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10 Circle Time Games
By Carolyn Ross Tomlin

It’s no wonder the games used during “circle time” often become a special and favorite part of our preschoolers’ day. Children love to suggest favorite games and take turns being the leader. The familiar routine and comforting aspects of circle time lend themselves to terrific opportunities for movement, quality social interactions and enthusiastic learning.


Circle time is also a wonderful way to transition children from one part of the day to another, including the “wait time” at the end of the day when children are passing time until their parents arrive to collect them.


Here are ten sure-fire circle time games - some old favorites and some new ones - to enrich your child care program. Children may either stand or sit in a circle to participate.


1.       Name That Tune. Play a familiar song and choose a child to provide the title. The preschooler giving the correct answer becomes the chooser for the next tune.


2.       Doggy, Doggy Where's My Bone? A child leaves the room and a child in the circle places the paper bone behind his/her back. Bring the seeker back into the room and have them deduce which child is holding the bone.


3.       Quiet Mouse, Still Mouse. Children sit in a circle as the leader announces which child (eventually, you hope, all of them) has become a mouse by being very quiet and still.


4.      Alphabet Shopping. Using the first letter, match the child’s name with something to buy that begins with that letter. For example, “My name is Connor and I will buy a coat.” This facilitates teaching categories and organizational skills by using alphabet animals, foods and places.


5.      Beginning Sounds and Rhyming Words. Children sit in a circle and someone says a beginning sound or rhyme-able word. They choose the person to provide the answer by rolling a large ball to that person.


6.       I Spy. “I spy something with my little eye, and the thing I see is (green).” Use colors or shapes to complete the sentence. The child who is “It” calls another person’s name and if they answer correctly, they become “It.”


7.      Hot, Warm & Cold. One person leaves the group while someone is appointed to be “It.” The seeker returns and walks around the circle while the others call out hot, warm and cold as the child get closer or further away from the child secretly “It.”


8.      Simon Says. “Simon says stand up. Simon Says touch your nose. Sit down!” If a child follows the command without hearing, “Simon Says,” they have to sit down. Use some of the following: Wiggle your fingers, stand on one foot, hop one step, etc. You can draw stick figures for the hearing impaired.


9.       Hot Potato. Children sit in a circle and pass a potato as music plays. Pass it fast; pass it slow as the musical selection indicates. When the music stops, the person holding the potato is out.


10.    Listen and Clap. Say the child’s name. Clap out the syllables.


Recognize that most children react badly to being “out,” and may feel ostracized. An easy way to handle this is to have the children, as they are sent out of the game, move to a book area for quite reading time or a simple craft.


Circle games reinforce listening skills, socialization and working together as a group, and physical activity helps to reduce discipline problems. Modify and adapt games to accommodate children with special needs.


Carolyn Ross Tomlin has taught kindergarten and served as assistant professor of education at Union University, Jackson. She contributes to numerous education publications.