Children’s Books for 2 Year Olds: Circle Time Tips and Tricks

Developmental Needs

Two year olds are fiercely independent and have very different developmental needs than infants or preschoolers. Two year old classrooms are always busy, with children exploring, filling, dumping, touching, pushing, and pulling. How does a teacher incorporate circle time reading in a classroom of busy two year olds?

A two year olds attention span is much shorter than a typical preschooler. It is important for teachers to keep this in mind when planning a lesson for a typical two year old classroom. Children's books for 2 year olds should be short and include simple sentences, rhymes, and places for children to join in whether by moving their bodies or chanting along with the story.

A typical two year old attention span is about six minutes. Mind you, this does not mean that it is appropriate to expect a two year old to sit quietly, hands folded, and listen to an adult talk for six minutes. This means that a two year old can be expected to be engaged in one activity for about six minutes. Keep that in mind when planning lessons for a two year old classroom.

Appropriate Read-Alouds

Even though two year olds enjoy active play, it is still important to read aloud to children every day. Doing so will instill a lifelong love of reading and literacy in your child. It also gives the children a chance to relax their bodies and practice their listening skills. Below is a sampling of titles that are appropriate for teachers to use as read-alouds in a typical two year old classroom:

  • Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
  • Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes by Annie Kubler
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
  • Where is Baby's Belly Button by Karen Katz
  • Pat The Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt
  • We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
  • Hop On Pop by Dr. Seuss
  • Baby Dance by Ann Taylor
  • Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed by Eileen Christelow

Presenting Books

Now that we know the average attention span of a two year old is approximately six minutes long, it is time to carefully plan a short circle time activity. Gather the children in a large group using a short, familiar tune. For example, sung to the tune of "The Bear Went Over The Mountain":

It's time to come to the circle

It's time to come to the circle,

It's time to come to the circle!

I will meet you there.

Use the time while children are settling in to introduce the book you are going to read. Time is of the essence when it comes to circle time with two year olds. The quicker the better should be your motto when planning a large group activity with this age group. If you have chosen to read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? to the children, allow the class to join in on the repeated words and phrases. Also, give the children a chance to name the animals that the narrator of the story sees as you turn pages. Pause as you turn pages to allow children to shout out the names and colors of the animals on the page. Circle time with two years should not be a quiet affair.

Board Books

Two year olds enjoy looking at books by themselves, but often lack the fine motor skills necessary for turning pages carefully. Board books are perfect for toddlers to explore on their own because they are sturdy enough to stand up to rougher handling and page turns. Several picture books are now available as board books, which means that there will be no shortage of children's books for 2 year olds you can include in your classroom library. Some examples of titles are:

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman
  • Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss
  • Piggies by Sandra Boynton
  • Olivia by Ian Falconer

There is an art to choosing books that are developmentally appropriate for a two year old classroom. Display a wide range of board books and picture books that represent the children's cultures and interests, as well as whimsical and fun stories. Give two year olds the very best introduction to literacy and the printed word by carefully selecting appropriate books.


"The Right Stuff for Children Birth to 8: Selecting Play Materials to Support Development"; Martha B.Bronson; 1995