I’m sure that circle time will already be a regular part of your nursery routine. It offers such a wonderful time for getting to know one another, chatting about different things, playing games and singing songs. But what are the main benefits of circle time?
Here is a list of some of the more obvious benefits of circle time but also some of the hidden gems:
Helps develop positive relationships
Circle time is a great time to get to know one another. It lets children learn about their peers, and also learn about the adults in their setting. It really helps children to find out their similarities and differences to their friends, and to realise that they are not the only ones that feel the way they do. As they get to know one another, they will have more confidence to chat to one another and build on their relationships.
Speaking in front of others can be very daunting, especially when the room is quiet and everyone else is listening to you. This is where making circle time part of your regular routine is vital. In time hopefully, the quietest child will realise that this is a safe place where they can speak, if only a couple of words, and that everyone will value their contribution. As soon as a child finds the confidence to speak and realises that their contributions are valued, this is going to boost their confidence and self-esteem. Make sure circle time involves every single child. Even if the child chooses not to speak, make sure they are given the opportunity.
Teaches social skills
We can’t assume that children just ‘get’ many social situations, especially those around friendships and sharing. These need to be taught and circle time is the perfect time to do this. Use puppets and people to model different situations that might arise and involve children in helping them to figure out the next steps. The children can then go and practise the skills they have learned in real-life situations.
Builds on emotional understanding
This is another area of development that needs to be taught as well as experienced. Young children will experience some strong emotions during their day. Use circle time to help them make sense of these by talking about different feelings, showing pictures of different emotions, getting children to show different emotions with their faces and, most importantly, encouraging children to talk about how they feel in different situations. All of these will help a child begin to make sense of their feelings and, in time, manage them.
Can be used to address certain issues and sensitive subjects
Many will use circle time to address issues that arise during the day such as noise levels or using kind hands. This is also the time to raise more sensitive or topical issues such as acceptance of one another and coping with the changes bought about because of coronavirus.
Improves listening skills and teaches respect
Just as children are encouraged to speak in circle time, they are also encouraged to listen and are given a fantastic opportunity to develop their listening skills at this time. This is also a great chance to teach respect - when it is not their turn to speak, each child needs to show respect to their friends by listening. A great way of teaching this is to pass a toy around the circle and tell the children that it is their turn to speak when they are holding the toy. You could then ask gentle questions about what was said so that children learn the value of paying attention. Furthermore, adults can model respect by showing genuine interest and sensitivity to what has been shared.
Prepares children for school
School is always likely to be a big step for young children, but giving them the opportunity to prepare will help make the step that much easier. The quiet and calm expectations of circle time will mirror those that the children will experience a few times each day during their carpet time at school, assembly and class circle time itself. By teaching children the expectations of circle time, they will already have the skills needed for sitting and listening at school. What a great tool to give them! You can also use circle time to address any concerns the children have about starting school.
Offers a great calming and transition activity
There are always times of day when you need to bring the noise and excitement level down and circle time is a great way to do this. It is a perfect tool to transition from a noisy play environment to lunch or home time.
Helps ease anxiety
Some children are going to find the noisy parts of the day a little bit too much to handle, and therefore are going to find calm and security in the quieter, more settled parts of the day. This, combined with all the confidence-boosting aspects discussed above, is going to help reduce a child’s anxiety and help them feel more settled in their time with you.
Alongside the benefits for children listed above, circle time also gives you a fantastic opportunity to gather some wow observations about your children, particularly around those subjects that it can be harder to gather evidence of such as showing an awareness of different cultures. You may also find it raises some safeguarding concerns so be prepared to respond to those in the appropriate way.
Circle time is going to be one of the most valuable times in your setting, so make the most of it and you will really reap the benefits of having children that can share, listen and respect one another.
About the author
Gina Smith is an experienced teacher with experience of teaching in both mainstream and special education. She is the creator of ‘Create Visual Aids’ – a business that provides both homes and education settings with bespoke visual resources. Gina recognises the fact that no two children are the same and therefore individuals are likely to need different resources. Create Visual Aids is dedicated to making visual symbols exactly how the individual needs them.