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The Benefits of Daily Circle Time with Your Toddler

My toddler loves our daily circle time! He's an ex-micro preemie -- born at just 27 weeks -- but he's thriving today!

Miracles do happen!

He's 20 months old now, and he does have a minor speech delay that we receive Early Intervention services for, which means that a teacher comes into our home a couple times a month and works with him on his language learning skills. When he started working with his speech teacher, she assigned me and my son the “homework” of doing a daily circle time together. I loved this “assignment” since I have been wanting to do daily tot schooling activities with him -- but I’d go on Pintrest and get overwhelmed and not know where to begin with tot school!

If you want to tot school at home, starting with a daily circle time is the way to go! Doing a daily circle time with your toddler has several benefits, and it takes almost no planning. In fact, once you develop a basic routine, you don’t have to do any planning for circle time at all!

The Benefits of a Daily Circle Time

  1. It creates a micro-routine, which helps to foster language learning
  2. It is a special one-on-one time with your child
  3. It teaches your toddler that reading books isn’t just for bedtime
  4. It helps to build and improve their attention span!

How YOU can Plan a Circle Time Routine for your Toddler

  1. Designate a special cushion for your child to sit on for their circle time. When you want to start your circle time get out your child’s cushion and say, “It’s time for circle time!” It's important that you are upbeat and excited about starting circle time with him or her.
  2. Sing 1 or 2 songs with motions and recite a rhyme together. Start with just one song. As your child’s attention span grows you can add more songs, rhymes, and maybe even an activity like a wooden puzzle! We sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” with some ASL signs I taught myself from a baby signing book. We also recite the poem, “Round & round the garden goes the teddy bear, one step, two steps tickle under there.” If my son is interested in a longer circle time we also sing the wheels on the bus or a song from the Music Together curriculum that his music class uses. Singing songs that have motions during your circle time is important if you are working on getting your toddler to talk because one precursor to talking is imitating signs and gestures. It also keeps your time together playful and fun!
  3. Read a Book of their choice. Allowing your child to pick the book that he or she wants you to read is an easy way to practice following a one step direction with him or her. You could either ask him to go get a book from his bookshelf, or if that task is too distracting for your child, you can pick out two books ahead of time and have him pick one of those two choices. If they are not speaking yet, like my son, you can prompt him to point to the book he wants. It is important to me that I finish the book that I read to my son at circle time because it teaches him that finishing things is important, it sets an expectation, and it helps to build his attention span. Sometimes this means that I have to redirect him to the book, read the book very fast, or allow him to sit in my lap -- or if worst comes to worst, I skip pages of the book in a clever way so that we reach the end of the book.
  4. End with a goodbye song. To end our circle time, I ask my son to put his book away, and while he puts his book away I put our circle time matt away and sing this song: “Bye, bye circle time. Bye, bye circle time. Bye, bye circle time -- until next time!”

After three months of doing circle time almost every day, both my mom and my son’s speech teacher have commented that my son has a greater attention span. He has also started signing the word “rain,” from the itsy bitsy spider and does one gesture from our rhyme together. The time investment in our circle time is just 2-5 minutes a day! That’s right, in just 2-5 minutes a day you can teach your child new vocabulary and improve their attention span!

I hope that this article encourages you to start a circle time with your toddler. The time investment is minimal and the returns are great!

All the best, my friend!