Fixing Circle Time For Preschoolers With Low Muscle Tone


School is starting again.  For kids with hypotonia (low muscle tone), circle time isn’t always their best activity.

  • All that sitting.  In one spot.
  • All that waiting for their turn with the special hat or toy.
  • All that paying attention…while sitting and waiting.

Occupational therapists are often asked to come in and stop the fidgeting, the leaning, and the lounging seen from kids with low tone.  No therapist is surprised.  The longer you make a child sit still without any external support, the more desperate they become to either get up or remain in one place.

Think about standing in line for HOURS without any ability to leave.  You lean from one foot to another.  You rock from your toes to your heels.  As hours go on, you will eventually crumple into a spot on the floor.  This is what it is like for a child in circle time when they have low muscle tone.

What can you do?

  1. Some kids do well with sitting on a balance disc or a Move ‘n Sit cushion.  Some move too much and distract their friends.  A trial will tell you if it will work, but don’t put all your hopes on this one.
  2. Some kids do well with a folding seat that has a back, and some figure out that they can rock a lot in it.
  3. Other kids need to have their back against a wall for support.  The circle location may need to move to allow that, and this is at the discretion of the staff.  It takes a flexible and compassionate teacher to understand that this is what a child needs, not special treatment.
  4. Circle times have expanded over the years.  I have witnessed 20-minute circle times for three year-olds.  This is a long time for this age group.  Many circle activities are fillers, with information that is beyond the grasp of very young children.  It looks great, but most kids are picking their noses during much of the discussion.  Small group work would be more effective and probably more fun for the kids.

If your child has hypermobility, I wrote the  JointSmart Child series JUST FOR YOU!  They offer you practical solutions that WORK!  

The Joint Smart Child.inddThe Joint Smart Child.indd

Volume One has ideas for kids from birth-5, and Volume Two addresses the needs of kids 6-12.  

Want a great deal?   Your Therapy Source   sells them as printable downloads, and their versions have been updated for 2021, with more handouts you can use at your CPSE/CSE meetings, and also with your child’s teachers. Learn how to pick the best chairs, pencils, and sports equipment.  Learn why toilet training is not as easy as you’d like. Volume One now has a series of tracing pages that develop skills for handwriting, and Volume Two now speaks to how hypermobility is affected by the emergence of puberty, which is happening to many girls and boys before age 10!

My books are also available as paperbacks or digital downloads (readable with their free app on any device!)  on Amazon

By Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist, licensed massage therapist, and certified CBT-i sleep coach in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment. It has been a joy to help people of all ages improve their ability to grow and thrive! Occupational therapists are focused on enhancing a client's functioning in everyday life. We are practical healthcare providers, interested in teaching, adapting actions and environments, and building a client's useful skills for living their best life, regardless of their challenges. I am the author of five books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training the Autistic Child". I lecture on many subjects, including sleep, trauma, and development. Contact me to learn more about how I can help you achieve YOUR goals!

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