Kids Motherhood School

Are We Taking Preschool Circle Time Too Seriously?

Are We Taking Preschool Circle Time Too Seriously? www.herviewfromhome.com
Written by Sherry Parnell

I navigated down the narrow, crowded hallway of my son’s preschool. Working my way against the flow of toddlers, I sidestepped mothers carrying crying babies and an abandoned craft.

As I neared my little one’s classroom, I saw the teacher standing, like a sentry, at the doorway. I watched her free each squealing child to his or her parent while trying to catch a glimpse of my waiting son.

We made eye contact and her smile tightened into a thin line. As the classroom emptied, she called for my son whose tackle-style hug nearly knocked me to the ground.

Curling her finger, the teacher beckoned me closer. “We had a little problem today,” She whispered. As I tried to keep my energetic preschooler still, I mentally ran through various possible scenarios, which would cause this particular look on the teacher’s face.

I wondered, did he bite, hit, hurt someone? None of these actions were ones I’d ever witnessed my son take but something serious had to account for the teacher’s ominous tone.

Taking a deep, shaky breath, I asked what happened. Seeming exasperated, she sighed deeply before informing me that my four-year-old couldn’t sit still for circle time. Slightly confused, I asked, “And what happened?”

Appearing as though it was obvious, she responded that he got up and tried to look at other things in the classroom with little interest to hearing the end of the story. I promised we would work on it.

Stressed, I lagged behind my son as he excitedly pulled me towards the playground. Watching my kiddo bounce up the stairs, I wondered how I was going to keep my active, curious, normal four-year-old still.

Then I wondered if I should.

It’s important to emphasize that I don’t let my child run loose like a crazed monkey. In our house we have rules, keep a consistent schedule, and insist on manners and kindness. We also, however, have very active boys.

It’s also important to me that my children understand the importance of school rules. I insist they learn and follow them, but what happens when some of the expectations are unreasonable?

I recognize and agree that circle time, depending on the curriculum, serves an important purpose in the cognitive and social development of young children.

Intellectually, they learn problem-solving skills and rudimentary mathematical concepts. During this time children are also given the opportunity to discuss the weather, animals, or other areas of interest, which enhances a child’s ability to make observations.

Circle time also helps children develop socially and emotionally by providing a nurturing and encouraging environment to share their thoughts and ideas. This time as a group fosters a sense of community, which gives children a sense of belonging.

For all these reasons, I want my son to be a part of and benefit from this time. However, the problem occurs when the structure is too stringent.

Child development experts say the attention span of a four-year-old is fifteen minutes, yet circle times sometimes go beyond this limit causing a small child to disengage and fidget. Also, at this age children cannot sit perfectly still with their hands on their lap. And if not interested in a particular activity, a child will disengage.

Setting realistic expectations, allowing children to move a bit, and discontinuing an activity when children’s interest wanes are all means to ensure a successful story time. These are also ways to make sure each child succeeds.

The following day, I neared my son’s classroom to see his teacher, smiling. Brightly, she said, “He sat very well today.”

I scooped up my little guy and smiled. I was glad he sat well. In truth, though, I am happier that he is an energetic, curious, and active little boy. After all, he’s only four and only will be for a brief and fleeting time.

So, are we taking circle time too seriously? Only when we forget they are still children and sometimes need their time to just be kids.

About the author

Sherry Parnell

Sherry Parnell is a mother, writer and a runner just not always in that order. She lives in the country with two rambunctious little boys, one very supportive husband, and one sleepy Chihuahua. In addition to being a nose wiper, lunch packer and wrestling referee, Sherry is also the author of the book, Let The Willows Weep. She is currently completing her second novel due to be released next year if she can survive another winter of colds, complaints and disrupted sleep. You can find more posts about her experiences as a mother and a writer on her personal blog at https://sherryparnell.com/

  • Ah, I have so many mixed emotions on this being a mom and having teaching experience. As a teacher, it is exhausting because you’re not just trying to monitor one child, but 10 or more usually. It’s also a safety thing because if she stays focused on the story and the kids who are listening…something might happen when he walks away and wanders. It’s also a learning thing because as he gets used to school and structure, etc. it’s important to recognize that there are times to wander and play with friends and speak freely, but there are quiet times too where we need to listen to others.

    My boys are 17 months now, so we haven’t experienced school life yet, just mommy’s version lol. I am sure they will have the same issue! Kids will definitely be kids and get up and run around and they should…but like with anything, there has to be a kind of balance.