Circle Time Hints

Circle Time Hints


KEEP IT SHORT. As important as Circle Time is, we get the best results when it is brief. Likewise, we don’t necessarily have to start the day with Circle Time. In fact, there can be several group meetings throughout the day.

START WITH THE CHILDREN. Take cues from careful observation of the children. When we see children losing interest in our planned activities, it’s time for us to do something different. When we discover a new interest, Circle Time is a great place to begin a project that builds on it.

BE READY TO GO. Circle Time stays dynamic when we are prepared and have the materials ready. If we are going to dance, we can have streamers on hand for everyone and all the songs cued. Reducing the amount of time that children have to wait for activities or materials contributes to our success.

STAY CALM DURING CHANGE. Transitioning in and out of circle time can sometimes be chaotic. To get children’s attention, we can whisper or talk quietly. If we want to help children calm down before a story, we can sing a song that starts off energetically and then ends more slowly or quietly.

BE PROACTIVE WHEN A CHILD HAS A HARD TIME. If a child has trouble adjusting to circle time, we can ask an assistant to sit nearby. A gentle touch or encouraging smile may be all that is needed. We might involve the child in passing out materials or singing a song. It’s okay if some children don’t want to participate in some activities. By offering that child a choice to join in or to read a book quietly, we help him feel in control within our limits.

BE FLEXIBLE. By aiming for a balance between repeated and novel activities, we can maintain a dynamic learning experience. While we can always make room for the children’s favorite songs and stories, we can make it a goal to introduce new topics to expand the children’s world.

Above all, we can make Circle Time a safe place to be, a place where children feel safe to say something and know that no one will tease them, a place where children can explore, learn and grow in a caring community.


Circle Time will be different across age groups in both the amount of time spent in the group and the complexity of activities. It is important that we know where children are in their development, for each age group has its definite patterns:

Infants can be brought together for a short period, a song or short game. The best activity with infants is a more individualized experience with an emphasis on repetition, such as Peek-a-Boo.

Toddlers can be engaged in Circle Time for a few minutes, sharing participatory activities such as a song or story.

Preschoolers might spend fifteen minutes in Circle Time, especially if there is a mix of listening to a story and then responding to some open-ended questions. Engage preschoolers in a music or movement activity or become the scribe as the group invents a story.

Kindergarten children may spend 25 minutes playing language games, singing, creating a graph, anticipating in a shared reading or writing activity, or planning a project or a study. All children can participate in activities such as taking apart toys to learn something about the science of wheels and motion.

The size of our group tells us a lot about what we can do in Circle Time. When we have a group of five instead of twenty, we can customize experiences to challenge children individually. If Circle Time is going to be with a larger group, we can make it our goal to have total participation. For example, if we are learning about rocks, there should be enough rocks for everyone to explore. Being prepared and having the materials at hand for this larger group will make Circle Time an active experience for everyone.


Concepts At Circle Time

Concepts At Circle Time:
The activities should be about introducing young children to colors, numbers, shapes, opposites, positions and classification. Each concept can be presented in at least four different ways allowing for reinforcement through meaningful repetition. Activities should be designed to last from five to eight minutes.

All activities are designed for a group of children sitting on the floor with their provider. The children need to be able to see you and any props you use.

Because pre schoolers like to be actively involved, these activities engage them in many ways. Often times you begin by displaying an intriguing prop of some kind – a suitcase, a gift box, and so on. Inside are learning props for the children to observe, hold, handle, or explore. Many activities use a flannel board with colorful props for children to observe and manipulate.

Language is very much a part of all the activities. It is by talking about concepts and sharing ideas that children turn their observations into new vocabulary and learn to communicate their knowledge to others.

In some activities you will be encouraged to pass an item around the circle for children to explore. To cut down on waiting time, I suggest that you pass out several identical or similar items at once. You can do this by staring the items with different children who are sitting at various parts of the circle.

Matching Colors:
Give each of your children a small bag containing short strips of construction paper in the colors they have been learning. Have the children sit down and arrange their paper strips nearby. Then invite one child to come to the front of the circle and reach into a bag containing longer strips of the same colors. Have the child remove a strip from the rainbow bag and show it to the group. Have the other children pick up their matching strips and hold them in the air while all sing the following song.

Can You Find?
Sung to “The Mulberry Bush”)
Can you find the color red,
The color red, the color red?
Can you find the color red,
And hold it up in the air?

Substitute the names of other colors for red.

Light Up The Colors:
Provide a flashlight for each child in your group. Dim the lights in the room. Have each child, in turn, name a color. For younger children, hold up an object and name the color. When your children hear a color name, have them shine their flashlights at anything in the room that is that color.

Hint: Encourage the children to shine their lights on something that no one else has found. This discourages “copying” the person who first found something of the named color.

Rainbow House:
Cut a large shape from felt to put on the flannel board. Also cut short strips from felt in a variety of colors. Tell your children a story about a large family who wanted to paint their house and couldn’t choose a color because they liked all the colors. Explain that each family member painted a part of the house their own favorite color. As you mention each color, invite a child to place a felt strip of that color on the house. End the story by explaining that the family called their home the “Rainbow House” because it was so many beautiful colors.


Make Scented Pumpkins

Make Scented Pumpkins

Engage your child’s senses with this autumn art project. He’ll create a paper pumpkin along with some scented, textured paint to add an element of sensory fun. Your child will love touching, smelling, and, of course, looking at his seasonal masterpiece.

What You Need:

  • Orange and green construction paper
  • Scissors
  • White glue
  • Water
  • Pumpkin pie spice
  • Paintbrush

What You Do:

  1. First, help your child cut out the pumpkin. Have him cut a large circle from the orange construction paper. If he needs help cutting out the right shape, you can have him trace a plate, or you can sketch out the shape and have him cut along the lines. Talk about the shape and color as he cuts. What other fruits and vegetables are shaped like a circle or are orange in color?
  2. Have him cut a small rectangle from the green construction paper. This will be the stem. Have him glue the green rectangle to the orange circle to create his pumpkin.
    1. Have him cut a small rectangle from the green construction paper. This will be the stem. Have him glue the green rectangle to the orange circle to create his pumpkin.
    2. Now it’s time to make your scented paint! Help him measure equal parts white glue and water. Encourage him to stir the two ingredients together until the mixture is smooth.
    3. Next, help your child open the container of pumpkin pie spice. Encourage him to sniff it. What does he smell? Allow him to liberally sprinkle the spice over the glue and water mixture and stir again.
    4. Now give him a paintbrush and encourage him to cover every inch of his paper pumpkin with the scented paint. When the paint dries, it’ll be shiny and have a delightfully grainy texture from the added spice. And it’ll even smell like pumpkin pie!

    A great outing to go with this activity is a visit to your local pumpkin farm where your kid can observe the pumpkin life cycle in action. Talk to your child about the process: pumpkins start off as one little seed. The seed sprouts into a seedling. The seedling grows into a vine. Flowers blossom along the vine, and each flower becomes a little green pumpkin. As each pumpkin ripens, it becomes bigger and turns orange. While you’re at the pumpkin farm, pick up a pumpkin of your own, take it home, and give your child another sensory experience by teaching him how to make pumpkin pie!


Learning the Alphabet

Learning the Alphabet

After many years of introducing Pre K students to the  26 letters and their sounds, I found that 3 simple principles helped all students learn this information quickly and easily.

Introduce the letters in a particular order
When introducing your child to the 26 letters and each letter’s sound(s), do not simply begin with A. Working in alphabetical order is not the most effective way for a child to learn the sounds made by each letter. I recommend the following order instead:

Letters of the Alphabet

B, M, F, D, S, P, V, T, L, Z, N, W, J, K, H, C, G, Y, R, A, O, I, U, E, Q, X

I suggest this order for the following reasons:
Easy sounds first. It is easiest for children to feel, hear, identify and produce sounds that are formed with the lips, teeth and forward tongue position (where the tongue touches the teeth). This is because children are able to use their sense of sight when they watch others forming the sound. Alternatively, sounds that are formed at the back of the mouth (such as the sounds made by the letters K, G, and Y) are hard for children to mimic as they cannot observe how your mouth and tongue are moving when you form the sound.
Complex letters last. Each vowel makes numerous sounds (or is even silent) depending on where in the word the vowel appears. Also, there are only slight differences between the sounds made by many of the vowels, such as the vowel sounds in the words “cat,” “cut” and “cot.” As a result, learning the individual sounds each vowel makes is a complicated skill. In fact, some speech pathologists believe that a child’s “ear” is not developed enough to distinguish vowel sounds until age 5 or 6. By introducing consonant sounds first, a child will have the opportunity to practice listening to sounds which are easier to identify before attempting to identify the more subtle sounds made by the different vowels.
No similar sounds one after another. After rearranging the letters in order of complexity from least complex to most complex, it is important to avoid introducing two letters around the same time that make similar sounds. For example, consider the letters P and B. Both letters make sounds (“puh” and “buh”) which are primarily formed by lips. For children still working to develop their auditory processing skills, it may be difficult to identify and differentiate between similar sounds when they are introduced shortly after each other.

Plan for the complex
Most children are satisfied with basic instruction about the sound(s) each letter makes. However, some children, particularly older children, may ask for additional clarification since they may have already noticed some of the confusing subtleties about the sounds some letters make. If your child is one that likes to ask follow-up questions, here is a list of explanations seasoned teachers typically provide to children to help answer their questions:
All vowels can be “long” or “short.” When a vowel is “long,” it sounds like the name of the letter. For example, the “long e” in “she” or the “long i” in “sight.” When a vowel is “short,” it makes its own sound. For example, the “short e” in “met” or the “short i” in “bit.”
The letter G can be “hard” or “soft.” When it is hard, it has its own sound, which you make without closing your teeth. An example of a “hard G” is found in “gate.” When it is “soft,” the letter G borrows the sound made by the letter J, which requires you to close your teeth slightly when forming the sound. An example of a “soft G” is found in “giraffe.”
The letter S can be “hard” or “soft.” When it is soft, it has its own sound. An example of a “soft S” is found in “sat.” When it is “hard,” the letter S borrows the sound made by the letter Z. An example of a “hard S” is found in “toes.”
The letter C can be “hard” or “soft.” In both cases, the letter C borrows its sound from other letters. When the letter C is “soft,” it borrows the sound made by the letter S. An example of a “soft C” is found in “race.” When the letter C is “hard,” it borrows the sound made by the letter K. An example of a “hard C” is found in “cat.”
The letter Q does not have its own sound. Instead, the letter Q makes the sound of a K and a W together, KW.
The letter X makes the sound of a K and an S squished together, KS.
The letter Y has three sounds. One sound is all its own and the other two sounds are borrowed from other letters. When the letter Y is in the beginning or middle of a word, it makes its own sound, as in the word “yellow.” When the letter Y is at the end of a word, it borrows the sound of a “long E,” as in the word “putty,” or a “long I,” as in the word “try.” The sound made by the letter Y is a very complicated concept for children to learn, which is why this letter is one of the last consonants I suggest introducing.

Let your child set the pace
Many parents often introduce their children to letters and their sound(s) in hopes of helping their children learn to read. For children who are developmentally ready to read, a parent’s efforts can lead to very positive results. However, when children are pushed to read before they are ready, they are set up to fail. Strong letter and word awareness skills must combine with strong phonemic awareness skills for a child to be developmentally capable of reading. If a child does not have strong skills in both of these areas, he will likely become frustrated by the process. When this happens, he runs the risk of beginning a self-fulfilling cycle of failure by struggling to match each letter with its sound(s) and incorrectly believing he is “bad at reading.”
Exposing your child to letters and their sounds at his own pace will give him an important opportunity to begin building confidence in his abilities. This confidence will lead to increased perseverance and, ultimately, an increased incidence of success when he is ready to begin reading. In this way, early practice with your child, when done at his own pace, will position him to begin a self-fulfilling cycle of success.