Circus preschool lesson plans, including arts and crafts, games, math, science, group time activities, songs, and snack ideas.

Theme Concepts:

Clowns, trains, lions, tigers, elephants, bears, trapeze artists, popcorn, cotton candy, pretzels, peanuts, big top tents, balloons, tight rope walker, ringmaster, three rings, strong man, juggler, stilt walker,

Arts and Crafts

Cookie Cutter Painting

Put a small amount of tempera paint in a large shallow container. (A pie tin works well.) Show your child how to dip the cookie cutter in the paint and press onto a piece of paper to create a print. You can make circus pictures by using animal cookie cutters and colored paper.

Clown Plates

Clown Paper Plates

Attach a Popsicle stick to the back of a paper plate. Attach a slightly inflated balloon to the center of the plate for the nose. Allow the children to decorate the plate with markers, paint, yarn or googly eyes. Add tissue paper to the Popsicle stick for a bow tie.

Popcorn Kernel Painting

First you need a large plastic container with a lid. (I used a shallow peanut butter container). Next cut out paper that will fit in the lid of the container. Place a few drops of paint into the container with a few kernels of corn (be sure to observe carefully as kernels of corn are a choking hazard) then place a very small amount of paint on the lid and pre-cut paper on the paint. (I use the paint to make the paper stick to the lid). Place the lid on the container, flip and have the children shake. When finished, remove paper and allow to dry, and place a clean piece of paper in the lid for the next child.

Clown Faces

Materials: paper plate, precut shapes, yarn, pom poms, glue.
Have the children make a clown face using the precut shapes and pom poms for facial features, the yarn for hair.

Lion Paper Plates

Have the children paint a paper plate yellow or brown. After the paint has dried, have the children use a hole punch around the rim of the plate. Supply the children with yellow, orange and brown yarn pieces, about two inches in length. The children should place a piece of yarn in a hole and tie it. Continue until there is yarn all the way around the plate. At this point the children may cut out the facial features to make a mask, or glue on facial features.

Bear Ears

Measure your child’s head, and cut a piece of brown construction paper long enough to create a headband. Glue the paper together so the headband fits snugly on your child’s head but is loose enough to take off easily. Cut from brown paper two ears. Let your child help you glue the ear to the headband. It’s okay if it’s a little off, it’s art! Have fun, and encourage your child to act like a bear.

Tiger Stripes

Supply each child with orange and black paper. Have the child tear the black paper into thin stripes, then glue onto the orange paper.

Train Track Craft

Train Tracks

In a pie tin, place 3 to 5 teaspoon sized portions of different colored tempera paint evenly spaced about the area. Supply the children with washable toy cars that have wheels that roll. Have the children dip the wheels in the paint and roll across the paper.

Train Cars

Give each child a small rectangle shape to decorate as they wish. Ie with crayons, markers, paint, glitter, string etc. After each child is done, add two wheels and display the papers as if each were a box car on a train, add an engine and caboose.

Train Whistles

Supply each child with an empty plastic soda bottle. Invite the children to decorate the bottle however they wish. With stickers or glue on paper etc. To make the whistle sound, blow across the bottle’s opening. Have the children blow all at once and pretend to be a train.

Train Shapes

Supply the children with many different shapes. Show them how to make a train from their shapes.

Balloon Print Craft

Balloon Prints

In a pie tin, place 3 to 5 teaspoon sized portions of different colored tempera paint evenly spaced about the area. Inflate a small balloon to a size which will easily fit in the palm of your child’s hand. Show your child how to “dip” the balloon in the paint and press firmly onto a piece of paper. Let your child mix the colors, or use one color at a time. This is messy, but the results are wonderful.

Fingerprint Balloon

Fingerprint Balloons

Put a small amount of tempera paint in a small shallow container. (The metal lid of a juice bottle works well) Show your child how to dip his/her finger in the paint and make a fingerprint on a piece of paper. (Alternative: Use a non-toxic ink pad) have your child make several fingerprints in several different colors. After the paint dries, have your child draw strings on the fingerprints as if they were balloons. (Alternative: glue on string or yarn.)

Fingerprint Lion

Fingerprint Lions

Put a small amount of tempera paint in a small shallow container. (The metal lid of a juice bottle works well) Show your child how to dip his/her finger in the paint and make a fingerprint on a piece of paper. (Alternative: Use a non-toxic ink pad) have your child make several fingerprints using yellow or light brown paint. After the paint dries, add the facial features with a pen.

Fingerprint Monkey

Fingerprint Monkeys

Put a small amount of tempera paint in a small shallow container. (The metal lid of a juice bottle works well) Show your child how to dip his/her finger in the paint and make a fingerprint on a piece of paper. (Alternative: Use a non-toxic ink pad) have your child make several fingerprints using yellow or light brown paint. After the paint dries, add the facial features with a pen.

Fingerprint Trains

Fingerprint Trains

Put a small amount of tempera paint in a small shallow container. (The metal lid of a juice bottle works well) Show your child how to dip his/her finger in the paint and make a fingerprint on a piece of paper. (Alternative: Use a non-toxic ink pad) have your child make several fingerprints with many different colors of paint. After the paint dries, add the wheels, smoke stack and other features with a pen.

Balloon Paper

Cut out a balloon shape from a big piece of paper. Have your child decorate the balloon. When the art is dry… attach a piece of yarn for the string.

Balloon Faces

Blow up balloons for each child. Allow the children to draw faces on the balloons with permanent markers. Be very careful with permanent markers, as they stain clothing.

String Balloons

Blow up a small balloon. Have the children dip string into glue, and place onto the balloon. Make sure there are no big holes. After the glue dries pop the balloon. Tie on a dry piece of string to hang from the ceiling.

Plunger Balloons

Obtain a new plunger. Supply your child with a little tempera paint. Allow your child to dip the plunger in the paint and then press onto a piece of paper to make a print. Then glue on strings as if the circle shapes were balloons.

Paper Plate Balloons

Allow your child to decorate a paper plate as they wish. Then glue on a string to make a balloon.

Balloon Necklace

Cut out balloons shapes from construction paper and punch a hole in the balloon. Have the children thread one or many balloon shapes onto a piece of yarn to make a necklace.

Sponge Print Balloons

Supply the children with a circle sponge and ample paint and paper. Have the child make circle prints with the sponge, then after the paint is dry have the child glue on yarn to create balloons.

Popcorn Buckets

Supply the children with precut red and white strips of construction paper, and yellow paper. Have the children glue the red and white strips on their paper for the bucket and tear the yellow paper for the popcorn.

Clown Hats Collage

Have the children glue scraps of paper and cloth to precut clown hat shapes.

Clown Hats

Have the children paint precut clown hat shapes.

Clown Hats 2

Have the children glue holes from a paper hole punch to precut clown hat shapes.

Clown Hats 3

Have the children use bingo dabbers on precut clown hat shapes.

Clown Hats 4

Have the children glue confetti on precut clown hat shapes.

Clown Hats 5

Have the children glue buttons onto precut clown hat shapes.

Ringmaster Megaphone

Have the children decorate black paper with chalk, paint, paper scraps etc. Then fold into a megaphone shape. Tape or staple the megaphone.

Games, Math and Science


Have the children juggle with one bean bag. (throw up and catch) If they master that.. see if they can do two.

Tight Rope Walking

Place masking tape on the floor, or tape a piece of yarn onto the floor for the children to walk along, while pretending they are a tight rope walker.

Bean Bag Toss

Supply the children with animal bean bags and a laundry basket. Place a piece of masking tape on the floor for a throw line. The distance from the basket to the line should vary with abilities. Have the children throw the bean bags into the basket.

Bear Bowling

Obtain 10 half-gallon milk cartons or 2-liter bottles. Fill the bottles about 1/8 full with water and seal the lid. Then, decorate the bottles like bears, adding construction paper ears, and use permanent markers for the eyes and nose. Set the bottles up like they were bowling pins and have the children roll a ball to try to knock them over. If they don’t knock over easily, remove some of the water.

Animal Crackers Jar

For older children. Fill a small jar with Animal Crackers. Ask each child to guess how many Animal Crackers are in the jar. For younger children, limit the number of Animal Crackers to less than ten. Record each child’s guess. Count the Animal Crackers.

Animal Crackers Jar for School-Age Children

Provide three identical jars with pre-counted Animal Crackers of 20, 30, and 40. Label these jars 20, 30, and 40. Place 20 to 40 Animal Crackers in a fourth identical jar. Allow the children to examine all four jars before they guess. Record the children’s approximations. Count the Animal Crackers.

Ringmaster Keeper May I?

Played just like Mother May I? The child and parent stand at opposite sides of a room. The child asks if he/she may: take so may step forward. i.e. “Mother may I please take 3 baby steps forward?” the answer would be either, “Yes you may,” or “No, you may not.” The child wins when they reach you. Encourage the use of descriptive words, such as little, big, huge, tiny, and giant. You can also play this with a group of children. The winner would be the one who reaches you first.

Lion, Lion, BEAR!!!

Played like “Duck, Duck, Goose” except the children will go around the circle, and say “Lion” instead of “duck” and “Bear” instead of “Goose.”
(Substitute Bear for other zoo animals)

Ringmaster Says

Played just like “Simon Say” except the teacher says “>Ringmaster Says.” With younger children, do not make children sit out… just say “Ringmaster didn’t say.”

Bear Stomp Musical Chairs

If the children made bear headbands, have them wear them during this activity. Arrange the chairs in a circle. If you have younger children, it is best to have too many chairs. This can be a game where everyone wins. Have the children stomp around the chairs until the music stops. Then everyone finds a chair.

Musical Circus

Cut out animal shapes from colored paper. Laminate them and cut them out. Place them on the floor. It is best for younger children to have more animals than children. Play music and have the children walk around the room. When the music stops, each child needs to find an animal to stand on.

Pass the Bear

Played like hot potato. Have the children sit in a circle and pass stuffed bear around the circle when music is playing, when the music stops the child holding the bear sits in the middle or the “bear pot” until the music stops again and the next child replaces the first. You may also chant “Pass the Bear, Pass the Bear, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10” and the child who has the bear on 10 is in the “bear pot.”

Stamping Patterns

Use circus animal rubber stamps to create a simple pattern on the top half of a piece of paper. Ask your child to help you recreate the pattern on the bottom half of the paper. Tip: Start with one stamp, and have your child pick which stamp you used. Start slowly and work your way up to more complicated patterns.

Balloon Powered Train/Car

You will need scissors, tape, a straw and a round balloon. Cut off the lip of the balloon. Cut the straw in half. Stick the straw into the balloon and tape it in place, be sure to make a tight seal. Tape the straw to the top of a car or train so the straw is off the end. blow up the balloon through the straw and seal the balloon by pinching the straw. Set the car down on a smooth surface and let it go.

All Aboard the Color Train

Cut out many “tickets” from different colors of construction paper. Give each child three or four tickets. Tell the children that you are the conductor of a Color Train and they can ride the train if they have a ticket that matches the color you call. Set up chairs or have the children line up to march around the room. Announce “All aboard the Red Train” or the color of your choice. Have the children give you their ticket and have them march around the room. After a minute, announce a new color. Variations: use numbers, letters or shapes instead of colors.

Clickety Clack

Have the children spread out around the room. Pick one child to be the engine of the train. Give each child a ticket with a number on it. The ticket should be large enough so the number can be clearly seen. Have the child who is the engine pick up the passengers in order. For younger children, just have them pick up the passengers, or have them use color tickets, pick up the red, then orange and so on.

Train Movement

Divide your class into three groups. Have each group form a train. Instruct the children to move around the class and remain connected (hands on the shoulders on the person in front of them). Every minute or two switch engines.

Whistle Game

Have all the children line up and make a train. Instruct the children that one short whistle means stop and two short whistles means go slowly. If they do well with the two signals add more, three whistles mean back up, 1 long whistle, stop and turn around etc.

Train Sort

Set up a few boxes to make them look like train cars. Supply the children with different things (cargo) to sort into the boxes. Ask them to sort by color, shape, texture, etc. Or let them sort and tell you how they chose to sort the items.

Number Train

Cut out a train engine and 5 boxcar shapes from construction paper. (You may choose to laminate them to make them last longer. Number the cars from 1 to 5, then ask the children to line the cars up in order.

How Far will It Go?

Place a train at the top of a ramp and ask the children how far it will go. Record their answers with making tape with each child’s name on it. If you do this on carpet first switch to a smooth surface and try it and vice versa. Try a different train or a car.

Box Car Train

Connect three or four boxes together to form a train for the children to play in. Decorate the boxes like a train.

Teddy Bear Train

Obtain a box that the teddy bear will fit into. Have the child decorate as desired. When dry, poke a hole big enough to thread a piece of yarn through. Tie a piece of yarn, just long enough for the child to hold, while the box rests on the floor. Let the child pull the train around with their Teddy Bear.

Balloon Safety

Talk about balloon safety with your child. Tell them that it is not safe to place a balloon in your mouth. Tell the children what they should do if a balloon breaks, and other rules for balloon play.

Balloon Power

Materials needed:

    20 to 30 small balloons
    A large garbage bag

Fully inflate a small balloon. Ask your child what will happen if they sit on it. Let your child try it. If it doesn’t pop have your child jump on the balloon to pop it. Inflate enough of the small balloons to fill the garbage bag. Seal the bag and have your child sit or even jump on the bag. You may want try Jet Balloons and Singing Balloons (listed below) while inflating the balloons for this activity.

Jet Balloons

Inflate a balloon. Ask your child, “What will happen if I let go?” Then let go!

Singing Balloons

Inflate a balloon. Stretch the neck of the balloon so the air escapes slowly causing the balloon to “sing” or vibrate.

Balloon Tap

Count how many times you and your child can tap a balloon before it touches the ground. If you have a stopwatch, time yourselves to see how long you can keep the balloon in the air.

Balloon Sort

Have your child sort inflated balloons by color or size. Have your child count the balloons.

Static Balloons

Learn about static electricity by rubbing a balloon on a child’s head, then stick it onto the wall. Children think this is the best game because they can do it themselves too.

Square Balloons

Fill a balloon half full with water. Place the balloon in a square container, then place in the freezer. When frozen take out of the freezer. Show the children what you have done. Ask them what will happen when the ice melts. Find out.

Balloon Sorting

Supply your child with many different colored balloons. Have your child sort the balloons according to the color.

Balloon Color Chart

Make a chart that has a column for each color of the balloon that you have. Give each child two or three balloons. Have one child at a time add their balloons to the chart according to color. Then after all the balloons are taped to the chart… count each column. How many red balloons are there? And so on.

Confetti Balloons

For older children only with close adult supervision!. Fill a balloon for each child with some confetti and blow it up. Allow each child to pop a balloon! BANG!

Balloon Bean Bag Game

Cut out three balloon shapes from a piece of cardboard. Paint around the shapes with three different colors and glue on three pieces of yarn for balloon strings. When dry, prop up the cardboard and have the children play bean bag toss, trying to get the bean bags in the balloon holes.

Group Time and Songs

Sand Table Idea

Add plastic bears, lions, tigers, and elephants to your sand table.

Dramatic Play Idea

Add plastic bears, lions, tigers, and elephants to your block area. Encourage the children to build a circus.

Dress Up

Supply the children with costumes of animals, or characters normally found in a circus.

Circus Animal Picnic

Invite the children to bring their favorite stuffed animal. The animal should be one commonly found in a circus. Have a picnic on the floor or outside with each child’s favorite animal. You can either pretend to eat, or have a snack or lunch picnic style.

Bear Foot Prints

Make bear footprints from construction paper. Laminate them. Place them on the floor for the children to follow.

Circus Field Trip

You can schedule a clown or a juggler to come in. You could also go to a local circus.

The Bear Went Over the Mountain

Sung to “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”
The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
To see what he could see

To see what he could see,
To see what he could see

The other side of the mountain,
The other side of the mountain,
The other side of the mountain,
Was all that he could see

Was all that he could see,
Was all that he could see,
The other side of the mountain,
Was all that he could see!

Kinds of Bears

Discuss the different types of real bears. Polar bears, grizzly bears, etc.

Circus Animal Day

Invite each child to bring in a stuffed animal.

Vote and Graph it

Have the children vote for their favorite circus animal and graph the results. Which animals did most children like the best?

Black Bear

Black Bear, Black Bear, Turn around.
Black Bear, Black Bear, Touch the ground.
Black Bear, Black Bear, Shine your shoes.
Black Bear, Black Bear, Skidoo.

Black Bear, Black Bear, Go upstairs.
Black Bear, Black Bear, Say your prayers.
Black Bear, Black Bear, Turn out the light.
Black Bear, Black Bear, Say good night.

(Substitute Black Bear with lion, tiger, elephant, ringmaster, etc.)

Special Song

Sung to “Where is Thumbkin?”
(Animal’s Name) are Special,
(Animal’s Name) are Special,
Yes they are,
Yes they are,
(Animal’s Name) are Special,
(Animal’s Name) are Special,
Yes they are,
Yes they are.



Spread peanut butter on a graham cracker, add two banana slices for wheels, and a triangular piece of cheese for the front of the engine. Use a small cracker for the smoke stack and away we go!

Bread Engines

Cut a bread square into two rectangles. Put one of the rectangles on a piece of foil and cut the other into two squares. Put one of the squares above the rectangle to make a cab for the engine and cut the other square into two triangles. Put one triangle above the cab and the other in front of the engine. Spread the train with tomato sauce, sprinkle with cheese and add sliced tomatoes for the wheels. Bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees

Balloons Snacks

For a snack use any of the following for the balloon:

    Sliced Bananas
    Sliced Oranges
    Sliced Cucumbers
    Sliced Egg

Round Crackers

And use cheese spread in a can for the string.