10 Ideas to Spice up your Circle Time

circle time ideas

It’s spring time and you know what that means, the end of the school year is just around the corner for many of you.

With that comes a little less ambition to plan.

If I’m right, then I’ve got something for you, 10 ideas to Spice up your Circle Time!

But even if you are reading this list in late October, I bet you’ll still find some inspiration you can take right back to circle time.

1. Guess the instrument

Get that box of mixed instruments out. Choose 3 to play for the class and tell them their names. Then take them out of sight. Say the outer space-themed chant below and then play one instrument at a time in between. Can they guess which instrument was played?


Astronauts, astronauts are flying all around,

One of them has an instrument, just listen to the sound.

2. Parachute Fun

The parachute doesn’t always get all the love it deserves. Let’s be honest, you haven’t gotten it out all year!

The best part is, kids love it! Try this simple song below and change the word in bold to mix it up!

If you need a little help with how to manage parachute time, check out my blog post 3 Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make with the Parachute.


(Tune: This Is The Way)

This is the way we walk around

Walk around, walk around.

This is the way and then we all sit down.

3. Change The Hello Song

Doing the same hello song at circle time can feel safe, but it can get old fast. Change up the second line of this chant and it will feel like new every time!


Strawberry shortcake, banana cream pie

If you’re wearing red, jump up high!

variation ideas: If you have a dog, raise your hands high.

4. Shadow Screen Story

Children love readalouds. But storytime doesn’t need to stop at books!

All you will need to tell a story with a shadow screen is, well, a shadow screen, some characters cut out of cardstock with a popsicle stick attached, a story you can retell easily like Goldilocks and the Three Bears and a backlight (phone flashlights work)!

Not sure how to make a shadow screen? Check it out here!

5. Hide The Star

This game is a lot like hot and cold. But instead of saying, “you’re getting hotter” when the person gets close to the object, you sing louder and quieter as they move farther away!

To play, choose one child to hide the star and one child to be the finder. They’ll hide their eyes until it is hidden. Then have the finder enter the room as the group directs them to the object using a song’s volume as the clue. I like using “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” because it is a well known tune.


Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.

Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.

6. Storytelling Stones

For this storytelling change up, you’ll need a short story such as “Too Much Noise”, small rocks and the characters modge podged onto the rocks. That’s it!

I’ll tell you the story using flannel pieces and that should get your wheels turnin’ on how you can put the characters on stones. Click here for the story.

7. Bubble Time

Blow a bubble and have children count how long it takes for it to pop. Try other objects like feathers, scarves and tissues. Keep a record of how long each object stays in the air. Children will also get an opportunity to play with physics as they determine which one stays in the air the longest. Be sure to ask lots of “why” questions.

8. Memory

Teach children how to play memory by placing numbered cards in a pocket chart. Next, get a set of cards with pairs and mix them up and place behind each number. Have a child select two numbers and see if the card behind them match. If they don’t match, turn them back over and have another child make a guess. Continue the game until all cards have been matched up. Make the game available for children to play with a partner later.

9. Flower Shop

Give each child 5 pennies in a ziplock. Get a bundle of fake flowers at the dollar store. Say the chant below and insert a child’s name. Then tell them how many pennies to pay. Get ready for them to want to play flower shop for at least a week after this!


So many flowers in the flower shop,

So many flowers to be bought.

Along came Ethan/Emily with a penny to pay (or “some money” if you don’t have pennies),

He/she took one (change number each time) flower then he/she ran away.

10. Make Slow Cooker Playdough

Cooking is not only fun and memorable, it is a great STEM activity. Using a slow cooker means the children can help you make it in the classroom, then watch it cook. Grab the recipe here.

3 fall activities to (pumpkin) spice up your circle time.

Hunting for fall circle time songs? You are in the right place!

Because children will be seeing lots of fall colors and decor the next few months, they’ll be especially interested in finding out how you just might be using that pumpkin at circle time. 

While this might be interesting enough to get them to circle, keeping them there means providing activities that are actively engaging.

That’s just what you’ll find in the 3 activities below. You will need to source just one item for all 3 songs.

Do you know what it is?

A Pumpkin!

You can purchase a fake one at the dollar store, get yourself the real thing (I’d suggest choosing one on the small side so children can hold it), or print my FREE song pack below that includes 5 printable pumpkins!

Ready for the 3 fall songs for circle time?

1. Walk Around the Pumpkin

Using the traditional tune, “The More We Get Together” makes this activity a perfect way to bring movement to circle time. Add different ways to move around the pumpkin like hopping, jumping etc.

Grab the freebie and you’ll get the digital audio track!

Let’s walk around the pumpkin,

the pumpkin, the pumpkin,

Let’s walk around the pumpkin

and then we’ll fall down.

2. Who Stole the Pumpkin from the Pumpkin Patch

A spin on the traditional chant, “Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar” makes this activity a perfect one for fall. Print the pumpkins in the free download and write your students’ names on them. It’s a great way to practice name recognition and build community!

Who stole the pumpkin from the pumpkin patch?

Jimmy stole the pumpkin from the pumpkin patch.

Who, me? 

Yes, you!

Couldn’t be! 

Then who?

3. Pass the Pumpkin

Circle games are always a hit and this one is no exception! Children may take awhile to get used to the idea of keeping the pumpkin moving and not holding it the entire time. But with practice they’ll realize it’s fun even if it doesn’t “stop on you”!

Be sure to grab the free download with the digital audio track. You’ll love the song as it does all the heavy lifting for you.

Pass the pumpkin all around.

Listen to the spooky sound.

Ooo, oo, ooo, oo,

Will it stop on you? Boo!

Grab the lyrics Lyrics Below!

Want the lyrics for your circle time binder along with a pumpkin printable? (if you don’t have one yet, I strongly recommend starting one).

Keeping theme organized by seasons and themes is a great way to always have new and familiar songs at your fingertips.

Download the lyrics, pumpkin printable and QR code to play the digital audio tracks below. 👇

Name Games for Preschool

“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

-Dale Carnegie

Learning the names of your kids right away is a must! It instantly connects you with them and they move from being anonymous to, “oh man, she knows my name!”.

My mom was a substitute teacher for years. She had a few tricks to help her survive the day. The first one was to always start by telling the class a joke. She mainly taught high school so that opened up the door for lots of silly and probably off color ones too.

Her second trick was to learn the students’ names right away.  That way they went from being “hey you” to “Tommy, turn around!” and that got their attention REALLY fast.

I took that trick to heart and always made sure to learn every child’s name as quickly as possible. 

That meant I had to find a lot of name games to keep it fun for kids while I was busy committing the names to memory. As a music teacher I see on average around 300 kids a week so if you are a classroom teacher with 20 kids, I’m little jealous.

I did find that having a list in front of me or on the wall with the names helped me to lock in the name even better.  When we use multiple senses to retain information, it helps us to retrieve the information more easily because it’s kept in more than one spot in our brain.

Below are 4 name games that kids love and I hope you will too.

#1 Higgelty, Piggelty, BumbleBee

This catchy rhyme can be sung or chanted with the same great results. There are so many variations to this activity, that you really could do it every day for weeks! Begin by going around the circle and having children say their name at the end of the rhyme. If children are not comfortable enough with the group to say it, they may need some help. Just be sure to not force them to say their name. It will come with time.

#2 Willoughby, Wallaby Wee

If you don’t know this funny rhyming song yet, it’s time to learn it! Even babies will enjoy it especially if you bring along an elephant finger puppet or hand puppet to join in the fun.

Willoughby Wallaby Wee

Rhyming is a major component to learning to read. The sooner children are able to manipulate language the way we do in this song, the sooner they will learn to read. Click here to read more about why rhyming is such a key player in reading.

#3 Who is Here Today?

Taking the time to show each child that they are a valuable member of the learning community, builds self-confidence and a sense of belonging.  When these skills are fostered at an early age in children, it helps cement the idea that they are important and special. 

Make sure to look each child in the eye when their name is called.  This lets them know you are focusing on only them.  Emergent literacy is also developed in this activity when a picture of each child along with their name is used. By providing this visual clue, a child can correctly identify their written name in print as well as their classmates’ names – double win!

who is here today?

#4 Johnny Whoops

While it might seem boring and basic to you as an adult, kids love the simplest things like hearing their name played with in funny ways.

“Johnny Whoops” is the perfect song for this.

You can either go around the circle and do one child’s name at a time, or use a name jar especially if you have a big class. 

To use this method, simply place a popsicle stick with each child’s name written on it in a jar.  Then select a few children’s names to do at each circle time.

Start on your pinky finger and say “Johnny” as you point to the tip of each finger. After the pointer finger, slide your finger over to the thumb while saying “whoops”. Then work your way back to the pinky saying “Johnny” on each finger.

name games

7 Secrets for Circle Time

secrets for circle time success

Do you know what the biggest struggle is when it comes to circle time? Keeping kids engaged!

Here’s how it goes….you plan this amazing list of activities to do at circle time, but you can’t even get a word in edgewise! With kids complaining about not having enough space, someone’s in their seat or they have to go to the bathroom, it is no wonder many teachers say circle time is their least favorite part of the day.

What if I could give you 7 tried and true secrets that will begin to turn your circle times around? These secrets have come from me falling flat on my face repeatedly until I found what works. This means, I’ve failed so you don’t have to!

If you are ready to make a change at circle time, check out the “7 Secrets for Circle Time Success” and get ready to rock your circle times tomorrow!

Songs for Circle Time

A really awesome way to keep kids engaged is to have lots and lots of activities to share. My two favorite kinds of activities are music and movement ones of course.

If you are ready to freshen up your circle times with some tried and true songs, check out my CD (or audio download) “Circle Time Success”!

The Enormous Turnip

Once upon a time…

There was a preschool teacher name Cindy who started every circle time with a story. Sometimes she’d make up a story and use one of the students in her class as the main character, while other times she’d retell a classic tale such as Cinderella or Jack and the Beanstalk. Whatever her story for the day was about, the children were captivated and couldn’t get enough. It became something they looked forward to each and every day.

By the end of the school year, Cindy’s kids had not only heard a vast array of stories, they could retell a few themselves! What if you could be like Cindy too?!?

Did you know that storytelling dates back thousand and thousands of years? Before there was the written word, there were storytellers who passed down stories by word of mouth from generation to generation.

This day and age we have access to millions of books, but the captivating components of a good story being told seems to never get old.

I’ve found when working with kids, if I simply say, “once upon a time….,” the room goes silent and they can’t wait to hear my story.

That’s why I tell a story at least once a month in my music classes.

Benefits of Storytelling

The benefits of storytelling for children are endless. The focus and listening skills required by the listener to ensure they don’t miss a key part of the story are strengthened when they concentrate on the storyteller’s voice.

Language skills are built with the introduction of new vocabulary and phrases. If I use a word or phrase that needs an explanation, I’ll ask the children if they know what it means. This offers an opportunity for those who are familiar with the word or phrase to share with the group. It also shows them that it is ok to ask me if they aren’t sure what a word means.

Because I’m not reading from a picture book that provides imagery, my listeners are encouraged to use their own imagination to picture the story and what the characters look like.

Unlike reading a book, storytelling gives me the freedom to change anything I want. I will often ask the children to help me name the characters or decide what should happen next in the story. It’s like “choose your own adventure” and who doesn’t like that?!? When I do this, I’m encouraging creativity and audience participation. This of course increases overall engagement!

Note: I usually have at least some kind of prop when I am telling the story to keep them visually engaged such as a flannel board and felt pieces or puppets. BTW, If you don’t have a flannel board to do your stories with yet, be sure to check out my blog on how to make a flannel board box. It is actually my favorite way to tell a story and the kids love it too!

Last but not least, many classic folktales also contain a moral or lesson. Without realizing it, kids are learning valuable life lessons in a fun and engaging way.

How to Prepare to Tell a Story

Don’t worry if you aren’t comfortable with the idea of being a storyteller. It’s a skill and can easily be learned with a little bit of practice.

The best way to go about preparing to share a story is to find one you love. You might start with a story you already know like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”. Or check out one of my favorite books by storytelling extraordinaire, Margaret Reed McDonald, Three Minute Tales. She has written a ton of books as a collector of stories from around the world. You also might enjoy her book The Storyteller’s Start-Up Book: Finding, Learning, Performing and Using Folktales. It offers tips and tricks to get started telling stories kids (and adults) will love to hear!

The key is to remember the basic plot and then fill in the rest with your own words. Practice telling the story while you drive or even while taking a shower.

Once you’ve become comfortable with it, just do it!

Would you like to hear one of my favorite stories? Watch the video below. and be sure to have the kids join in on the song that repeats throughout the story! Then try retelling it in your own words. What’s fun about storytelling is you never tell the story the same way twice!

The Enormous Turnip – a Russian Folk Tale