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22 Circle Time Ideas for Toddlers and Preschool

Here are 22 circle time ideas for toddlers and preschoolers that are easy, fun, and perfect for social development!

Circle time is a fun way to introduce learning and socialization for young children in daycare, pre-K, and beyond. Circle time can also be a special time and a bonding experience for siblings if you’re a stay-at-home mom or a homeschool mom.

It’s also a great tool for daycare or preschool teachers and even for parents just looking for structured play ideas for a play date.

So, here are several easy and fun circle time ideas for toddlers and preschoolers we know you’ll love, whether you’re a teacher, a mom, or both!

RELATED: Easy Toddler Lunch Ideas for Daycare

Teacher leads circle time at school.

But before you start…

Establish a Schedule

If this is your first experience putting together circle time, you might want to start by establishing a schedule. This will help you stay organized and keep control of your activities.

One of the best ways to stay on schedule is to sign up for a Circle Time with Friend class. This is a great way to get some extra social interaction for your little one, especially if you have an only child, or your older child is in school during circle time.

This way you don’t have to come up with activities for circle time every day! Check out the class and how much your kiddo will learn from it!

But if you’re planning on leading circle time yourself, here’s a suggested schedule from Child Care Lounge to help structure your circle time play and get younger kids used to a routine.

  • Start with a “hello” or “welcome” song to greet the children
  • Spend some time talking about the calendar or days of the week/month
  • Talk about the weather today
  • Introduce a game or activity
  • Read an engaging story
  • Close with a goodbye song

Keep in mind:

  • You can always modify circle time preschool ideas to incorporate younger children if you have a mix of ages
  • You may need to start with 5 minutes of circle time if you’re just starting out or have younger kids – toddlers are not known for their attention spans! 😉 You can always increase the time slowly!
Children play a game and cover their faces in a circle.

Circle Time Ideas for Songs

Teacher leads a music activity in circle time with kids.

Here are 7 simple and cute circle time songs to get you started. Scroll through YouTube to find even more great ideas.

  1. The Days of the Week (to the tune of Adams’s Family)
  2. Circle Time Hello Song
  3. The Itsy Bitsy Spider
  4. The Wheels on the Bus
  5. Old McDonald Had a Farm
  6. Rain, Rain Go Away
  7. So Long Now Goodbye Song

RELATED: 27 Awesome Playroom Signs To Go With Any Decor

Kids play a circle time activity.

Circle Time Games and Activities

And here are 15 easy and stimulating circle time activities that are great for a variety of ages and are easily adaptable to include younger or older children.

Use these ideas for your play group, homeschool and preschool circles.

1. Remote Control

This cute idea is from Cheqdin and has endless possibilities for fun.

For this activity, you’ll need to make a large remote control out of cardboard or a poster. You will use this “remote” to signal the children to do certain actions like, “jump,” “spin,” and “squat”. Let the children pick which buttons require which actions.

This is a great activity for a mix of ages. Add this to your list of circle time ideas for preschool or for toddlers at home.

2. Finger Puppets and Finger Play

Toddlers especially love finger puppets and finger play. This is an easy and engaging activity that you can keep fresh with new songs, stories and variations. You can find lots of fun finger play songs on YouTube.

You can make your own DIY finger puppets or even find affordable options on Amazon like these Baby Shark Puppets or these Velvet Animal Finger Puppets, perfect for playtime.

3. Snowball

Snowball is a fun circle time activity for multiple ages. It’s a simple shape or picture matching game which requires children to find their matching counterpart in the group.

  • The adult will draw shapes or symbols on pieces of paper, with each symbol having one matching pair. So, if there are 10 students in the group, there will be 5 pairs of matching symbols.
  • Each child will receive a piece of paper with a symbol and will scrunch it up into a “snowball.”
  • Next, they will throw the snowball into the center of the circle and then pick up a ball that isn’t their own.
  • Finally, each child will open up their new “snowball” and try to find their match.
Children play circle time games at preschool.

4. Pass the Rhythm

Pass the rhythm is great circle time preschool idea that can be made easy or hard depending on the rhythms created. The adult can control the level of difficulty, based on the students in the group.

  • Either just the adult, or each of the children can create a rhythm to pass.
  • To create a rhythm, the adult or child will simply make three hits (or the number you choose) somewhere on their body and the other members in the group will copy the rhythm. (This could be pat your knees twice and then tap your shoulders, for example).
  • If the children will be creating their own rhythms, start with one child and have everyone copy their rhythm. Then keep going around the circle until everyone has been able to pass a rhythm.

5. Act the Emotion

For this activity, the adult will make 3-5 emotion cards (drawings depicting differing emotions) and place them in view of the circle. Each child will take turns acting out an emotion from one of the cards.

Everyone else in the group will guess which emotion they are acting out.

6. Hot Potato

Hot potato is an easy game that young and old children can play and enjoy and it’s very easy to set up. All you need is one object that can be passed around the circle, such as a ball.

  • The adult will play music as the children pass the ball from person to person.
  • When the music stops, the last person holding the “potato” is out. Continue until there is one child left as the winner.

7. “Wonkey Donkey”

“Wonkey Donkey” is a game that promotes listening and observation skills.

  • One child will sit in the middle of the circle with a blindfold on and some form of outer clothing like an old loose shirt or apron (something that can be tugged on like a “donkey tail”)
  • Another child in the group will go and tug on the child in the circle and say “Wonkey Donkey!”
  • The child in the middle has to guess who tugged their tail based on the sound of the other child’s voice.
Children play a game at preschool.

8. Pass the Expression

This circle time game is great for practicing eye contact and learning emotions. This is an especially great activity for toddlers who are still learning to express themselves.

  • The adult can choose which emotion to pass (a wink, smile, frown, etc.) and begins by expressing that emotion to one child.
  • That child must then repeat the emotion to the child next to them until the expression has gone all the way around the circle.

9. Mystery Sensory Box

This circle time activity is always a hit! You’ll need a non see-through box with a whole, big enough for a child’s hand to fit into. Inside the box will be a sensory object or objects that the children can feel when passed around the circle.

  • Each child will be given a chance to shake the box and feel what’s inside.
  • After everyone has had a turn, each child will guess what they think is inside.

Here are some ideas to put in your sensory box:

  • Craft pom poms
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Marshmallows
  • Noodles (cooked or uncooked)

Obviously, make sure any objects in the sensory box are age-appropriate and not choking hazards.

10. Box Memory Games

For this circle time game, you’ll need a box that is not see-through with a lid. Each child will take a turn placing themed objects into the box. You might use a play picnic set or zoo animals for a trip to the zoo, for example.

  • If the first person has an orange, they’d say, “on our picnic we took an orange”, and place the fake orange in the box and close the lid.
  • The next person might have an apple and say, “on our picnic we took an orange and an apple”, then open the box and place their apple next to the orange.
  • If the next person in the circle is unable to remember the items before theirs, they are out and someone else can try.
Children play games in a circle.

11. I Spy

I Spy is a great way to teach observational and listening skills to toddlers and preschoolers.

  • Each child or just the adult can choose an object in the room that is within sight of the circle.
  • They will then describe that object by saying something like, “I spy with my little eye something that’s red”.
  • The others can each take turns guessing what the red item is until someone figures it out.

RELATED: Try this awesome free I Spy printable!

12. Pass the Puppet

Pass the puppet is a great way to get the children to share their experiences with each other and learn to take turns talking.

  • The adult will present a puppet, doll or stuffed animal to the group and explain something about it to create a theme. This could be that the puppet is happy because, sad because, or excited because.
  • Whatever the story is for the puppet, the children will also share something that they are happy about, sad about or excited for.
  • The puppet is passed from child to child to share their experiences. Only the person who has the puppet is aloud to talk.

13. Matching Socks

Matching socks is a lot like the snowball game. The children in the group will need to find the other child who has their sock’s matching pattern.

  • The adult will pass the sock pairs out at random.
  • The children will then use their observation skills and pattern recognition to find their missing sock pair.

14. Who’s Missing? / Who’s Hiding?

This circle time activity is perfect for young and old kids or a mix of ages. Who’s Missing requires children to be observant and pay attention to the other children around them.

  • The children will sit scattered in a group.
  • All of the children will close their eyes.
  • The adult will then tap one of the children on the shoulder and that child will quietly get up to hide somewhere in the room.
  • The remaining children will open their eyes and try to identify who’s missing (or hiding, if that’s the word the kids are more familiar with).
Teach reads to a group of toddlers.

15. Story Time

Story time is one of the most classic circle time activities. All you need is a good book that is engaging and age appropriate for the children in your group.

You can even provide a selection of books and allow the children to decide which one to read.

RELATED: 9 Great Montessori Activities for Toddlers To Do At Home

Ready to Try These Fun Circle Time Ideas?

We hope you enjoyed this list of fun circle time ideas for toddlers and preschool. Let us know which activity ideas are your favorite and any you plan to try!

You can find more activity ideas for children here, including Montessori Toys for Toddlers and Summer Camp at Home Activities.

Pinnable image of toddlers doing circle time activities.

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