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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not A Stick – Story & Creative Activity

Guest Post by Deborah J. Stewart, M. Ed. of Teach Preschool

I have been following No Time for Flash Cards for a very long time now and one thing I know about Allie is that she loves a good quality children’s book. So I thought I would share a fun little book we recently explored in my preschool classroom

The title of the book is “Not a Stick” by Antoinette Portis. The book is very simple to read and the basic idea is to get children’s imaginations going by imagining the stick in the book is anything but a stick!

As a class we have read this book at least three times and now as I read the book, the children shout out what the stick will be next! “It’s a fishing pole!”

After we read the book for the second time, I had the children go outside and gather sticks from our play yard…

As you can see, there is no shortage of sticks in our “play yard!” Once the children had selected a few sticks, we came back inside and each child taped their sticks to their own large sheet of paper…

The children then used crayons and their imaginations to turn the sticks into something that was “not a stick”…

This process was simple for the children and yet challenging too! The children tended to draw random lines around the sticks and talk about what they were making. When the children had finished their drawings, I had each child dictate to me a story about their stick. We started the story with, “It’s not a stick. It’s a….” and the children had to complete the sentence…

Our sticks turned out to be alligators, spiders, circles, swords, and more. A process like this is simple yet promotes great opportunity for story telling and imagination!

Whether you are a parent or a teacher, I would love to invite you to stop by Teach Preschool and see some of the other books and activities I share on my blog that young children will enjoy both at home or in the classroom!

St. Patrick’s Day – Lucky Gold Hunt

I read on a message board that had posted my link that one mom was disappointed that I don’t have more non art activities, so here you go ! This is mess free, fun and so easy to make more challenging for older children , or easy as pie for the little guys. My son and I played this from the time he got up from nap until dinner was on the table . I have a feeling we’ll be playing it tomorrow too! Oh and if there is something specific you would like to see us try- let me know I am always open to new things .
  1. Gather your materials. You will need some play coins, a marker and a green piece of paper. * For really little guys instead of the paper you can just use a change purse and simply have them hunt for the coins.
  2. Trace the coins on the paper
  3. Fill in the numbers, we are doing 10 coins but customize this for your child, more or less whatever works. Make it challenging but not impossible. Having the numbers offers up different options for how to play , you can simply hunt for the coins, and place them on the numbers. You can hunt for them then have your child specifically put them on the number you designate. I tried both and my son liked to choose which numbers to pop the coin on then count them and start over.
  4. Hide the gold. Can you see it in my picture? Make it obvious at first, with little guys make sure it’s in plain view, the goal isn’t to be a better hider than they are a finder, it’s for them to find them feel pride in it, then tag on a little math too !
  5. Go searching for the lucky gold .
  6. Count your gold , and start again !

 

Not Quite The NBA !

Weekend Re-Post
This post from February seemed perfect for the nasty weather we have today.
Have a great weekend and remember a new post will be up Monday!


Block Basketball

This simple activity is a great alternative to tv during extra early mornings, rainy days or just to have fun!
  1. Gather your materials. I used soft blocks, with my 15 month old because they are easy to grab but don’t roll away. With little guys rolling balls can be frustrating if they roll away as they are trying to make a basket. Bean Bags are great for this too!
  2. Get something to be the basket, I am using a small clean garbage can because my son has a slight obsession and he was in heaven , also it’s light and easy to handle. Laundry baskets, buckets and even just a target on the floor works too.
  3. Start playing. With little guys simply fill and spill , while they are handling a certain color label it for them, encourage them and toss some in yourself! Practice taking turns , it’s a great side lesson.
  4. For older children the sky is the limit, You can ask them to pop in a certain color, or even give them riddles to figure out. Like ” can you throw the bean bag that is the same color as mommy’s shirt?” Also you can grab a tape measure and see if you can make a basket at 1 foot away, 2 feet away…3 feet away! Or even just see who can make the most baskets in a row!

** This is a great group or circle time activity, although I would not throw the blocks or bean bags at circle time. You can have the children take the colors out, or put them in and identify them as they do. You can also use other objects that follow your curriculum such as different models of sea life or shapes! The sky is the limit and kids love this type of activity so much they forget they are learning! **

All about Seasons!

Paper Bag Season Sorting


By nature most young children like to sort things, you may have noticed your child lining up blocks, or toy cars, or putting all the dolls in one place, and teddy bears in another. This activity takes that desire to sort and uses it to learn about seasons. This activity seems very bland but I have yet to have a class who didn’t love it.
  1. Gather your materials. You will need some old magazines or catalogs, clothing catalogs work great for this. Scissors, crayons or markers, some construction or card stock paper, and tape or glue. You will need a paper bag for each season you are going to include. I suggest for children just learning about seasons to stick to Winter and Summer only.
  2. Steps 3 and 4 can be done ahead of time or by a parent while the child is doing step 5.
  3. Find pictures in your magazines or catalogs that show people in warm or cold weather clothing. In my experience it is easier for everyone if you do this step a head of time, or even just help things along by ripping out these pages and have the child do the cutting.
  4. Once you have found enough pictures of both seasons, glue or tape them to the paper and cut them out.
  5. Decorate the two ( or more) paper bags with scenes or things that represent that season. I drew pictures. Label each bag with the name of the season.
  6. Sort your pictures into each bag. While sorting ask your child questions, and especially if they are putting something you think should go into Summer into the Winter bag, they may have a very good explanation to put you in your place!
**The subject of this activity can easily be changed to fit any theme, and length of activity lengthened by adding more pictures to sort. This is a great circle time activity for preschool and after playing it as a class you can put it on the shelf for free time and the students will enjoy re-playing it. **


Song!



Hurry, Hurry, Seasons Changing

Hurry, Hurry, Spring is coming
See all the flowers blooming
Hurry , Hurry Spring is coming
Baby animals everywhere!

Hurry, Hurry, Summer’s coming
See how the sun is shining,
Hurry , Hurry, Summer’s coming
At the beach and at the pool!

Hurry, Hurry, Autumn’s coming
See all the leaves falling,
Hurry, Hurry, Autumn’s coming
Grab a sweater it’s getting cold!

Hurry, Hurry, Winter’s coming
See all the snow falling,
Hurry, Hurry Winter’s coming
Bundle up like a polar bear!