The 3 Steps In Curriculum Planning In Early Childhood Education

Having looked at how to identify the next steps in learning process for a child (in the previous article), it is time to understand and implement the 3 Steps in curriculum planning in early childhood education, namely:

In this article:

  1. Long-term curriculum planning
  2. Medium-term curriculum planning
  3. Short-term curriculum planning
  4. Examples of curriculum planning process for next steps

1. Long-Term Curriculum Planning

The planning of events for the entire academic year is called long-term planning. Planning for the long-term should be such, that the facilitator is able to see a pattern and inter-connection in the events planned, which would help him or her to identify:

  • The next level of learning and area of learning that is specific to each child
  • The critical areas of support to be provided at each level of learning and the area of learning, and
  • If there is a good balance in terms of opportunities to play and learning from play

Children benefit a lot through play during early childhood, as they learn a lot of things during play activities. The balance in opportunities for play activities (in the third bullet above) refers to a balance between a child choosing play activities freely on his or her own, and the (pre) planned adult-led play activities.

2. Medium-Term Curriculum Planning

A well-planned long-term plan becomes the foundation for medium term-planning. Medium term planning outlines the curriculum for anywhere between two to six weeks.

To decide the next steps for learning in a child, the medium term planning focuses on:

  • Charting out a plan to cover topics or themes for further learning
  • Considering changes in the daily routine of the child, especially the mealtime and the sleeping time to further the process of learning
  • Ensuring adequacy of resources within the learning environment to further the child’s learning potential

There are 5 must-have spaces within an indoor learning environment, which include the play area and storage area, among others. The group activities area serves as the place to observe, assess and subsequently identify the child’s needs and desires, and checking for any gaps to be filled also falls under medium-term planning.

3. Short-Term Curriculum Planning

Planning the medium term effectively helps the facilitator focus, in a proper way, on the short-term planning. It is important to remember that it is at this level that you, as a facilitator, can actually keep a track of each and every need of the child in your class and check if the needs are met.

Short-term planning involves setting out what events or activities are to be included on a day-to-day basis, which falls within the long-term and medium-term planning framework. Short-term planning should also be based on the child’s experiences during the previous day, and must be organised in such a way that the needs of each child are met.

The facilitator should therefore focus on:

  • The weekly plan of plans
  • The observational findings and its follow-up activities based on the interests and needs of the child, and
  • Getting ready with the resources that are needed to accomplish the desired activity of the day

Succinctly Put

Long-Term Planning involves:

  • Early childhood curriculum ethos
  • Overarching aims for the learning themes
  • Events and celebrations for the whole year

Medium-Term Planning involves:

  • Specific learning goals and objectives
  • Learning activities and experiences
  • Assessing children’s needs and interests
  • Outdoor events
  • Indoor activities

Short-term Planning involves:

  • Previous day experiences and observations
  • Specific objectives or goals for a week (and/or for the day)
  • Learning activities and experiences for that week (and/or for the day)
  • The weekly tasks of educators
  • The weekly assessments

The mantra of planning for next steps in learning for children in the early years is also referred to as Possible Lines Of Development (PLOD), a term framed by one Ms. Sarah, a childminder.

PLOD is all about planning for the individual child, focusing on activities that are:

  • Developmentally appropriate
  • Need relevant, and
  • Interest based

A lot of next steps in learning happen automatically by an increase in the age of the child (as defined n the milestones). However, some children may need some practice to learn certain other next steps, depending on how complex the level of learning is for them.

Examples of Curriculum Planning Process for Next Steps

Let us understand the process of long-term, medium-term and short-term planning for next step for child, with examples in the form of three different situations.

Situation A

Observation: Pooja is a child who is sitting on a cycle.

Assessment: The situation of sitting on a cycle can be linked to one of his physical development milestones, and suggest that the next step is to get ready to learn to pedal the cycle.

Next Step: Provide opportunities to use a cycle as often as possible, and offer time and space that encourages pedaling.

The planning of next step of this nature does not and cannot happen overnight. It needs a lot of effort and practice, therefore time; which is why it is classified under long-term planning.

Situation B

Observation: Shabana, when asked to paint on a large sheet of paper, was found to paint straight lines from the top to bottom and again from bottom to top. The liking towards straight lines is also affirmed through other observations.

Assessment: Shabana is good in learning what is called the Trajectory Schema (schema of straight lines). This is what a facilitator’s assessment should be. This schema, when linked with the physical development of the child, the educator can decide that the child will also be able to climb, jump or run with ease. On the whole, he can be a physically active person.

Next Step: Provide opportunities to promote the schema in the physical domain, namely:

  • Throwing things up
  • Jump
  • Ride cycle up and down the path, etc.

As regards the next step in this scenario, there is a thin line that separates the interest based on schema developed by the child, and the need for physical development related to the schema. Therefore, the next step falls under medium-term planning.

Situation C

Observation: After visiting a zoo during the weekend, Sharon comes to the Early Learning Centre (ELC) on a Monday morning with a toy lion.

Assessment: Sharon is yet to come out of her excitement after experiencing the zoo with animals around, and continues to seek for more information about the animals and understand their nature.

Next Step: Provide opportunities and exposure to the knowledge available on animals, like where they live, what kind of noises they make, what do they eat, etc.

In this scenario, encouraging the interest of the child is the next step. This is something that can be done on an immediate basis, and is therefore classified under short-term planning.


The next steps in curriculum planning in early childhood education should neither be a random action, nor a generalised one. Rather, the educator should be clear as a crystal, as regards the reasons for deciding what the steps should be.

Most of all, the reasons for the decisions must be based on the notes the educator diligently made in the individual records of the child maintained at the centre. In the final analysis, the next steps for learning should align with the vision of supporting his or her 3 major domains of development.