Since Janine asked, I thought I'd post about how our toddler time is structured. Keep in mind that I can't take credit for any of it. My sister-in-law, Shelli, came up with the basic plan and has refined it with both her older children. Shelli has taught kindergarten, is a fabulous preschool teacher and a very fun, hands-on mom (and I'm so lucky to have her around to get great ideas from!).
We meet once a week for an hour and a half, and we take turns hosting/teaching for 2-4 weeks at a time, depending on the schedule. When you teach, you plan the themes for those weeks, plan and direct the activities, and provide the supplies. We have six kids, ages 2-4, in our group, which is just enough; more and we don't fit in each other's living rooms and kitchens. Here is our schedule (we added the letter activity this year, since the kids were a year older and ready for more):
10:00 Free Play/Moms Chat
10:25 Clean Up
10:30 Circle Time:
Ring the Bell
10:45 Large Motor Activity
10:55 Letter Activity
11:25 Clean Up
When we have circle time, moms sit with their kids and participate (having chat time at the beginning helps us keep focused on our kids the rest of the time). We pass around the bell so each child can ring it. The songs, book, activity, and craft all center around our theme that week (bugs, picnics, colors, hats, holidays, etc.), and we try to make our crafts very hands-on, process not product affairs. We sign up for weeks and plan our themes the first couple of weeks, during our free play/chat time.
The kids fall into the routine very quickly, and each look forward to certain things (Julia loves craft time, while Lucy can't do without the welcome song, etc.). And it is a great social outlet for both the kids and the moms. I love that Katie is learning while we do something social; it's more than a playgroup. She knows how to spell her name from the name song we learned at toddler time, she is learning important literacy concepts from practicing nursery rhymes and storytime, and she understands more about her world and herself from all the activities. And I feel like a better mom for being involved in her social and intellectual development.