How To Save Circle Time – tips for circle time at preschool

circle time ideas When you teach preschool you spend most of your day with busy children, free choice is ( or at least should be) the bulk of your day. That said there are likely times where you come together as a group with an overt adult agenda. For me and my class that is circle time, you may call it rug time, carpet time or class meeting even. The name doesn’t matter. It’s a time where teachers can lead group activities through direct instruction. Depending on your teaching style, student’s ages, curriculum parameters and class, one teacher’s circle time can look very different from another’s.

Circle time should be different in every class because every class is different. I know in my experience circle time varies not only from year to year but from day to day. As preschool teachers, one of the most important abilities to have is the ability to change our plan on the go. If it’s not working you need to decide to try to save the activity or abandon it. Both are viable options.

Here are my tips for circle time and what to do when it’s JUST NOT WORKING.

1. Routine, routine, routine.

Routine makes young children feel safe and while we may be more easily bored by it, children crave it. Sticking to a routine doesn’t mean for example that  you have to sing the same 4 songs after you do your calendar every day, but it does mean that you should sing something after calendar every day. Keeping to a general routine for your group time makes it predictable and lets children know what is expected of them.  I listed this first because this is my weak spot, I get great new ideas in my head and think, well just today I’ll mess up the routine and then I pay for it. Stick to the routine and find other times to introduce something that would otherwise change the routine you have worked hard to create.

2. Make a plan, then cut it in half ( especially at the start of the year).

Circle time should be as short as possible. When I am getting to know my class I keep circle time very short. Sitting still is hard for young children and instead of forcing them to do it I set them up for success. When circle time is short and they sit and pay attention the whole time praise them for it. Continue this cycle of success by extending the time slowly over the year, but acknowledge those days when shorter is better like Halloween, any special event and the first day back after a break.

circle time ideas

3. Get moving.

Sing songs with actions, get up and dance, and if you are doing a short group activity have children get up to participate. A little movement goes a long way.

4. Ignore the wiggles and give students enough space.

Ignoring wiggles can be tough because a really wiggly child can be super distracting. Try. A lot of kids need to wiggle. My students are so young I don’t worry about this at all. I will remind children if they are in somebody else’s space, I will space out our carpet mats so they aren’t too close but reminders aren’t kid proof.  If a child is having a very hard time staying in their own space we offer them a new position to sit in, a lap or a new spot but still within the circle ( unless they choose to leave , we don’t make them leave). Choose your strategy and only allow behaviors that you plan to continue to allow, if sitting only one way is important to you then stick to it.

5. Get quieter to get their attention.

Nothing works better than leaning in and whispering. For larger classes, a good old stage whisper works well. My first-year teaching I lost my voice trying to holler over my class. It wasn’t effective at all and I quickly changed my strategy. I can’t imagine raising my voice now. This isn’t a strict circle time tip, but I use it when my students all want to say something about the book all at once. A simple ” If you are all speaking no one can hear the book” in a whisper usually does the trick.

6. Have a predictable transition to circle time.

We use quiet reading time with a basket of books after snack. In a previous school, circle time followed potty time and children who had already gone potty played with puzzles at circle until everyone had had their turn in the bathroom. You don’t need to use an independent activity but having a predictable routine going into circle time like a song you play or sing to signal it’s time to come together helps make for an easy transition.

circle time


What To Do When Circle Time is a FLOP?

If a child is running around or away from circle calmly bring them back to the circle. When this has happened to me I have praised the children who are sitting ” ___  you look ready for the circle !” instead of looking to the sitting kids and saying ” Don’t get up.” If you say that you can pretty much guarantee that some child who wasn’t even thinking of getting up now will. Keep it positive. After praising those sitting I walk over to the child and calmly with a plain face say ” It’s time for circle.” and return them to the circle. If that fails to work and you do not have an assistant teacher who can be their buddy and help them succeed,  then I would choose to ignore the child. Giving that one child so much attention at this point can backfire, prompting more disruption from other kids. Ignoring usually works beautifully.

If it’s not just one child but the class as a whole who are not paying attention, change the activity asap. Get up and dance, sing an action song like Head and Shoulders, or pretend to be animals. When the children participate in the new activity praise them for it but keep it short. Having a successful circle time doesn’t have to follow the plan exactly, or at all.  Children want to please us ( I know it doesn’t always seem like that, but they do) and giving them feedback when they do something we want them to continue doing is important.

Not all circle time activities will be huge hits but having realistic expectations, setting your students up for success, and not getting hung up on perfection yourself will go a long way to making it your favorite time of day at preschool!

Do you need circle time activity ideas? We have a BUNCH! Click on the images below for the full posts.

circle time lessons for preschool


circle time lesson plans for 2 and 3 year olds


UFO Math Tray Activity {FREE PRINTABLES}

math tray actiities preschool  space themeFor a while now my daughter has been writing out numbers on anything she can. My mother’s day card included the numbers from 1-10 after her name. I had a feeling her next question would be how to read and spell the number words. I  was right. For days, she asked me how to spell the words and I would reply with what do you think? That worked a few times, but it eventually frustrated her. I wrote out the words for her and she used it as reference. Soon she was recognizing the words in stories so when I saw these little aliens I knew I wanted to use them for counters and I decided to make two sets of number mats for this tray activity one with digits and one with the number words. The reason I am telling you this long drawn out story is to illustrate that this activity followed her lead. There is no rush to teach specific concepts like this but don’t ignore your child interests either. Print both out and use them as they fit with your child. If you can’t find these little alien guys you can laminate the cards and draw them on with dry erase markers!

Gather your materials. You will need the UFO Math mat cards, some alien counters, scissors, and contact paper or a laminator ( you lucky dog!).math mat UFO

Print out the UFO Math Mats here – click on the image, save, and print.

Digits  1-4

ufo number cards digits 1






ufo digits 2



ufo digits 3

Number Words

one – four

ufo number cards


two – eight

ufo number cards sheet 2


nine – twelve  ufo number cards sheet 3

Print them out. If you think your child needs more support with counting add dots to the mats with a marker before you laminate or use contact paper to protect them. Cut printable math tray activity

Pop them on the tray with the little aliens ( did I mention these glow in the dark? ).math tray activity

Read and count. UFO math I didn’t give her all the mats just a mix to play with.UFO math printables

After she counted them out she tried to balance them and  make towers with them too.

alien math for kids

Sticky Wing Dragonfly Craft

dragonfly craft for preschoolMy daughter and I made this dragonfly craft together ages ago but sometimes crafts get skipped and we never post them. I have been waiting all winter to post this one and now that it is almost summer it’s time to share! I love contact paper crafts because even very young children can do much of the craft independently. Sticky crafts like this one that uses teeny tiny gems are great for fine tuning fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are important for writing, but they are also important for many daily self-help skills like using utensils, buttoning shirts, and fastening jewelry clasps. Giving your child ample opportunities to work on these skills will help in lots of areas, not just an academic one.

Gather your materials. You will need some contact paper, cardstock, permanent markers, scissors, a wooden peg, sequins and gems of all sorts, and glue. dragonfly craft for kids no time for flash cards

Start by cutting out the outline of a dragonfly. I folded my cardstock in half then cut out a really elongated B with the top bubble big and wide and the bottom very small. Then I cut out the center of the top bubble, leaving only an outline. Open up and lay on the contact paper so that the sticky side is facing up through the wings. Trim. dragonfly craft

While I was doing that my little helper decorated the body of the dragonfly with markers. You don’t HAVE to use permanent markers, but they are a “treat” at our house and she asked nicely. I should say last year when we did this they were, now not so much. Goodness kids grow too fast!dragonfly craft for children

Time to add the bling! dragonfly craft

She started adding them one by one.dragonfly craft

Soon she switched to dumping a little handful on, then removed the loose ones.dragonfly craft

After she added all the little bits I added glue to the peg and slid the wings through. Let dry for 24 hours. If you are doing this in a classroom this would be a good Friday so it has all weekend to dry.dragonfly craft for kids

Books about Bugs

19 books about bugs


Check out our list of great bug books for kids ( complete with reviews). Click on this link to read Books About Bugs. 

Color Mixing Activities For Preschool

Color mixing activities for young children. Great hands on ways to discover color.When I teach my students about colors one of my favorite ways is to call them to the table where we all get to make our own colors. Creating their own colors is a wonderful mix of science and art and allows children to learn through a meaningful activity. These color mixing activities are all fun ways for children to learn about colors as well as get a chance to be what I call a color scientist!

color mixing mystery baking soda and vinegar volcano

Color Mixing with Baking Soda and Vinegar 

Color Mixing With Shaving Cream

NO MESS Shaving Cream Color Mixing 

color mixing with play dough

Color Mixing with Play Clay 


Color Mixing with Ice Cubes 



Color Mixing with Turkey Basters 

color lab water

Color Lab Science Play 


NO Mess Color Mixing ( I do this in my class with snack sized bags)

Water Balloon Art

Color Mixing Canvas with Water balloons. 

broccoli painting outside

Color Mixing and Painting with Broccoli 



BOOV Passwords – FREE Secret Code Printable

FREE printable secret code activity inspired by the movie HOME! Perfect for a birthday party of family movie night!Have your seen the movie HOME ? My kids LOVED it when we watched it over spring break. Like all resourceful parents, I decided to use that love to get my son to do something he’s not totally in love with – handwriting. Every little bit of practice helps and it’s even better when it doesn’t feel like practice at all! In the movie saving the world depends on the BOOV ( the aliens) hacking into one of their citizen’s email accounts. I decided to go with the hacking theme because it fit so well with the movie and it appeals to an 8 year old who does not want to be doing “Baby activities for the blog, only cool stuff OK mom?” <— not a direct quote but you get the idea.

I plan on printing this activity out again after the movie is released on DVD ( this summer) and we watch it for family movie night!

This FREE secret code printable was a hit, but it was challenging too! This would be perfect for a HOME themed birthday party too!

To print out click on the image below, save to your computer, and then print.

hack the passwords

Gather your materials. You will need the printable ( see above) and a pencil with a great eraser.


Print out and invite your future hacker to the table. HOME inspired secret code FREE printable

It wasn’t SUPER easy, but even little little ones can do it with help.

writing passwords

All done!

password HOME inspired free printable

Finding simple little ways to work literacy into play time with your school age kids is a great way to brush up on skills without adding pressure to their already busy lives. This is a great rainy day, sick day, or family movie night activity, and according to my son it passed the cool test!


Find more ideas for school age kids here –>   FUN FOR SCHOOL AGE KIDS on PINTEREST oh and here –>  LEARNING AFTER SCHOOL