Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter Circle

This is a response to a query on how to bring circle to two active boys, age two and age five. Circle time at home can be hard with a few children and especially with just one child or very young children.

I never did circle time with my children alone at home until first grade. We had a play group that met regularly of children and parents that we did circle with when they were young (3-6) One of my children went to kindergarten and had circle as part of his morning there, five days a week.

Neither of my boys has ever really taken to circle at home, yet my fifteen year old still remembers the verses to some of the circles we did nine years ago, particularly a harvest circle with big galloping movement. He laughs about it now. He also loves language and is an articulate speaker, something I attribute to 1) that's just who he is and 2) his early exposure to beautiful and complex rhythmic language in a playful and fun way.

With the Morning Garden (nursery) children I had in my home, I was just about to give up on circle time and pack it in, when one little child led the call for the "ring around the hosey." I persisted in carrying on with these little nursery circles. They hardly changed through the year with the exception of a few well chosen seasonal pieces. The children seem to love them.

If you want to do circle at home with your children, these are my suggestions: First remind yourself that any new activity with children needs time and space to develop:

1. Anchor it in your day.

2. Do circle or ring time in the same sequence of events every day that you are home together in your daily home routine. This is often Monday through Friday.

This might look like a coming together time after breakfast and dressing and chores or after being outside, after Morning Tea, upon coming in.....

What matters most is when you and your children are likely to be focused and do it every time in the same sequence of events.

So let's imagine that the children have had a good free play and the room is a disaster with blocks strewn everywhere and shells and stones and cloths all over the floor in the room that is most suited to circle. You see the picture?

You might ring a little bell, ever so gently, and look at it as if it is magical, then sing a little song, over and over and over, so softly as you begin to pick up the room with caring and love.

3. Create and maintain a strong rhythm for the children. Rhythm is strength and health for everyone. Eugene Schwartz said that when we are punctual and keep to what we intend to do, the spiritual beings support us.

4. Don't expect regular participation or full engagement for at least three weeks. Some children won’t engage at all but may watch from the periphery. I had one child who watched from the edges.

5. Stand at your same spot on the circle and begin. (do not ask the children to join ~ just do it)

The following first verse worked well for me as a call to circle with the wee little ones with these gestures:

I nod my head, (nod head)
I clap my hands (clap hands)
and then I stamp my feet (give a good stamp or two with each foot)

I reach up high (both arms reach up)
And bend down low (hands to floor)
And then I take my seat (kneel on floor)


(sing) Good Morning to the Sun up in the sky
(hands arms opening to sun gesture)

Good Morning to the birds as they fly on by
(arms out at sides fluttering)

Good Morning to the trees so straight and tall
(arms above head straight and tall, palms together))

Good Morning to the nests where the squirrels do rest
(hands cupped against chest at heart level look down)

Good Morning everyone
(outstretch arms for hug if you like)


(Sit down on bottoms, feet touching together in middle, this works like a wheel,reach hands out to sides and up, touching neighbor if there are enough of you)

(spoken) Each one a petal
Of one great flower
(arms out stretched, sit tall)

That closes by night
(hands reach to toes, pause)

And opens with the light
(hands come up over head and open wide)


(take out your clicker sticks, pointer and tall fingers together click on opposite hand pointer and tall finger held out together and tap fingers against each other)

(sing) Kuru, kuru, kuru kai, ay ay
All the birds are singing rise

Open up your sleepy eyes (rub eyes)
(sung) Morning has come (arms up open)

The night is away (bring arms to sides on floor outstretched )
We rise with the sun (stand up)

And welcome the day


(sung) Rinca ranca rosey ray
Welcome welcome lovely day
(move in a circle sing 2 or 3 times)


(sing) In the winter garden, through the falling snow
Stars are gleaming, streaming, gleaming,
Down to earth below.


In the winter garden, seeds lie warm below
Deep and snug and oh so warm
Covered by the snow

My adaptation of Margaret Meyerkort and Nancy Foster's version in Wynstones Winter edition.


(sing) Ring around the Rosie
A pocket full of posies

Ashes, ashes
We all fall down

The cows are in the meadow eating bred and butter
A tishoo, a tishoo
We all jump up


(sing) Jump! (jump up)
Jump! (jump up)
Jump Jimmy Joe (jump)

Shake your head and nod your head and tap your toe
And you bow to your partner and you jump Jimmy Joe

(do gestures described)

Do this one 2 or 3 times


(sing) Sally go round the sun
Sally go round the moon
Sally go round the chimney pot on a snowy afternoon

( go around in a circle then all move in to center on whoosh!)


For this one, take out some silk cloths to cover the children
(Children crouch and are the "dear little plants")
( Sing) Deep in the earth buried deep so deep

A dear little plant lay fast asleep
Sleep little plant so snug and warm

Sleep little plant all winter long

The little plant slept so warm and tight

While King Winter raged with all his might


Do with gestures to the tune of I'm a little teapot:

I'm a little snowman, short and fat
Here is my broomstick, here is my hat
(hand out to side, touch head)

When the sun comes out, I melt away
(Open arms to make sun gesture and melt slowly to ground)

Down, down, down, down
Whoops! I' m a puddle
(on the floor)


( turn to each direction and make big windy whoosh sound with hands cupped around mouth like megaphone)

(sing) Old King Winter came out to play
And said I'm going to make this a very cold day
So he turned to the east ~ Whoooosh!
To the south ~ Whooosh!!
To the West Whooosh!

Then he turned to the North and said that's the best!
For my very good friend is the old North Wind
And when we play, we make a very, very, very cold day

(from Mary Theines Schunemann, Seasons Songs Book)


Sit down and sing this song, make gesture of questioning with hands?

(sing) The North Wind doth blow
And we shall have snow
And what shall poor robin do then?
poor thing!

She'll fly to the barn and keep herself warm
By hiding her head under her wing,
Poor thing.

The North Wind doth blow
And we shall have snow
And what shall poor robin do then?
Poor thing!

She'll fly to the barn and keep herself warm
By hiding her head under her wing,
Poor thing!

The North Wind doth blow
And we shall have snow
And what shall the children do then?
Poor things!

They'll sled and they'll romp
They'll move to keep warm
And play lots of games in a ring.
Poor things!


Finger play: spoken rhythmically

Five little snowmen
On a winter's day

The first one said,
"Wake up, let's have a play.

The second one said,
"Let's stomp upon the ground."

The third one said,
"Let's roll all around."

The fourth one said,
"Let's run, run, run."

The fifth one said,
"Oh dear, here is the sun"

"Oh dear!" cried the snowmen,
As they looked toward the sky.

And the five melting snowmen
Waved a fond good-bye

Goodbye dear snowmen!


(Sit quietly with hands folded in lap speak in even quieting voice)

An owl sat alone
On the branch of a tree

And he was as quiet
As quiet could be

(Make rings with thumb and pointer, hold to eyes, turn head from one side to other)

It was night and his eyes
were round like this

He looked around
Not a thing did he miss
(creep slowly and gently from hand up child's arm)

Some brownies crept up
On the branch of a tree

And they were as quiet
As quiet could be

(make flapping gesture with arms)
Said the wise old owl
To-whooo! To-whooo!

Up jumped the brownies
And away they all flew

(sit quietly, put hands in lap )

An owl sat alone
On the branch of a tree

And he was as quiet
As quiet could be



On Mother Earth I stand upright
The sun above by day gives light
The moon and stars by night


Tip toe tip toe
That's the way the fairies go

Stomp stomp stom stomp
That's the way the giants stomp
(go tip toeing and stomping off to your next adventure)

this verse is a great transition tool too in lots of situations that require moving the child from one place/situation to another, try it and see!

Hope this is helpful for you. For me it is a regular moment in the day to bring songs and verse that will be echoed in play and work through the day. It really takes adult rhythm and focus to carry it.

Read on for Circle Time :: Basic Elements of Living with Children

Enjoy and blessings on you and yours!


  1. I too think this is wonderful. I often feel a lot of pressure as a teacher to provide circle (for very young children), and yet have found that moments such as sitting at the table before snack or in the afternoon are better suited to having their attention around fingerplays, songs, and verses. There is a social and skills component to circle that can be particularly challenging for many children as well, which makes it difficult for the teacher or parent to hold the circle bringing an element of heightened self consciousness to the child. I have found success in bringing circle to the children after a period of 'rest' were lot's of physical movement throughout the morning along with songs and verses to accompany helps to orient their focus for circle later down the road. One colleague felt strongly that children should be taught to follow the circle, the teacher, and should this prove to be too difficult after various attempts to engage them, it would be better to let this activity 'sleep' for a bit. I have heard others describe offering circle despite who is participating or how- holding the 'mood'. As always, I feel it's most important how the teacher/parent feels about this- whether there is joy, or frustration and adapting accordingly.

    Thank you for all of the wonderful verses- nice to see your sequence! I especially liked the verse about the owl!

  2. Thank you for your kind words Danielle. :-) This post needs some context which I failed to provide; it came out of a response to a mom of a five year old and two year old looking for something to bring them into circle. She was assured that she does not need to do circle and that these elements can be brought in other ways throughout the day. I have gone without circle time in the morning garden and focused instead on the hand gesture games of Wilma Ellersiek which made absolutely no sense to me until I did them in a training with Kundry Willwerth. I absolutely agree with your comments about circle and very young children. Your commenta bring so many important questions, at what age are children ripe for circle?what if there is an older sibling at home? What do we do for the three year olds who are so rhythmic and want to dance around, especially when they might be the oldest in a group? does circle need to be all or nothing, follow the teacher or let it sleep? is their a consistent moment in the day to bring the fingerplays and verses to the children? I think about Ring around the Rosie? What three year old does not like to spin and fall to the ground? and the little play with the bulbs asleep in the earth? the children love to be covered in silks and gently awoken by the rain in the spring. How do we met them? And the little ones for whom such a structured activity that takes them put of their play, are we serving them? And them some of the games traditionally associated with childhood like Farmer in the Dell seem more suited to the grades school child, Let's keep the conversation going...The owl verse can be done with a finger puppet and a silk over the hand too, Suzanne Down has a version of it in her book on animal puppets. Mine is pictured here:

    The verse is a traditional one, I cannot find an author for it.


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