enough at that point to justify another teacher.

Structure, per se, is hard period with kids this young. They just don't have the attention span to sit still, so while teachers may try to do crafts or read stories, the true teaching structured environment is usually saved for the pre-school portion of daycare starting around the 3 year old rooms.

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answers from Los Angeles on

this free play sounds a bit too "free" with teachers not supervising/disciplining. i'd take that up either with the teachers or the principal...but it sounds like you may want to look for a more structured environment.

both my kids are in daycare/preschool. even with my 13mos old, there is a schedule and they try to stick to it. we have to be flexible with such a young age group which is understandable. and the am routine when students are being dropped off is free, supervised play.

but that wild, free play is unacceptable to me.

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answers from Cincinnati on

I would talk to the manager/owner about what is the schedule for the day. by Law, they are only allowed to have about 7 -2 year older per 1 adult (or something like that)
my kids in daycare for 10 hours per day. I drop her off at 730 and the room is on playtime because all the parents are dropping the kids off...usually A tv is going, some are watching it, some are playing with a daycare provided toy or book, some are crying for their mommys depends.
Their breakfast is served from 8-845 where all the kids are required to sit on a picnic table and eat (all sit and eat like good kids crazy indians)..after eating it takes 15 mins to clean them up, clean up breakfast ..from 9-930 its potty time or diaper change time. ###-###-#### is reading time...all the kids line up on the wall and teacher reads them a story that invovles SOMETHING of the week (a letter and color) from 1015-11 they do a craft that involves the same letter and same color from the book. 11-1145 its lunch time, clean up lunch , potty and they are down on their cots to take a nap.
Nap goes til about 2 or 3....when all are up, they get on the potty, get another snack and drink out of a dixie cup at the picnic table..after 3, its the afternoon highschool girls and there is no learning activities ..its pretty much free time. if its nice, they have a park at the daycare the kids play in, but if its crummy out, the kids stay in...sometime the highschools do the girls hair or paint their faces.
Sounds like you need an intervention with the owner. If its not to your specifications, you need to leave. I was at a daycare and had that same discussion. you are paying THEM for a service (and not a cheap one either). its not wrong or rude to ask about the well being of your kid. not that you are pointing fingers, you only want the best for your child and what meshes well with your family.
Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

My son is in daycare, but I drop him off at 6:30ish in the am. However, the way our daycare works, the 'early birds' will eat some breakfast together, but go to their 'age appropriate' rooms after 7am. It's always the same group that early and everyone is very calm and collected that early.

I would question if there are enough teachers in that room at that time.

In our daycare, the director goes around regularly checking on that. Making sure that there are absolutely no more than X# of kids/teacher for that age group. Then she'll make adjustments accordingly if needed. I REALLY love our daycare and the teachers and director where we go. Sure, the kids can get rambunctious (especially the toddler rooms) but they reel em in pretty quickly where we go.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Birmingham on

I used to work at a day care as a two year old room teacher (12kids in my class). We did have unstructured free play in the morning, until 8am (daycare opened at 6:30am). Until 7am, I'd have both two year olds classes and the three year olds, and the other two year old class until 8am. But "out of control" is unacceptable! Free play isn't supposed to mean a zoo, just that kids are allowed to pick their toys, play areas etc and the teacher usually stays in the background UNTIL she's needed to calm them down, sort out disagreements etc. It shouldn't be very loud (so teacher can hear any problems) and they shouldn't be running around everywhere inside, it gets chaotic quick in a small space. With our morning free play, the kids had to be sitting down playing in fact (with a variety of toys, puzzles, books, games etc to chose from) and could sit on the rugs or any of the tables. Things being that wild on a regular basis means either the teacher is over-whelmed or just not taking charge of her class. Either way, I'd address this concern with the director. If they don't step up and try to help change this, I'd change daycares.


BTW, each two year old class there was 12kids, three year olds had 14 per class and 4 year olds had 16 per class. This is the legal limits there (Louisiana). It's too many in my belief, but it's possible, if you are paying attention to your kids and are a good teacher though it's NOT possible to keep them all well-behaved all the time.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Is this daycare certified by the state? it seems the daycare dont care and there is no disapline in this daycare. Either taklk to the teacher or look for another one.
good luck tam

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