9 books & circle time activities for 2 and 3 year olds { with FREE Printables}

circle time lesson plans for 2 and 3 year olds Now that I am back in the classroom I get to lead circle time again. I LOVE circle time, I love seeing all the little faces looking up at me and that moment when they connect to the material.  I teach 2 and 3 year olds so my circle time is short and simple. We all sit on the floor and read a book and do a coordinating group activity. This all takes at most 10 minutes but more often 5 or 6. Keeping it short means making your students successful. I would rather have a 2 minute activity where they were all engaged and I can praise them for that than a 10 minute one where kids are losing interest and not at all engaged.  Here are 9 books and dynamic circle time activities for 2-3 year olds

This list contains affiliate links.

how big is a pig

Book : How Big Is a Pig? by Claire Beaton

Activity : Sorting large and small

Activity set up :

printables for circle time

  • Print out the image above by clicking it and printing.
  • Cut the animals out and laminate or use contact paper to cover. Add magnets or velcro if you want to do this activity on a magnet or felt board.
  • Add the large and small barns to a box or the board you are using. Click on the images below to print.

sorting small barn sorting Large Barn

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Give each child one or two animals telling them that they are going to help you decide if these animals are large or small. If you have their attention take the time to ask if they know another word for large.
  • Invite each child one at a time to add their animal(s) to the right size barn.
  • After all the animals have been sorted count the animals together as a group.

 

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circle time lesson for harold and the purple crayon

Book: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Activity : Make The Color Purple!

Activity set up :

  • Gather a snack size ziploc for each child, blue, and red liquid paint, a small bowl, one paint brush, and duct tape.
  • Add a small amount of both colors in the ziplocs. Secure with duct tape. Trust me your circle time carpet will thank me. Set aside where kids can’t see.
  • Add paint to the dish.

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask the group if anyone knows how we make the color purple. Tell the students that today they get to be color scientists and they will be making purple.
  • Demonstrate how the colors mix together in the dish.
  • Hand out the ziplocs and encourage them to squish the colors together to make purple.

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secret seahorse circle time activity for preschool

Book:  Secret Seahorse by Stella Blackstone

Activity : Sea animal or  land animal?

Activity set up :

  • Gather animal figurines likes these Safari Ocean Animals and Wild Republic Animals
  • Grab two shallow containers. You can fill one with grass and dirt and the other with a little water or green and blue paper respectively. If you are in a rush skip this, just grab the animals and make two piles!

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Give each child one or two animals telling them that they are going to help you decide if these animals live on land or in water.
  • Invite each child one at a time to add their animal(s) to the right habitat.
  • After all the animals have been sorted count the animals together as a group.

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trashy town circle time activity

 

Book: Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha

Activity : Taking Out The Letter Trash

Activity set up :

  • Gather some magnetic or other manipulative letters ( at the start of the year I always focus on the first letters in my students names), 4-5 mini garbage cans like these Mini Desktop Trash.
  • Label the trash cans with the letters you are focusing on. You will only be using the same amount of letters as you have cans so you will need duplicates for medium and large size classes.

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Tell the children that Mr. Gilly took out the trash but they get to sort it! Their trash isn’t old banana peels and soup cans, their trash isn’t even trash at all, it’s letters!
  • Give each child a letter.
  • Invite them to show the class their letter and find the correct can for it.
  • If your class has good letter recognition skills you can make this more of a challenge by using lowercase letters sorting into uppercase trash bins.

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emotion activity for circle time

 

Book: Happy Hippo, Angry Duck: A Book of Moods by Sandra Boynton

Activity : Happy? Sad? or Angry?

Activity set up :

  • The days leading up to this lesson invite each child to make happy, sad, and angry faces for photos.
  • Print out the photos and laminate them.

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Invite the group to make happy faces, sad faces, and angry faces.
  • Shuffle the cards so you use at least one of each child during the activity so no one is left out.
  • Hold the cards up one at a time and have the group decide how that person is feeling.

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The Busy Little Squirrel

 

Book : The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri

 

** Only to be used in a facility where nut allergies are not an issue. You can use photos of nuts if that is the case.

Activity : Sorting and Counting Nuts

Activity set up :

  • Gather a dozen or so nuts in the shell ( walnuts, chestnuts and almonds work well. A nutcracker as well ( a real one like this ( affiliate link) not the fancy ones).
  • Gather 4 baskets. Place all the nuts in one basket taking out one of each kind for the

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask the children what the squirrel was gathering for winter. Show them the inside of each of the nuts.
  • Tell them that you have some nuts like the ones the squirrel was gathering but you need help to find out how much of each kind of nut you have.
  • Sort the nuts together.
  • Dump each basket and count as a group.

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activity for mr. cookie baker

 

Book:  Mr. Cookie Baker by Monica Wellington

Activity : Shape Match Cookies

Activity set up :

cookie shape sorting printable

  • Print out the image above ( click to enlarge) and cut the cookies out. Laminate or use contact paper to cover.
  • Print out the jar printables below ( click to enlarge) and tape to the front of an empty jar or basket.

cookie shape match triangle jar

cookie shape match square jar

cookie shape match heart jar

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask the children if they can help you put all the cookies in the correct cookie jar.
  • Hand each child one or two cookies.
  • Invite the students to place the cookies in the correct jar. If a child is having a hard time don’t just swoop in, see if another child can help.
  • After sorting count the contents of each jar.

* Tip the younger the group the more simple the sorting should be. At the start of the year I would only have 2 options and nearer the end I would expand that to 3 or even 4.

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Northwest Coast Learn the Alphabet cover

Book:  Learn the Alphabet with NorthWest Coast Native Art by Ryan Cranmer (and others)

Activity: Fishing for Letters

Activity set up :

  • Gather some magnetic letters, a small blue towel, and a magnetic fishing pole. You will also want a cookie sheet or magnet board.
  • Lay out the blue towel and place the letters on top.

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Ask the children if they had a favorite animal in the book. Tell them that you thought the salmon ( or just fish) were very neat.
  • Tell them that they get to go fishing too! But that they are going to fish for letters!
  • Invite each child up to fish for a letter. When they have one ask them if they know what letter it is, if not label it for them. Place the letter on a magnet board or cookie sheet.
  • After all the children have fished a letter review the letters that were caught and then release them back out into the ocean!

 

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alphabet under construction

 

Book: Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming

Activity : Building with letters

Activity set up :

The lesson:

  • Read the book.
  • Tell the children that they will get to be builders today just like the mice in the book and build with the alphabet.
  • Bring out the bin of cardboard blocks.
  • Invite each child to pick out a block, tell the class what letter is on the block and place it in the middle of the rug to make a tower.  If the tower is getting too high build a 2nd one.

 

I hope these ideas are something you can use or adapt to your classroom.  I have been having so much fun being back at circle! What is your favorite circle time activity? Link or comment below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy NO MESS Pumpkin Carving

no mess pumpkin carving for kids It takes a lot of skill to carve a pumpkin, it also takes a very sharp knife. Two things that young children don’t often have. I am all for giving children tools they can use to create what they want to create and in a few days I will be carving two HUGE pumpkins with my children’s help but neither of them are ready to do it solo yet. They were ready to help me design and cut out the foam pieces, and pop them on to the pumpkins. Not only does this easy no mess pumpkin carving craft let kids decorate them themselves, they also get to make something that would be very tricky even for me to do with a knife. Like a Minecraft creeper or princess. A huge bonus for us is that these pumpkins won’t mold before Halloween!

Gather your materials. You will need some sticky back foam, scissors, and pumpkins. You may also want a tray to pop all the face pieces in. We decided what we wanted to make ( classic Jack-O-Lantern, princess, ghost, and creeper) before we picked out our pumpkins but you can do it anyway you want.no mess pumpkin carving for kids

Cut out the shapes you need for the faces and pop them in a tray.no mess pumpkin carving for kids and toddlers

Start creating.no mess pumpkin carving for children In a classroom I would have all sorts of face pieces available with zero pre-planned designs. no mess pumpkinsMy kids and I thought this activity up together so they had ideas set before we made the shapes. Have a mix of everything if you are doing this with a group.no mess creeper pumpkin

Peeling the backing off and placing the sticky foam is not without worth, it uses fine motor skills and takes concentration to place it properly.no mess ghost pumpkins

My son was thrilled to find a green pumpkin to make his creeper.no mess creeper jack-o-lantern

And look NO MESS!no mess pumpkin carving for kids & toddlers

 

Quick Link Supply List

This list includes affiliate links to items used ( or very similar items) in the tutorial above.
Sticky-Back Glitter Foam
Sticky Back Foam Sheets

Easy Painting Activities For Toddlers

art ideas for toddlers I was digging through my own archives the other night as I was lesson planning for my preschool class and found a bunch of posts I’d forgotten about. I found exactly what I needed for my lesson plans and decided to share some of what I found with you as well. These easy painting activities for toddlers are all great for children who are just starting to explore with art. They are open ended, easy to do with one or 10 kids, and let children explore. For more art ideas for toddlers ( and big kids) make sure you are following us on Pinterest and Facebook! 

Do you have a favorite art activity to do with toddlers? Link it up or tell me about it in comments. My children aren’t toddlers anymore but I am always looking for new ideas for my classroom.

art activities for toddlers

Cork Printing
Fly Swatter Painting
Baby Block Painting
Painting with Bugs

toddler painting activities for daycare
Sponge Painting
Pumpkin Printing
Letter Cookie Cutter Printing
Bath Poof Painting

easy painting ideas for toddlers
Splat Painting
Toy Track Painting
Cookie Cutter Prints
Garden Vegetable Printing

toddler printing and painting ideas for preschool
Pot Scrubber Painting
Rubber Duckie Printing
Feather Painting
Painting With Water

painting ideas for young toddlers
Animal Track Paintings
Glass Sponge Painting 
Potato Masher Painting
Painting With Sound

Fall Art For Kids – Pom Pom Tree

autumn leaves art I love using contact paper for murals. I did zero instruction during this fall art for kids activity. My daughter counted pom poms, called out colors, and even noticed the size difference of the pom poms. Your child may not label all this learning and verbally clue you into what they are learning but trust me they aren’t just mindlessly adding them. They notice the different textures, they connect the colors to the changing colors outside ( our maple tree is already home to many red leaves), and they create! They are learning even when we don’t say a word.

 

Gather your materials. You will need some contact paper, painter’s tape, pom poms in fall leaf colors in various sizes if possible, and something to pop them in.

fall mural pom pom tree

Start by attaching the contact paper to a wall or window. pom pom sticky wall fall tree

Draw a bare tree on it with a permanent marker. fall pom pom tree for preschool mural

Place the pom poms where your child can reach them and invite them to create.

pom pom fall tree for preschool

She invited her dad to play too.  fall pom pom tree family activityThey played a game where he’d give her a number and she’d add that many pom poms. fall pom pom tree for kids

After  while I was cooking dinner she took them all off noting that the pom poms left “fuzz prints” but only if they were stuck on for ” a little bit of a long time”. She was right when I tried to make the fuzz prints just by placing and removing a pom pom right away it didn’t work. Loved these observations. pom pom tree deconstruction

 

Books About Fall Leaves

All our book lists include affiliate links.

leaf man lois elhert

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert  will leave you trying to find all sorts of things like butterflies, chickens and fish in leaf piles. The book is about a leaf man who blows away in the wind and the reader is taken past all sorts of animals like chickens and ducks, past rivers filled with fish and butterflies in the air. All are leaves pieced together to make these awesome images , some are obvious, some take concentration to see the animal among the leaves. Wonderful creative book to welcome the changing seasons.

Leaf Jumpers

Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber is a beautifully illustrated , informative book that all all about leaves in autumn. It’s not the most exciting book but is a good teaching resource and tool when you are teaching your child about the changing seasons.  I can’t say this is a must read, but it’s useful and worth a look at your local library and will probably make you and your children want to jump in a few giant piles of leaves!

When_Autumn_Falls

When Autumn Falls by Kelli Nidey is a stunning book, the illustrations which are painted paper collages, by Susan Swan are so richly colored you will want more after turning the last page. The text is clever as well. Readers will discover that fall is well named not just because of falling leaves, but also pumpkins falling from the vines, temperatures falling, seeds falling from their leaves and even football players falling! The text is the perfect length for toddlers but not too short for preschoolers too.  Cute book for this time of year.

Homemade Bubble Solution and Whisk Bubble Wands

homemade bubble solutionThis was a completely kid directed activity. While I was finishing up a conference call my daughter was digging through the kitchen drawers and found her whisks. These were bought for her to play with and as I hung up she showed me that she had opened them up to make flowers. Immediately I said to her ” do you know what I think we could use those for?”

“Bubbles!” was her response and I was giddy to see that we were on the same page. I dug through my pantry to see if we had any corn syrup to make the bubble solution I used to make in day camps 400 years ago. It was hiding behind the cookies that I had hidden behind the pasta.

Here is my NOT AT ALL precise recipe for homemade bubble solution.

homemade bubble solution using stuff you have in your kitchen

1 tablespoon of corn syrup
1/4 cup of dish soap
fill the rest of the measuring up ( 2 cups) with warm water and stir.

homemade bubble potion

I made the first batch myself but she helped with the second.

whisk bubbles

She LOVED this. The bubbles weren’t great to blow out of the whisks but if you dipped them in and then waved your arms and they made huge big bubbles.bubbles collage

She practiced and sometimes they were little , but sometimes they were huge. What I adored about this incredibly simple activity is that she was attacking it like an experiment ( with zero input from me to suggest she should) and tried to recreate the big bubbles by following what worked and avoiding the actions that resulted in the little bubbles. big bubbles