Circle Time Tips By Sara Michelson

This past year, I had a group of  2- to 4-year-olds.  While circle time had its challenges, the following contributed greatly to a delightfully evolving and very enriching time for the children:

  • being fully present with them
  • soft eye contact with them
  • lots of smiles, but also a firm look as needed with particular children to guide them to be present with the group
  • the principle of imitation for young children’s learning is vital at circle; everything I want them to do, I do with them
  • slowing down is very helpful: slower with spoken words, slower songs, slower movements
  • we began with hair brushing and an accompanying song
  • next, a variety of seasonal and non-seasonal hand/finger games were used (see examples below)
  • then, “Good Morning Dear Earth, Good Morning Dear Sun….” rhyme as we transitioned from sitting to standing
  • then, a variety of circle games and seasonally themed games and songs, with lots of movement
  • we ended with holding hands, standing, (sing: ring of hands) a few rhymes, and transition to lying down for a short rest time

I follow the same general order outlined above throughout the year – the children thrive with the familiarity and learn more easily what is coming next.

I will stay with the same seasonal rhymes/games for about 3-4 weeks; but this past spring they particularly loved “Where are the Froggies When the North Wind Blows,” so we continued with that-not every day-but over the course of 7 weeks.

I have heard the children spontaneously sing songs we do at circle time in their play time!  They learn songs easily and there always seem to be certain ones that they really connect with.  I also hear from the parents about songs being sung at home.  One mom texted me to learn the words that her little boy was trying to remember in a favorite song of his!

I have responded in different ways with children who don’t want to participate.  One child in particular would periodically-yet regularly throughout the year- take himself out and stand in a corner and watch us.  I shifted from trying to invite him to re-join us, to a simple acknowledging of “Rory is standing over there now,” and then continuing on with the rest of the children.  That seemed to work best, and sometimes he re-joined on his own.  With my older ones-the four year old twins-if they removed themselves, I spoke their names and said, “it’s time to join us,” as I felt, most of the time, that was appropriate for them and that they were certainly capable of joining us.  

A favorite innovative moment came this past spring: I had created a garden-themed circle for spring time after Spring Break, and we were beginning our hand games section while sitting.  Some children were flopping over on the rug, every which way.  Instead of trying to have them join me the way I wanted them to, I shifted gears and said, “And now we feel the good brown earth!  We feel it with our hands….our feet……..we rub it on our arms…….” etc.  It was a joy to integrate what was happening in the present moment into the beginning of circlet time; since that time, that has been how I started our garden-themed circle time.

Here is a favorite rhyme from this past spring, and it is easily a summer rhyme also:

Ten fat peas in a pea pod pressed.

One grew, two grew 

Then did all the rest.

They grew and grew and did not stop

They grew until one day went pop!

We start sitting, and just fingers and hands move according to the rhyme.  At the end the children are standing and joyously, with lots of smiles, clap their hands over their heads for the pop!  Enjoy!

Sara Michelson, Director and Lead Teacher,