Props are a fantastic addition to circle time. Stimulating thought and conversation, they can be a very positive and looked forward to part of the daily routine.
Concrete objects are the gateway to learning and understanding for young children and should be used when presenting new concepts, themes and other information. Props, pictures, toys and sensory materials are essential tools for children’s learning. Capture children’s interest with these props and objects and encourage them to explore and experiment with many different materials.
Toys are a natural stepping stone to learning. Toys from other countries and homemade toys, as well as toys made from natural materials are particularly interesting for children.
Live animals, whenever available, provide delightful learning opportunities. Children will often find little critters to bring to class, or ask parents, veterinarians, animal shelters and others to bring in animals.
The world is full of beautiful things to gather. Leaves, rocks, shells dirt, seeds, nuts and flowers are but a few of Mother Nature’s treasures that can be used to spark a conversation, for math activities and to enliven many other classroom experiences.
Positive attitudes about reading are nurtured when books are used at circle time and at other times throughout the day. Books no only entertain children, bust also take them to new places and give them new experiences, words and ideas.
See something interesting in the trash can? What can you do with an empty cardboard box, packing materials, plastic lids or advertising displays? Keep your eyes and ears open and recycle “good junk” in the classroom to build, sort, make inventions, do art projects, etc. ask parents to save things from home and work.
Anything that adults use is of great interest to children. Allow them to manipulate, explore, take apart and put back together a variety of things.
set the stage for learning by stimulating children’s senses. Children learn by smelling, hearing, touching, tasting and seeing. Indeed, think of each sense as a pathway to learning and engage as many as possible when teaching young children. Here are just a few ideas for challenging children’s senses in order to get them interested in a particular topic or concept.
Hide a popcorn popper under a box. Turn it on secretly and notice children’s reactions. What a fun way to introduce the day’s snack!
Put a slice of lemon, a pickle, peanut butter, bubble gum, coffee, peppermint abstract, Italian seasoning and other items with distinguishable smells in the bottom of baby food jars or film canisters. Punch small holes in the lids and let children try to identify the objects by smell.
Play a musical instrument from another country. Talk about how the instrument was made, as well as the culture from which it orginated.
Make different animal sounds (or use a toy that makes sounds) to introduce a theme on farm animals, pets or wild animals.
Pass around small samples of bagels, pita bread, cornbread, French bread, tortillas and other types of bread. Talk about foods from different cultures.
Place an object in a sock and tie a knot at the top. Pass it around and let the children try to identify it from touch. Hide an object in your pocket or a sack. Put a variety of leaves in a basket (big, little, rough, smooth, soft, prickly, etc) Let the children feel them and describe.
The guessing jar is interesting anytime, or it can be used with a particular theme or holiday by simply varying the contents. It invites participation and gives children hands on experience with estimating and counting.
Place a number of objects in the jar and put the jar in a prominent place in the room before the children arrive. At circle time, pass the jar around and let each child guess how many objects are in it. Pour the contents of the jar on the floor and count how many there are. Did anyone guess the correct number? Who thought there were more? Who thought there were less?
Use the objects for sorting, classifying and other math experiences. On a large chart, write each child’s name and his estimate. Give each child one of the objects from the jar to hold and explore. Talk about how it feels, smells, etc. ask open ended questions such as “what can you do with it?” “where does it come from?” for a classroom party, fill the guessing jar with treats for the children.
Put this box in the middle of the room to spark children’s curiosity when they come to school in the morning, or use it at circle time to introduce a new concept or theme. Children need hands on experiences with concrete objects that they can see, hear and touch. They also need opportunities to ask questions, organize information and hypothesize.
Spray paint a shoe box gold or silver. Decorate if desired. Place on object inside the box. Tape the box closed or tie a ribbon around it so they don’t peek. At circle time, pass the mystery box around the circle and let the children guess what is inside. Let them ask questions about what is in the box or give them clues. After everyone has had an opportunity to ask questions or guess what is inside, open the box and take out the mystery object.
Use stacking boxes or bags of varying sizes. Hide a teaching prop in the smallest one. Build anticipation as the children remove one box at a time and try to guess what is inside. Let the children take turns bringing home the mystery box and finding a special object around their house to put in it. When they come to school next dary, the other children guess what is inside, or the child gives them hints about it.
Hats and Costumes
Surprise children by wearing a costume or hat to encourage their curiosity and thinking skills. Hats and costumes spark children’s interest.
Before children arrive in the morning or before group time, put on a hat or costume. Play a guessing game such as “Who am I?” “What do I do?” “What time of year is it?” Use the costume to stimulate questions and discussion with the children.
Read a story, have a guest speaker or take a field trip related to the clothing. Let children play with the hats and costumes in the housekeeping area.
Stand Up Animals
Stand up animals are great fun at circle time, story time or anytime. Props focus children’s attention and the children can play with them after.
Color and cut out animals that are approximately five inches tall from construction paper. Glue or tape the animals to cardboard rolls or paper towel tubes.
Hide the stand up animals in your lap or in a bag or box. Pull them out and place them on the floor as you tell a story, sing a song or introduce a new theme.
Create characters and props for children to use in retelling a story. Let children draw their own animals and use buttons, yarn, wiggly eyes and fabric scraps to decorate them.
Coat Hanger Critter
Coat hanger puppets are a fun way to introduce new themes or concepts or to give children directions. Children enjoy listening to puppets and making up stories with puppets.
Stretch the hanger into a diamond shape as shown, then pull the stocking over it and tie at the bottom. Bend the hook into an oval and tape it in place so it won’t poke the children. Decorate the puppet to look like one of the characters shown or create your own critters.
Hold up the puppet and ask the children to guess its name. When a child says a name that suits the puppet, say, “yes, you’re right. How did you know?” Next, let the puppet tell the children a story, share a new theme, give directions for a new game or activity, etc.
Let Henry start the day by saying good morning to the children or use him to introduce new activities. Young children look forward to having Henry as part of their daily opening ritual.
Using a sharp knife, cut a slit between two seams on a tennis ball for a mouth. Add eyes, a pompom nose, yarn hair and a big smile.
Put the ball puppet in the box. Knock on the lid and say, “Oh, Henry, Oh, Henry, the boys and girls want to say good morning to you.” Open the lid of the box and pull out Henry. Squeeze the sides of the ball to make his mouth move as he says, “Good morning, friends.” Then let Henry speak to each child or ask him questions about what he or she wants to do that day.
Create other animals and characters from tennis balls to use for stories, songs and language activities. Decorate a gift box or detergent box, then cut a hole in the back that your arm can go through. Put a tennis ball puppet or hand puppet in the box, insert your hand in the hole and make the puppet pop up and talk to the children.
Children enjoy holding and playing with their own stick puppets at circle time. These puppest give each child something concrete to hold in her hands and manipulate.
Using a theme, shape, color, animal or object of interest to the children, cut out a little puppet for each child. Tape the puppets to straws or sticks and let the children decorate with markers or crayons. Store puppets in a can or basket.
Pass out a puppet to each child at circle time. After a few minutes of free play with the puppets, tell a story or sing a song with them. Use the puppets to motivate a class discussion, reinforce positional words or practice following directions. For example, “Put the puppet beside you.” “Put the puppet on your shoulder,” “Put the puppet under your chair.”
Pictures can be used to introduce a new concept or theme, or to extend a conversation. This activity enhances children’s reading readiness skills such as visual discrimination and visual memory.
Collect pictures of toys, food, places, animals, people from many cultures, cars, homes and other things children are interested in. Mount the pictures on construction paper and laminate or cover with clear contact paper. File in folders according to themes, seasons, etc.
Place a picture face down in your lap, then slowly show it to the children. Ask open ended questions such as “What do you see?” “what do you think the people are saying to each other?” “How do you think they feel?” Let the children make up a story about the picture, or ask them to think of a title for the picture. Place the picture face down in your lap. Ask the children to recall details in the picture. For example, “How many children were there?” “What color was the bird’s tail?” etc.
Cut several large holes in a large envelope. Place a picture in the envelope and play a guessing game to see who can identify the picture by what can be seen through the holes. Slowly pull it from the envelope to reveal the entire picture. Using post cards or calendar pictures of art masterpieces for discussion helps foster aesthetic appreciation in children.
Pass The Parcel
Use pass the parcel to create excitement about a new theme, color, shape or number. Children love surprises and will be delighted to find a surprise in the parcel.
Hide the object in a box. Wrap different layers of tissue paper or newspaper around the box. Wrap on layer for each child in the class.
Have the children sit in a circle. Tell them to pass the package or parcel around the circle when the music starts. When the music stops, whoever is holding the package may unwrap one layer. If the music stops on a person who has already had a turn, they may pass it to a friend on either side of them who has not yet had a turn. Continue passing the parcel until all the layers of paper have been removed, and all the children have had a chance to remove one layer. Open the box and see the surprise.