Circle Time is so much more than sitting on a carpet square and listening to a teacher. It has the potential to inspire a life-long learner, a curious student, and an independent thinker.

Planning a good circle time is a big deal! According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, “Teachers plan for learning experiences that effectively implement a comprehensive curriculum so that children attain key goals across the domains (physical, social, emotional, cognitive) and across the disciplines (language literacy, including English acquisition, mathematics, social studies, science, art, music, physical education, and health).” (

So what makes a great circle time?  What can you hope to see in circle time at your child’s preschool?

Here is a list of 5 elements that your child will love during circle time (I use these every time):

1.      An element of surprise or humor
Something drops.
Someone is in a costume.
Something is hidden in a bag or behind the whiteboard.
Something is stuck on the teacher’s forehead.

2.      Relatable situations
Children learn more when they are emotionally invested.  Setting up relatable scenarios is one of the most effective ways to engage a child emotionally.

Puppets act out scenarios that a preschooler would experience.
The teacher pretends something is lost and he cannot find it.
The teacher expresses she has the wiggles today and needs a good jumping song.
When talking about a topic that preschoolers cannot relate to (for example, dinosaurs), the teacher places the child in the topic (if dinosaurs were at our preschool).

3.      A change in activity
Child development experts state that a four-year-old has an eight to twelve-minute attention span.  I find that a twenty-minute circle time requires at least five different kinds of activities and the magic is in changing something about the environment from one activity to the next.

Fast to slow.
Listening to singing.
Fine motor to large motor.
Focused learning to a brain break.
Individual thinking to group thinking.
Real-life experiences to imagination.

4.      Permission to move
The best circle times involve tons of movement.  “Crossing the mid-line of the body” exercises are proven to especially help the brain be prepared for more learning. “When we perform activities that cross the midline of our body, these movements are helping build pathways in the brain that are extremely important for various skills such as gross motor, fine motor, and cognitive skills.” (JJ Schweikert, MOT, OTR/L)

Carpet squares and hula hoops work great for teaching children that they have a special space that is all theirs in circle time. Let preschoolers sit however they would like, as long as they stay in their space.  Let them put their feet out.  Let them sit on their knees. Let them wiggle. Let them stand! At certain points in the circle time, allow the children to roam outside of their assigned space to participate in creative movement or interaction with others.

5.      A book, but not just any book
It has to be a winner book! Be selective and purposeful in your choice.
Are the illustrations engaging and easy to see for a child sitting in the circle?
Do the illustrations change from page to page so that a child could return to the book and retell themselves the story based only on the pictures?
Is the text age-appropriate in content and in length?
Does the book evoke emotion (laughing, concern for just a moment, situations that the child can relate to)?

Find a free download of the top ten best go-to books on our bookshelf at Harmony Preschool.  The download is on our homepage!