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Circle Time

Dear Debi,
I recently took a class for providers and they stressed the importance of using circle time. Is it really that important for my kids? What do they really get out of circle time?
Alice,Tijuana, MX
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Plan circle time as part of your daily routine
  • Activities should be fun and engaging
  • Length is determined by the ages and interests of your kids
Expert Advice
Susan Baxter
Susan Baxter
Early Childhood Education Instructor
Circle time should be planned as part of a child care provider’s daily routine. It should be planned because it provides a place of comfort and predictability for the children. The provider can use it to build in stories. If there’s a lot of hitting going on, a provider can tell a story about a child getting hurt. Use circle time as a teaching tool.

Circle time can also be good for encouraging movement. You can start circle time with a physical activity like in-breathing, out-breathing. Calm them down and transition them creatively.

You can do circle time in both a center-based program, as well as in a home-based child care. People get scared and think it’s only for a center. They don’t understand how important it is in a home setting. It teaches kids how to be away from home and follow directions.

It’s a pre-emptive to school. It gets them ready for grade one when they have to sit in a seat, so it should be encouraged in the home. Plus, it helps the provider feel professional.

You can keep all of your kids engaged in circle time – even kids of different ages – by leaving the activity as child-centered and open-ended as possible. Have skills they all can participate in. If you tell simple stories, have the older kids help you tell them or act them out. Or sing songs with finger puppets. Make sure to keep it as open as possible. But the main message here is that children should be actively involved -- rather than just passive listening – and often that includes physical movement.

You can still do circle time even if you care for only one child. You can do an official circle time when you’re both sitting on the floor, engaging in an activity and singing a song. Children can invite their teddy bears or their dolls into the circle. It doesn’t have to be live people. They can take turns pretending to be the teacher, too.

There are many keys to a successful circle time. Circle time should reflect the children’s interests as well as their age and stage development. The teacher should be open to teachable moments and willing to go off the plan. It should be interactive and the children’s learning should be hands-on.

The duration of circle time varies depending upon the ages and temperaments of the children and the activity. For 2 and a half year olds, I wouldn’t do more than a 5-minute circle. For older kids, you can do up to fifteen minutes. But the best thing to do is to observe the children. If they’re engaged, it’s working for them. If they’re fidgeting, it’s time to close down.
Child Care provider Comments
Family child care provider for 4 years
I have a scheduled time for circle time every day. It’s the first thing we do in the morning. It brings the group together and sets the tone for the day. I base my curriculum on themes, and circle time is when I tell the kids about the centers and activities we will be using that day. This is also a time when we sing songs and tell stories, and the kids can also bring up anything they want to talk about. If they want to share something or have a question, this is the time to do it.
Carol (Woods)
Carol (Woods)
Child care provider for 13 years
I think it’s important to use circle time to share things between yourself and the child. If there are other kids, it teaches them to share with toys, or to give them a chance to talk.
Family child care provider for 5 years
Circle time is very important. Some people call it “class time.” You are preparing the kids for a school environment, which is pretty much our job, to prepare them for the future. Through circle time, you present them with a consistent schedule and routine. You can do story time, math activities, puppets or art activities. This is how you help them know what to expect, which is something they need to know for school.

Finger Puppets Featured Activity:
Finger Puppets
Circle Time Featured Video:
Circle Time
Topic: Child Care Management
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