Ask Hello. “Should Children Sit During Circle Time?”
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NAEYC’s HELLO online forum is a great place to have conversations and create connections with peers around important early learning issues.
Excerpts from HELLO have been edited for style and length.
I’m looking for some thoughts on the most developmentally appropriate way for children to participate in circle time. I encourage children to sit “on their bottoms.” Criss-cross, legs stretched out, or knees bent are all acceptable. I have a few children who prefer to kneel or lie down on their bellies. Is it best to allow freedom of position as long as they’re engaged, or should there be a more specific requirement?
My circle times always look like I’m leading a can of worms. There are sitters, kneelers, straight-leg sitters, children lying on their tummies, and those coming and going from the group to meet their own needs (nose blowing, putting a forgotten toy away, getting a sweater). About the only things I discourage are W sitting and crawling onto another child. I gauge my group time by children’s interest levels. If they’re really focused (asking for more songs or stories), we keep going. If there’s no focus (too much wiggling), we’re done really quickly. Since I’ve been using this approach, I see much more interest in group times.
When children move to different positions, they engage different muscles in their bodies. Lying on their tummies and propping up on their forearms to see a book engages their neck, torso, back, and shoulder muscles—all of which need to be stable and developed for proper arm and hand function.
I wonder if we might reflect on why we want children to sit a particular way. If the answer is that we don’t want them bothering others, then we should be talking about respecting the space of others and making room for everyone.
As a parent of a child with special needs, I appreciate accommodations like allowing movement, leaning on a wall, or sitting in a chair. By our actions, we can teach all children to accept and make accommodations for differences.
My pre-K children are very good at sitting cross-legged, but I decided to give them the option of sitting in a chair. They love it. After a lesson on how to carry a chair, they’ve been good at moving them (although it does add a few extra minutes to transitions). I’m not sure we will continue this, but I felt like mixing things up a bit.
—Dominic, New York
I change it up! This week I served their morning snack and as the children were finishing up, I started circle time at the table. It’s working great for now.
Do you have questions or suggestions to share with your peers? Are you simply interested in reading different takes from early childhood educators around the country? Tap into the vibrant discussions on HELLO at hello.NAEYC.org/welcomehello.
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