Adapting your circle to include babies

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In a slight departure from our Little League week, I wanted to share some ideas for those of you with itty bitties as well as preschoolers. Sometimes it seems difficult to have circle time with little babies crawling about. And yet I feel that circle time is one of the most important, sweetest times of the day. Here are some ideas to add your littlest family members to your circle.

1. Personalize it.

Babies (OK, all children!) love to hear their names. So if, for example, we were doing the Sunshiny Days circle I posted here, I would change the gathering song as follows:
Come, little Molly, come dance, every one.
Come, little Matthew, and smile in the sun.
Come now, my friends, to the circle with me.
Let us join hands in our circle.

Babies who are just coming into awareness of who they are love to hear their names in song.

2. Repeat, repeat, take your time and repeat some more

It’s OK to do things more than once. In the gathering song above, I repeat the first verse until anyone who is going to participate (usually my four-year-old, the two babies, and sometimes my seven-year-old) are gathered in the living room and fully engaged in our circle time. Only then do I move on to the second verse and light the candle.

3. Help your baby with some moves

In the circle linked above, my older children used the following as a stretching rhyme:
In the morning the sun in low.
At noon, he’s overhead.
In the evening he dips again
Before he goes to bed!

Since the babies can’t stand and stretch very well, I hold them during this, dipping them down when the sun in low and lifting them high overhead at “noon.” Since I have two babies, this is a good opportunity to practice my “repeat, repeat, repeat” advice.

4. Give your big kid a baby.

Sometimes it can be hard for little people to wait while you’re repeating songs with the baby. If your little guy has a baby doll of his own, he can repeat the songs and rhymes with his baby while you take a turn with yours.

5. Add props.

We had been adding silks to this part of our circle:
Can you guess what woke me this morning,
What made me jump out of bed?
‘Twas a sunbeam’s kiss on my forehead
That said, “Wake up, sleepyhead!”

This morning we found that the babies LOVE it when you whisper the little silks over their faces. This also led to a fun game of peek-a-boo! Silks are one of my favorite props to add to circle time with babies, but you can also add egg shakers or rattles, baby-safe bells, large drums that everyone can bang on at once,or balls with chimes.

Kindermusik is one of my favorite sources for baby-safe instruments.

6. Try a lap bounce.

In our Sunshiny Circle, we enjoyed Sally Go Round the Sun. I mean we REALLY enjoyed it. We end up singing this one over and over and over and over and over again. The babies like to do this one as a lap bounce. If you have a baby, you know how much they love bouncing. When you help your baby bounce to a rhythm in circle, you’re helping her develop a sense of steady beat. You’re strengthening her vestibular system. You’re helping her to connect words to actions and to anticipate verbal cues. But most of all, you’re just having fun.

7. You gotta know when to fold ’em…

If your baby isn’t ready for circle or isn’t into it that day or would rather eat his toes, that’s OK. If Baby is content hanging out on the edges and watching, that’s OK. And if you have to hang out nursing while you sing songs and your older kid goes a little wild, that’s actually OK too.

Because in the end, it’s not about creating a picture perfect tableau of a “perfect circle.” It’s about creating connections with your children.