All about circle time in child care
All about circle time in child care
Group time has become a popular classroom strategy in early child care. From the baby room through to preschool, teachers are increasingly incorporating group experiences within their daily programs. As parents, it's something we hear a lot about from child care providers. But what exactly is group time, and how does it help our little ones?
Group time is more than simply reading a story together or singing songs. Group time is an opportunity for the class of children to be introduced to new concepts and ideas, share in learning experiences, to talk together and collaborate. Group time is also a way to create a sense of belonging and togetherness within the class.
Group time can be used as a transition between activities, or as a break during the day, giving restless children something new to focus on. It's not a time for the children to sit and listen, but more an opportunity for teachers to engage in active learning experiences, delivered in a collaborative way.
What does group time look like?
Babies can benefit greatly from group time. Not only does it introduce the concept of group experiences, it exposes babies to social situations and provides a sense of belonging.
For babies, group time might last only five minutes and could include:
- Music – hearing music of varying tempos.
- Group sensory experiences – such as finger painting or play-doh.
- Reading stories together.
- Puppets and songs to tell stories and rhymes.
- Visual props such as flash cards to learn about everyday objects and simple words.
Group time for toddlers is a wonderful opportunity to introduce shared experiences. It will usually last for around ten minutes and could include:
- Group games such as parachute games and duck duck goose.
- Group discussions on what has happened in the day, adding simple vocabulary and everyday topics.
- Reading books together and chatting about the story.
- Music and movement – playing musical statues and experiencing different rhythms.
- Cooking experiences – measuring and mixing to produce something together.
- Basic science experiences – making goop, vinegar volcanos, or melting and freezing water.
For preschoolers, group time can go for a little longer – around 15 minutes. If it is going well and children are still actively engaged, it could continue for longer. Preschool group time could involve activities such as:
- Music and movement, introducing basic musical instruments and various tempos and sounds.
- Group discussions, with children heavily involved in the conversation. Topics might include what they did at the weekend, what their interests are, and what is on their minds. At this age educators can start to encourage children to ask questions and consider their thoughts.
- Show and Tell – to promote discussion and sharing. This could be an item from home, an experience they have had, or simply a child’s ideas or opinions.
- Looking at items of interest together – insects, sticks, leaves, and using magnifying glasses together.
- Daily calendar time. Using a calendar that can be rearranged daily, calendar time can spark discussion about what will happen during the day, as well as an opportunity to discuss special events such as birthdays and national holidays.
Whatever the age of a child, group time should always give children the opportunity to voice and share their thoughts and ideas, and provide a space to feel engaged in conversation or activities. For older groups the children will end up doing most of the talking, with the topics guided by the educator.
Educators will usually plan group time in advance, with topics planned to meet specific learning outcomes, or discussions that will lead onto (or follow on from) smaller group activities.
Educators also often have a group time routine that sets a regular pattern for children. It could start with the same song each time, giving children the opportunity to join the group, or end with the same song indicating time transition to the next activity.
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Tuesday, 02 February 2021
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