How to Plan Circle Time for Preschool and Kindergarten

Plan creative circle times to support early language and social skills. These tips will help you gather at circle time with stories and games for hands-on learning through play.

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Circle time can be one of the most exciting - and beneficial - parts of your daily schedule. Whether reading a story together, playing a take-away game, or having an animated conversation, circle time is a great opportunity to share and interact as a group.

Along with the sense of camaraderie that grows among the children, kids benefit from the support for early language and social skills provided by a small group experience.


Preschool circle time

Circle time is often scheduled as a routine part of the day in an early learning program. It can serve as a welcome session, where teachers and students interact to organize and plan the day; a closing session to review the day's accomplishments or events; or a story circle, to listen, comment, and share experiences. Activities are usually hands-on, and often related to a topic or theme.

Children generally look forward to a routine event like circle time. There is a sense of anticipation - along with predictability - in gathering with classmates in a designated space. 

An effective event takes careful preparation, planning activities that will meet the needs of the children in your care while providing opportunities for exploration and discovery.

Related: Meeting Children's Needs at Circle Time


Tips for successful circle times

Circle time can be both fun and educational. While the event can be teacher-led, kids learn best when activities are hands-on and interactive.

Here are a few ideas to consider for an effective circle time.

1. Content

Plan a circle time that provides a mix of listening, responding, and moving.

  • Help kids practice their listening skills by reading a story that grabs their attention.
  • Help kids practice language skills by giving them opportunities to engage in a conversation through sharing a thought or answering a question.
  • Help kids better understand or relate to a story or a topic by engaging gross motor movement and sensory skills.

2. Seating

The space designated for the circle time should be clearly defined by the use of mats or furniture placement. A cozy setting will add to the mood of the event. Children can be seated in a circle or semi-circle with the teacher. Seating arrangements should offer all participants a good view of a story book or flannel board.

3. Length of event 

Plan for approximately 15 minutes for young children, but extend the time if you have a group that is attentive to the content. Try not to include too much information or a wide variety of activities in one circle time.

More than one circle can be scheduled in the daily planner to accommodate program goals or teaching strategies.

Related: More tips for circle time / Preschool Plan It

What to include in circle time

The activities you choose will depend on curriculum and program goals as well as teaching styles. Strive for a balance of listening quietly, taking turns, and exploring hands-on. Plan activities that can be child-led or involve all children with minimal time for taking turns.

4. Example of setup

Circle time begins with children sitting on the floor, with the teacher seated on a low stool facing the group. The session opens with the teacher reading a story.

  • Other activities can be incorporated into the circle time such as: singing a welcome song; identifying a letter of the week or helper for the day; updating calendar and weather charts. 
  • A theme or topic can be introduced during circle time. Stories and activities chosen will extend the theme.

Following the seated portion of the circle time, the teacher directs everyone to stand for a stretching game or music and movement activity. 

  • Read a story about rain, then pretend to be raindrops falling from the clouds. Stretch fingers to the sky, then flutter fingers to the floor like raindrops.


Music at circle time with preschooolers


5.  Props

A variety of props can be included in the play so intentional teaching is hands-on and interactive rather than delivered with flash cards or rote learning. 


6. Be flexible!

Read a book the children request rather than one you had planned.

Listen to the kids, be alert to their moods. Tone down an activity if calm is needed, add more gross motor to the circle if a shake-up is needed.

Be prepared to end an activity or change direction if kids lose interest and become restless.

  • It helps to have a toolkit you can draw from if a planned activity is not well received. Spontaneous activities can include a favorite story book, a clapping song, or a game of hot potato.


 Activities for circle time

Here are a few suggestions for activities to include in a circle time with preschoolers.


 Circle time preschool activities



Reading a book is a traditional way to open circle time is Follow these tips for small group reading.

Support finger play with this reversible felt glove you can easily make.

Talk about emotions with preschoolers with the help of a feelings tree.

Make story time amazing with these interesting options for telling stories.

Use a puppet theater or magic mirror as a prompt for shared language experiences in the circle.

Make your own felt board to extend stories or add hands-on activities to the circle time.

Include music in your circle time with our free printable music program.

Kids will love singing this school bus song as they learn the letters of the alphabet together.

A circle hunt felt board activity is perfect for getting kids moving and bringing shapes back to the circle.

A rhyming game like this one around the apple tree is a fun circle time activity with preschoolers.


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