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When kids are in their early years, it can be an incredibly rewarding time to aid their development as they get ready for ‘big school’ through a rich array of preschool activity ideas.

As nursery school kids can have a tendency to have their imagination lead them away from the task at hand, it is certainly helpful to be prepared and armed with plenty of circle time activities.

Circle time activities

Circle time games can be a great way for you to help nursery school children to develop the following skills:

  • Speaking and listening skills
  • Bonds between the children
  • Self-esteem building
  • Interpersonal skills and understanding
  • Better problem-solving skills
  • A fuller understanding of responsibility

We’ve split the circle time games into the following categories:

  • General games
  • Music games
  • Imagination games
  • Wind-down games

All four of these different circle time activities help kids to develop positively in different ways.

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General circle time lesson plan template:

Here is a weekly circle time lesson plan that you can use.

Monday - Introduction

Class and teacher agree on ground rules. Examples:

  • Sit in a circle
  • Look at the person who is speaking
  • Wait to speak
  • Listen closely

Choose a weekly theme: Choose any general participation circle time game idea or speaking game for this week. Here are some themes you can choose:

  • Fun science activities
  • All about plants
  • Fairy tales
  • Feelings and emotions
  • Food groups
  • Essential jobs
  • Sports
  • Nutrition
  • Wildlife
  • Dental health
  • Seasons
  • The ocean and its creatures
  • Everything about dinosaurs
  • Heroic figures across history

At the end of every circle time session, allow the kids to make their own critical decisions and choices; the kids get to explain which part of circle time they personally liked best. Use either ‘hands up’ for them to speak or the named-object strategy (using a named object to pass, with the bearer being the one to speak – this could be a teddy, a shell or any object that will appeal to the kids).

Tuesday - Activity 2 - Musical Round: Choose any music circle time game idea for this round.

Wednesday - Activity 3 - Communication Round: Choose a game, such as Alphabet Soup, that can help improve children’s language skills

Thursday - Activity 4 - Imagination Round: Choose any imagination circle time game idea for this round.

Friday - Final Activity – Wind-down Round: Choose any talking or wind down circle time game idea for this round.

General circle time activities

General circle time game ideas:

1. Simon Says

Simon Says is a great way to introduce children to listening and concentrating on what others within the group have to say, as well as teaching them body awareness, motor skills and memory skills, making these games a great circle time idea.

For some more ideas on how to get the most out of Simon Says as part of circle time activities, click this link.

2. Snap

Distribute a pack of cards among the members of your circle time and have them find the child within the group who has the matching card. What makes this circle time idea great is that it can really help the children to grow confident in working together as a group through communication and cooperation.

3. Through the Hoop

Through the hoop

Split your circle time students into groups of 10 (if your group is less than this, then no problem, keep it as it is). The children will need to hold hands and step through the hoop in order to pass it along the line without letting go of the hand of the person on either side of them.

With preschoolers, it’s best to do a non-competitive version of this game, but a competitive version can be played for children 7 and over.

Musical circle time game ideas:

4. Nursery Rhyme songs

Nursery rhyme songs allow developing minds to focus on vocabulary and work on their memory skills. Singing songs can also help the children to feel more connected with you and their classmates, and it is a circle time activity that they can easily take home with them to enjoy with their parents and/or guardians.

5. Pass the tambourine

For this circle time activity for early years, you can do either a silent version or a fun, musical version of the game. For the fun musical version, create a simple music phrase for the children to copy – ie one shake and one tap. Pass the tambourine to the child on your left and have them try to mimic it.

Once the tambourine has been passed all the way around the circle, come up with a new musical phrase for them to copy. The silent tambourine version of this game is when the children have the children pass the tambourine around the circle without it making a noise.

Imagination circle time game ideas:

6. Story Creation

A great circle time activity for preschoolers is the story creation game. You can either play this game with each child in the circle saying a different word to create a story together or alternatively, you can create your own story, where the children get to pick the characters and actions of the heroes by ‘filling in the blanks’ verbally.

7. “I’m thinking of an animal…”

In this Kindergarten circle time idea, you must think of an animal and slowly give clues about the animal to help the children guess which animal you’re thinking of.

You can make this game very casual off the top of your head, or you can use facts about different types of animals to help the children guess the animal in question.

Wind-down circle time game ideas:

8. “Happy, Sad, Glad”

This circle time activity for nursery school kids is very helpful for getting the children to become emotionally aware of themselves, as well as to share with others and experience the positive benefits of doing so.

When you ask them to give an example of how they’re happy, sad and glad, it allows them to connect with positive emotions, negative emotions and gratitude.

9. Guess what happens next (storytime)

In order to make storytime more interactive, try to pause when you are reading the story to ask the children what they think happens next, which helps them to engage well with the topic.

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