37 Fun Circle-Time Games and Activities: A Must for Any Teacher

Updated on January 23, 2019
Talisker profile image

During my years as a teacher, I built up quite a collection of tried-and-true circle-time games that are not only fun but also educational.

Need some new ideas for circle time? Here are 37 great games and activities to keep things fresh and fun.
Need some new ideas for circle time? Here are 37 great games and activities to keep things fresh and fun.

Having taught for a number of years, I have built up a collection of tried-and-proven circle-time games which have not only been enjoyable for the children but beneficial too. Many of these games encourage teamwork and social interaction. As a result, children soon learn that a positive attitude can lead not only to success but also to immense enjoyment.

The games in this article are geared toward primary-school-age children (5–11), however, some that require higher levels of cooperation and problem-solving are more appropriate for the later primary ages (roughly 8–11). That being said, each of the following activities can be adapted by teachers to suit his/her class needs and requirements. In fact, some of these games would even work for preschoolers!

The learning objectives of each game and any necessary materials are listed below each activity. It is worth printing these out, cutting them up and popping them in a circle-time drawer. Then if you ever have a spare 20 minutes or a wet day, you can delve in and start having fun. Beware, there will be a lot of giggling!

1. Snap

Give each child a card, then—without showing their cards—have them find the classmate with the matching card. This done, play the game again, but this time, have them find their partner without talking.

Materials: picture cards or snap cards

Learning Objectives: working together, problem-solving, cooperation, communication

Bonus: physical activity

2. All Aboard

Split into 5–10 groups with several students each. Each group has several spots. Can they all stand on the spots? Now take one away spot, two spots, three spots, etc. and see if the students can fit on the remaining spots! Have the kids hold still for 3 seconds without touching the floor. You can also use hoops for this, or get the whole class to stand in a hoop.

Materials: spots to stand on (anything from paper or plastic circles to hula hoops)

Learning Objectives: working together, problem-solving, cooperation, communication

Bonus: physical activity

3. All Change

Children stand in a circle and the teacher taps one on the shoulder. The child starts an action (e.g. clapping), which the others have to follow. The teacher then taps another on the shoulder and the children change to the new action that student comes up with. This can also be done with sounds!

Learning Objectives: problem-solving, cooperation, communication, working together, leadership, creativity, improvisation

4. Handwriting

In pairs: Each child takes it turns drawing a shape on their partner’s hand using a finger. Their partner must close their eyes and guess what the shape is.

In a circle: Children are to pass the shape around without talking and see if the shape is the same at the end. Just like telephone!

Learning Objectives: problem-solving, cooperation, communication, working together, leadership, self-confidence, decision-making

5. Whose Voice Is That?

Children stand in a circle. One blindfolded child stands in the middle. A child from the outer circle makes an animal noise and the blindfolded child has to guess who made the noise.

Materials: blindfold

Learning Objectives: problem-solving, cooperation, communication, working together, leadership, self-confidence, decision-making, trust, creativity, improvisation

6. Jigsaws

Give every child a part of a puzzle or picture. The child has to find which other children have the rest of their puzzle and put it together. They must then work together to complete the puzzle as quickly as possible.

Materials: a selection of laminated pictures or puzzle pieces

Learning Objectives: problem-solving, cooperation, communication, working together, leadership, self-confidence, decision-making

Through the Hoop is a fun and silly game that fosters teamwork and communication.
Through the Hoop is a fun and silly game that fosters teamwork and communication.

7. Through the Hoop

  • Have the children stand in a big circle.
  • The teacher chooses a place to start by inserting the hula hoop between two children in the circle and picking one to go first.
  • Starting with that first child, can everyone climb through the hoop?
  • Repeat the task with everyone holding hands.
  • Then repeat the task again, but the children aren’t allowed to use their hands.
  • For the ultimate challenge, see if they can complete the task with only one person touching the hoop.

You can also add more hoops or divide the class into smaller groups and have them race each other to get the hoop around the circle first.

Materials: hula hoop(s)

Learning Objectives: problem-solving, cooperation, communication, working together, leadership, self-confidence, decision-making, creativity

Bonus: physical activity

8. Portrait

  • Give each child a sheet of paper and a writing instrument and have them write their name in the corner of the page.
  • Have them all swap papers.
  • During the first round, give them one minute to draw the outline of their partner's head.
  • Now have them switch papers with another student.
  • They must now find the person whose name is in the corner of the paper and continue with each subsequent part of the drawing as follows: round 2, hair; round 3, eyes; round 4, nose; round 5, mouth; round 6, ears (switching papers with a new person between each round).
  • When they've completed all the rounds, have them return the paper to its original owner. Laughter is guaranteed!

Materials: paper, writing instruments

Learning Objectives: cooperation, motor skills, creativity, communication, working together, following instructions

9. Jingle Bell Pass

Children must pass the jingle ball around the circle with their hands without making a noise. Then have them pass it under and over their heads, side to side, etc.

Materials: a ball with something jingly or rattly inside

Learning Objectives: problem-solving, cooperation, communication, working together, leadership, self-confidence, decision-making

10. Sort the Cards

Give every child a card each. First, have them sort themselves into each set: clubs, spades, hearts and diamonds. To make it more complicated, have them put themselves in ascending order: Ace, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King.

Materials: a deck of cards

Learning Objectives: working together, problem-solving, following instructions, cooperation, communication

11. Blindfold—Follow Me

Have the class stand on the far side of the hall and put on blindfolds. Everyone walks towards the sound of the teacher’s (or a child volunteer’s) voice. Once the class has started moving, you can move around and continue talking.

NB: For safety, have half the class carry out the task while the other half acts as safety stewards without blindfolds. This means they have the responsibility of "redirecting" peers who might otherwise hit a wall, table, etc.

Materials: blindfolds

Learning Objectives: working together, problem-solving, following instructions, cooperation, communication, responsibility

Bonus: physical activity

12. My Rules!

One child leaves the classroom. While they're gone, the rest of the children think of a new rule, e.g. cross your legs when answering a question or only use words starting with the first letter of your name. When a rule has been decided upon, the child rejoins the group and has to guess the secret rule by asking questions and watching the other children play. (This can be done in smaller groups too.)

Learning Objectives: self-confidence, working together, problem-solving, following instructions, cooperation, communication, creativity

Cat and Mouse—also known as Duck, Duck, Goose—is a classic for a reason!
Cat and Mouse—also known as Duck, Duck, Goose—is a classic for a reason!

13. Cat and Mouse (a.k.a. Duck, Duck, Goose!)

Have the whole group stand in a circle. The ‘mouse’ walks around the outside of the circle. The mouse taps a cat on the shoulder and has to get back to his or her place before the cat can catch him or her.

Learning Objectives: self-confidence, working together, problem-solving, following instructions, cooperation, communication

Bonus: physical activity

14. Tangled Circle

Have all the children stand in a circle. Everyone puts their hands in the middle and takes hold of two different people's hands. Can the group work together to untangle themselves without letting go?

Learning Objectives: working together, problem-solving, following instructions, cooperation, communication

Bonus: physical activity

15. Elephant Lines

Have the children hold hands between their legs to make a line. Can they then make a circle? To make it more challenging, split into two teams and have them race each other.

Learning Objectives: working together, problem-solving, following instructions, cooperation, communication

Bonus: physical activity

16. Sit on My Knees

For this exercise, you will need a strong chair. Split the class into groups of six children (preferably of similar sizes). Get the first person to sit on the chair. The second person then sits on their knees, the third on theirs . . . and so on.

Materials: sturdy chair

Learning Objectives: self-confidence, working together, problem-solving, following instructions, cooperation, communication

17. Bench Boat

Put the children into groups of 6–8. One group at a time, have the children stand on a bench (make sure it's a sturdy one, first!). Can the group rearrange themselves in order of height without falling off? Try this again with age order, alphabetical order or any other order you can think of. Repeat with one child blindfolded.

NB: If possible, place soft mats to the sides of the bench so that when children fall, they don't hurt themselves. This is especially important for the blindfolded child.

Materials: sturdy bench, soft mats

Learning Objectives: self-confidence, working together, problem-solving, following instructions, cooperation, communication, trust

Bonus: physical activity

Balloon Keepie Uppie is a fun way to get kids moving and encourage teamwork.
Balloon Keepie Uppie is a fun way to get kids moving and encourage teamwork.

18. Balloon Keepie Uppie

Have the children sit on the floor in groups of 4–8. Start by tossing one balloon above each group. The aim is to keep the balloon in the air. Try it with all body parts, with no hands, with just the head, etc., then repeat with multiple balloons per group! This can also be done as one large group, but make sure students stay seated to reduce the risk of them running into one another.

Materials: balloons

Learning Objectives: working together, problem-solving, cooperation, communication, trust

Bonus: physical activity

19. Around the World

Put signs with "North", "South", "East" and "West" on the four walls of your classroom. Children start in the middle and the teacher shouts out commands as to where to sail the ship. If the teacher shouts "All 'round the world", the children have to visit all four walls and get back to the middle.

NB: If you're concerned about the "all 'round the world" portion getting too rowdy, tell the children that they can't go any faster than a walk.

Learning Objectives: working together, problem-solving, cooperation, communication, following instructions, decision-making

Bonus: physical activity

20. Wink Murder

One child (the detective) leaves the room while the rest of the children choose a murderer. When the detective enters the room again, the murderer winks at the children to kill them off while the detective isn't looking. (They can die spectacularly.) The detective has to guess who the murderer is.

Learning Objectives: working together, cooperation, communication, self-confidence

21. Who Am I?

Give all the children a sticker to wear on their foreheads that has the name of a famous character written on it. Make sure it's a character that everyone will know (e.g. Spiderman). Either in pairs or as a group (it's far more challenging in a large group), the children have to ask yes-or-no questions to figure out who they are.

Learning Objectives: working together, problem-solving, cooperation, communication, decision-making

22. Conductor

  • Have children sit in a circle, then have a volunteer leave the room.
  • While the volunteer is outside, choose another student to be the conductor.
  • The conductor chooses the first action (e.g. patting their knees) and all the other children in the circle have to mimic that action.
  • Now have the first volunteer reenter the room and stand in the middle of the circle and let the fun begin!
  • When the child in the middle isn't looking, the conductor will change the action.
  • The child in the middle has to guess who the conductor is! (To make this game more challenging, only give the guesser three tries.)

Learning Objectives: working together, cooperation, problem-solving, non-verbal communication, creativity

Feely Bag is a great way to encourage problem-solving and communication.
Feely Bag is a great way to encourage problem-solving and communication.

23. Feely Bag

Fill a bag with a selection of objects both familiar (e.g. a crayon) and somewhat strange (e.g. a Pez dispenser). One by one, have the children reach into the feely bag and guess the objects within. For more of a challenge, don't let them say what they think the items are out loud. Instead, have them write it down and compare their answers with a peer, then do a grand reveal in the center of the circle.

Materials: soft, cinch-top bag and a selection of objects (no sharp ones, please!)

Learning Objectives: problem-solving, cooperation, communication

24. Telephone

This game is a classic for a reason—hilarity is sure to ensue! The rules are simple; have students stand in a circle and choose a student to start the telephone train (or start it off yourself). The first person whispers a sentence in the ear of the person next to them, who then passes the message to the next person. This continues until you make it back to the original sentence-giver, who then tells the class both the original sentence and the new version (which is hopefully quite different!).

Learning Objectives: cooperation, communication, following instructions

25. Add On

Have the children sit in a circle and choose a volunteer to go first. The volunteer chooses a move to "pass" to the student next to them (e.g. covering their ears with their hands). The next student then has to repeat that move and add a new one of their own. Continue like this all the way around the circle and let the sequence grow longer and longer! To make this more challenging and fun, add sounds!

Learning Objectives: creativity, memory, working together, following instructions, self-confidence

26. Alphabet Shopping

Have the children in a circle and pick a volunteer to start with, then let the "shopping" begin. Starting with the first volunteer, everyone in the circle will have to construct a sentence about what they want to buy, but the item has to start with the same letter as their first name. For example, "Andy will buy an apple," "Peter will buy a piñata," etc. Bonus points if they can come up with a double-word response in which both words start with that same first letter (e.g. "Holly will buy a hula hoop")!

If you incorporate this game into your circle time often, make sure that your students don't just reuse the same item each time. Instead, encourage them to be creative and think of new ones! The same thing goes if there are multiple students with the same first letter of their name.

NB: The concept of this game is simple, but it can be challenging all the same. For this reason, I don't recommend playing it with students younger than 7 or 8 years old.

Learning Objectives: creativity, self-confidence, following instructions

27. Fruit Salad

  • Make a circle of chairs with one chair less than the number of students in your class.
  • Divide your students into groups of fruits and have one volunteer stand in the middle.
  • The person in the middle then calls out the name of one of the fruits, and all of the children assigned that fruit have to get up and find a new chair.
  • If the person in the middle calls out "fruit salad," everyone has to get up and find a new chair.

The objective is for the child in the middle to steal one of the other children's spots while they're trying to find a new chair. When this happens, the person without a chair is the new "caller outer" in the middle.

Learning Objectives: working together, following instructions, cooperation

Bonus: physical activity

Parachute games are a fun and adaptable addition to circle time.
Parachute games are a fun and adaptable addition to circle time.

10 Parachute Games

  1. Sharks: Everyone sits with the chute over their legs and shakes it vigorously. A student (the shark) sneaks around underneath the chute and grabs someone’s legs by surprise. Keep changing the shark.
  2. Tent: The group raises and lowers the chute. When the chute is up high, everyone passes the chute over their heads then sits down to create a tent with everyone inside.
  3. Teamwork: Raise and lower the parachute as a team. Go up and down slowly, then go more quickly.
  4. Jog Around: Children walk or jog around holding the parachute. They can change direction, skip, etc.
  5. Pass the Parcel: Pass the chute around, but have the children stay still.
  6. Cross the Water: Opposite children cross to their partner under the parachute while the others hold it up.
  7. Ball Boy: Roll a ball around the parachute by lifting up different sides.
  8. Cat and Mouse: Place one child on top of the parachute (the cat) and one underneath (the mouse). Then have everyone shake the parachute up and down. Can the cat find the mouse?
  9. Ball Catch and Throw: Can the group work as a team to use the parachute to propel the ball to the ceiling and catch it again? (Choose a light ball.)
  10. Golf: Can the group work together to get a ball down the hole in the middle of the parachute? Repeat this task with two teams alternately spaced around the parachute. Each team has a different-coloured ball to get down the hole.

Materials: parachute, ball(s)

Learning Objectives: cooperation, working together, following instructions, decision-making

Bonus: physical activity

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Honor Meci

    Comments

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      • Talisker profile imageAUTHOR

        Honor Meci 

        8 weeks ago from UK

        I would assume they're looking at you in action, the item of interest could be absolutely anything as long as it sparks enthusiasm and passion. Good luck!

      • profile image

        nadine Swallow 

        8 weeks ago

        i have a interview for a school mentor position, part of the interview is with 6 junior school children i have to take in a item of interest? any ideas and of what they maybe looking for?

      • Talisker profile imageAUTHOR

        Honor Meci 

        2 months ago from UK

        You are most welcome! Glad to be of use :-)

      • Talisker profile imageAUTHOR

        Honor Meci 

        2 months ago from UK

        Many thanks for your kind comments.

      • profile image

        pratiba sopori 

        2 months ago

        Ireally liked circle time as it will really help children to improvise their skills in various ways amazingly designed wow........

      • profile image

        florance 

        3 months ago

        thanks very good ideas.

      • profile image

        Robinah 

        3 months ago

        Amazing

      • profile image

        Marzia Rupani 

        5 months ago

        Good activities!

      • profile image

        fadillah 

        6 months ago

        Great article! By the way, i am interested to examine circle time further and apply it in one of my country school. I will need many references or journals to support my project. Would you mind to recommend the best references or journals for me? thankyou

      • profile image

        Manny 

        8 months ago

        These look great for my children with SEN. Thanks!

      • profile image

        Sheena Yorkshire 

        13 months ago

        Lovely selection of activities for all ages

      • profile image

        Rebina Udash 

        14 months ago

        great ideas!! thanks for sharing

      • profile image

        Anna Hope 

        16 months ago

        Wonderful ideas. Thanks to share these ideas with us!

      • profile image

        Marie Smith, New Zealand 

        17 months ago

        Thanks, what an awesome resource!

      • profile image

        Rita Renaud 

        19 months ago

        Thanks for taking the time to share these ideas with us!

      • Paraglider profile image

        Dave McClure 

        20 months ago from Kyle, Scotland

        Is Tangled Circle always possible to resolve? Without letting go. I don't think it is.

      • profile image

        Gwendolyn 

        20 months ago

        Wonderful ideas. Thanks so much I will be using these games with kids of all ages.

      • profile image

        Michelle 

        21 months ago

        Thank you so much for sharing, some really great ideas which I can explore with my preschool class! :)

      • profile image

        nancy patterson 

        24 months ago

        thanks lots of great ideas for me to use!!

      • Talisker profile imageAUTHOR

        Honor Meci 

        2 years ago from UK

        Brilliant! Glad to be of use

      • Paraglider profile image

        Dave McClure 

        2 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

        Greetings Talisker! I hadn't seen this one before. Lots of good fun ideas that would work just as well in birthday parties as in the classroom.

      • profile image

        fellow teacher 

        2 years ago

        Yes, Why don't we keep things positive instead of choosing to cut someone down.

      • profile image

        Lucy 

        2 years ago

        Thank you so much for sharing your game ideas! It´s such a big help for me. Of course no-one needs to play the games they don´t consider appropriate. I mean it´s just not fair to criticize other people´s effort to help their teaching "colleagues".

      • profile image

        Anonymous 

        2 years ago

        We call the Wink Murder game - Frog Detective instead. Same rules except instead of winking the person who is chosen by the circle sticks out their tongue. When other in the circle see it they flip over and lay on their bellies. The detective in the middle of the circle tries to find the "frog."

      • profile image

        Kaitlyn Reinhardt 

        2 years ago

        Wink Murder, really?? Totally not appropriate for preschoolers to be "choosing a murderer". Could do without that activity...

      • Larry Rankin profile image

        Larry Rankin 

        3 years ago from Oklahoma

        Great ideas for keeping kids minds growing and bodies healthy.

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