We used a overhead projector and made life size pictures of animals from a coloring book. We colored them and then placed them on the walls of our room with clear contact paper over them. We made a large tree trunk and the wall and hung huge green leaves from the ceiling. (You can use colored leaves in the fall.) This made a perfect circle time area and we talked about the different animals during that time. The children loved it.
We got small carpets samples that were donated to our school. (you can ask for them at carpet stores) We put the children's handprints and sponge painted their names on to the carpets. So during circle time the could sit on their special carpet. It was good if they just wanted to sit for a while too. The children started to recognize their mats after a while. They loved getting them out to hear a story.
Ask local carpet companies for their leftover carpet squares. They are usual free and add extra color and comfort to the circle time.
To help children learn their letters use letter stamps and letter carpet squares. When the children arrive in the morning stamp their hand with any letter. At circle time they need to find the carpet square with the letter that corresponds to the one on their hand.
Form a circle and begin a story or learning time by singing the song:
"I am happy, I am happy, __(child) is here to day."
A good way to learn names.
During circle time, we use a song bucket. We laminated squares of paper with a picture that is related to a song, ex. a bus for The Wheels on the Bus song. The children all take turns choosing from it and we sing their song. Even the 15 month olds get into it!