The benefits of Circle Time
It’s no wonder most early years settings have a daily circle time. It’s good for more than just community building; EYFS circle time can be one of the best learning opportunities in the whole day!
Read on for circle time ideas and ways to keep preschoolers engaged. We share simple ways to boost children’s development with imaginative circle time games for preschoolers and playful circle time activities for toddlers.
Circle time games EYFS
Circle time is a perfect opportunity to naturally address the EYFS Areas of Learning. Every single circle time gathering addresses communication and language, physical development, social and emotional development, literacy, and expressive arts and design. And you can select preschool circle time activities that teach specific themes. Exploring the topic of colours? Check out our game 'Colourful Carousel' which can be found in our free resource pack, 'Play and Learn' (which also includes circle time games to help you explore birthdays, caterpillars, bears, emotions, opposites and more).
Preschoolers need routines
Preschool circle time. It’s the perfect time for a read-aloud, a problem-solving discussion, sharing time, and more. And while we are always ready to follow the children’s lead, our play-based circle time lesson plans are always based on a simple structure. Providing structure is important because it gives preschoolers the security of knowing what to expect, enabling them to confidently learn through play. A structure can be provided by simply sitting in the same space each time, or having a routine to say 'hello' to each child before any game begins.
Preschool circle time ideas for literacy
When writing our circle time lesson plans we make sure activities combine imagination and emotion, because this stimulates the same part of the brain that is responsible for reading. Watch this short video where you'll see co-founder, Sarah Rijnen, delivering a circle time activity that aims to develop literacy (while developing social skills), using a well-known nursery rhyme as the starting point. This simple, five minute lesson from Sarah shows you just how easy it is to put our drama techniques into action and once you give it a go with your early years children, you'll be amazed at just how powerful it is too! Drama with preschoolers? Easy!
Short and sweet - circle time activities for toddlers
Even the youngest children in your preschool or nursery can benefit from circle time activities, just keep it short and sweet. Five to ten minutes is plenty to give toddlers the experience of listening to each other, singing familiar songs, or moving to music. Check out our free music videos for early years settings (but be warned - they're catchy!)
Develop the imagination with sensory props – circle time games for toddlers
For a sensory experience, use simple props to enhance your circle time games for toddlers. Pretend to swim through bubbles. Hide under a scarf or small parachute. Check out facial expressions with mirrors. Then stretch the imagination by mixing it up - the same mirror can become a steering wheel, an umbrella or a door to knock on. Your scarf can be a hat, a blanket, a tent, or the ocean! Sound like fun? That's because 'doing drama' in the EYFS is a whole lot of fun, and it's really just another way of talking about playing imaginatively with children. If you can put on a characters voice when you read a story, or pull a funny face to make a preschool child giggle, then you can do drama with preschoolers! Want to become an expert in using drama in your early years setting? Take a look at our online course here, 'How to Become an Expert in Early Years Imaginative Play.'
Circle time activities for preschoolers
Circle time can be used to help children gain mastery of their bodies and develop spatial sense. Are you worried that they will bump into each other or hurt themselves? As difficult as it may seem, we don’t let preschoolers’ lack of control stop us from providing lots of opportunities for physical play. Remind children that they must notice the space and people around them, and then let them practise. Music is a great companion to movement as listening inspires different physical expression, and if you are concerned that things may be getting out of hand, simply pausing the music is the quickest way to end or pause the activity.
To keep things as safe as possible encourage children to move in the same direction, or even on the spot *Hint: If you have enough room to sit comfortably in a circle, you have enough room for a movement activity!
The possibilities of circle time games for 3-year-olds really are endless and when you’re coming up with ideas for activities, just remember that preschoolers are quite at home while using their imaginations, and will be more than willing to take on imaginary roles.
And you don’t need to take 30 minutes out of your day to ignite the imaginations of your preschoolers - 30 seconds is enough to take advantage of their incredible imaginations. Help bring stories to life by using simple drama skills, "On this page baby is cuddling her tiny kitten, I'm going to cuddle my kitten, are you?" And every teacher can use pretend to help preschoolers understand your expectations of them during circle time activities, "Look, my kitten is fast asleep! I’m going to cross my legs and set him in my lap so he can sleep quietly while I tell the story..."