Inside: Toddler circle time can be tricky with short attention spans and lots of energy. Here are some tips to make this time more successful.
Recently one of my readers asked me about circle time with 2 year olds:
Hi. I am a toddler teacher. My students are from 2 to 2 1/2 years old. This is my third week on the new job. I am struggling with circle time and trying to keep their attention on me. I feel like at a loss and a failure. Do you have any tips to share?
It occurred to me that I’ve written several circle time posts for preschoolers, but none on circle time activities for 2 year olds.
Scroll down to see a circle time in action!
If you have anything to add to this, tips that have worked for you, will you please share them in the comments section?
The Secrets to a Successful Toddler Circle Time
I will format this post by answering the most popular questions that I’ve been asked regarding circle time with 2 year olds. Feel free to ask me any other questions either in the comments section or by email. (See my about page for the form.) I’ve also added advice from my readers when this question was posted on my Facebook page.
How do you prepare a circle time?
I keep everything I will be using for circle time in a big basket.
What do you use for them to sit on?
We use carpet squares. They stack nicely and are comfortable. Fidgety hands like to feel the tufts of yarn in them. We don’t place them in a particular order, like we do with our 3 year olds.
How long should circle with toddlers time be?
That really depends on the group of toddlers. At the start of the school year, it’s very short, about 5-7 minutes. We are simply learning how to gather and look at books. Then, we add a short story. Eventually, we can add an activity, such as music and movement.
How do you begin your circle time?
We sing a song that I made up many years ago:
(Tune: London Bridge)
“It’s time to come to the circle,
to the circle,
to the circle,
it’s time to come to the circle,
find your mat.”
We place a basket of books in the center and they choose one to look at. It’s a nice transition that we also do with our 3 year olds.
What if a child does not want to come to the circle?
We don’t force our toddlers to come to the circle, but we do encourage them. If they choose not to join us, they can sit in the reading and writing area where there are quiet activities available. It’s close enough so they can still see and hear what we are doing, and might decide to join us.
Don’t worry if they don’t all attend group. They’re only very little and still at the egocentric stage. If they see the ones who are there are having fun, they may watch from a distance (where you can invite them again), or eventually join on their own. – Brittany
What kinds of books work best?
Short books work best with their shorter attention spans. We love interactive books that encourage them to point to different body parts, mimic sounds, and/or move parts of the body. Singable books work well, too!
What if I just can’t keep their attention?
This happens a lot, trust me. Toddlers are not meant for sitting and focusing on someone else. There have been times I’ve had to close the book before it’s finished because they just weren’t into it. We have boxes of bells, egg shaker instruments, bean bags, and scarves in our classroom cabinet. We have a good selection of music on hand.
Music and movement is the key with this age group! It engages their brain, as well and develops control over their body. Use 2-3 songs (only 1 or 2 each circle time tho) and repeat, repeat, repeat! They will love it! Songs with scarves so they can wave them around and throw in the air are awesome too. – Mary
I finally put down the book and turned on some music and we had a dance party. 5 songs later they were still at it. That was a good 10-15 minutes. – Rhonda
Make sure to check out our favorite playlists!
And then there are props!
I’ve talked about this in my most popular video, The Secrets to a Successful Circle Time.
Toddlers tend to be more engaged in circle time when you have props, such as puppets and flannel pieces.
I love making stick puppets that we can all hold.
Here are some examples:
Make sure to check out our Songs and Rhymes props to use during your circle time!
Toddler and Preschool Activity Plans
Looking for an entire year’s worth of learning activities? We’ve done the work for you!
I have helped create each of these packets, along with a team of talented educators and homeschoolers.
Easy to follow activity plans include activity modifications and adaptations to meet the needs of all learners.
Every theme comes with recommended reading lists, songs, material lists, and more.
Click on the graphics below for more details.
Toddlers (18 – 36 months):
Preschool (3 – 5 Years):