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Preschool Circus Theme

Just Clowning Around!  "Step right up" for this preschool circus theme! 

Did you know that "Circus Day" is May 19? But you can celebrate the fun of the circus anytime with this unit for early childhood classrooms.

Children love to learn about all things circus-related and this unit will be sure to satisfy their curiosity.

Start off by "theming" your classroom!  Decorate your space to look like the inside of a circus tent. You can hang crepe paper streamers going from the center of the ceiling to the edges.  

Hang balloons all over too (although check to be sure no one has a latex allergy before bringing in balloons).

You might also hang your parachute from the middle of the ceiling if it does not block off your sprinkler system!

Preschool Circus Theme Arts & Crafts

Children love to take home arts and crafts that remind them of all they learned during the preschool circus theme unit.

Some of the crafts below will require you to assemble the pieces ahead of time. Use your knowledge of what your students can do on their own to guide you.

Clown Hats

  1. Give child a semi-circle shape cut out of construction paper.
  2. Let them decorate one side with markers, glitter, paper scraps, etc.
  3. Fold the shape around into a hat, securing the edge with glue.
  4. Place a pom-pom on the top and get ready to "clown" around!

Balloon Animals

Give children blown-up long, skinny balloons and let them try their hand at creating balloon animals!
For a great resource, check out Balloon Twisting by The Editors of Klutz.

Under the Big Top

  1. Cut out 3 squares, 4 triangles, 3 semi-circles, and 2 stars out of construction paper or foam.
  2. Discuss the shapes with the children.
  3. Show them how to complete the circus tent (3 squares along bottom, 3 triangle on top to create roof, 1 small triangle on top of roof as a flag, 3 semi-circles as decoration on top of squares, and 2 stars in the sky).
  4. Have them copy the design and glue pieces onto piece of paper.
  5. Give each child 3 animal crackers and have them glue them on the picture to finish.

Circus Clown

  1. Give each child an empty toilet paper roll, 2 strips of construction paper about an inch wide, a clown face, and 2 pom-poms.
  2. Let them paint their toilet paper roll and decorate for the clown's body.
  3. Show them how to fold the strips of construction paper, accordian-style.
  4. Have them color the clown's face.
  5. When the roll is dry, glue the strips of paper on the sides for the arms, the face on the top, and the two pom-poms on the bottom for the feet.

Face Painting

Have children take turns coming to the art center so you can paint their faces. You could either do a full clown's face or just a small picture on their cheek. Some children do not like anything on their faces, so offer to draw a picture on their hand instead.

Here is a hypo-allergenic face paint I found that is awesome!

Dramatic Play Center

A Day at the Circus

Have a variety of props that children can use to dress up as the performers in a circus. You might want to include: a pretend whip (perhaps made with a ribbon), a ringmaster's hat, leotards, clown wigs and clothes, etc. You could also have a variety of stuffed animals that could be found at the circus like elephants, lions, tigers, camels, etc.

Field Trip

To the local circus of course! If that is not possible, there are other alternatives. You could show a circus related movie!  Here are some suggestions: Watch Dumbo or A Day at the Circus.  Click the links to go to Amazon to read more about them! the movie "Dumbo" or "A Day at the Circus" by KidSongs.

Preschool Circus Theme Gross Motor/Outdoor Ideas


Lay a rope along the ground for children to practice walking along. This activity is great for balance. You could also incorporate some math skills by measuring together how long the rope is.

Parachute Play

Play some parachute games using your parachute and some plastic balls!  Assign children to be the ball collectors so that all the children don't run for them at once as they fly out of the parachute!

Library Area Ideas

Preschool Circus Theme Books

These are some read-aloud books that will fit in perfectly with your preschool circus theme unit.

Circus by Lois Ehlert
The Circus Baby by Maud Petersham
Circus Shapes (MathStart 1) by Stuart J. Murphy
The Circus is Coming (A Golden Classic) by Hilary Knight
Clifford At The Circus (Clifford 8x8) by Norman Bridwell
If I Ran the Circus (Classic Seuss) by Dr. Seuss
See the Circus by H.A. Rey
Spot Goes to the Circus by Eric Hill

Math Center

Clown Matching

Create several clown faces that have colored collars. Make the same number of clown hats in the same colors. Children must match the hat to the clown that has the same color collar.

Science Center

Power of Air

Place confetti on a table. Blow up a balloon, but do not tie it shut. Ask the children what is inside the balloon. Explain that even though we can't see the air, it still can affect other things. Show the children what happens to the confetti when you release some air from the balloon. Ask the children if they can think of other things air/wind can do.

Preschool Circus Theme Snacks

Animal Crackers

I love the Barnum & Bailey ones that come in an individual size box for this theme!  I found them at Amazon for under $1.70 each!

Ice Cream Clowns

Put a scoop of ice cream into a bowl or on a plate. Put a sugar cone on top for the hat. Use candy to decorate his face - M&M's or blueberries for eyes, licorice for mouth, red gumdrop or raspberry for the nose.

Circus Bags

Give each child a white paper bag. Have them color red stripes on them so they look like the bags at the circus. Fill with peanuts and/or popcorn (check for nut allergies first).

Clown Cupcakes

Give each child a cupcake with white frosting and a sugar cone for the hat. Let them decorate clown's face with the same materials as for the Ice Cream Clowns (above). You could even give them a couple of tufts of cotton candy for "hair" that's poking out of the hat. 

Preschool Circus Theme Songs

What could be more fun than to learn songs to go along with your preschool circus theme? Here are some favorites:

Did You Ever See a Clown (Sung to the tune of Did You Ever See a Lassie?)

Did you ever see a clown,
a clown
a clown?

Did you ever see a clown,
Move this way and that?

Move this way and that way!
Move this way and that way!

Did you ever see a clown,
Move this way and that? 

Add your own lines and act them out such as:
Have you ever seen an elephant...sway his trunk this way and that way...

Take Me Out to the Big Top (Sung to the tune of Take Me Out to the Ballgame)

Take me out to the Big Top,
Take me out to the show.
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks,
I don't care if I never go back.
Cause it's clap, clap, clap for the jugglers
and laugh, laugh, laugh for the clowns
For it's one, two, three rings of fun 
at the old big top!

Clown Song (Sung to the tune of I'm a Little Teapot)

I'm a little circus clown, short and fat
Here is my tummy, here is my hat
I can do a trick as you can see
Just turn around and look at me

Give each child a turn to come to the middle of the circle and show off a trick they can do!

We Are Clowns Today (Sung to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell)

We are clowns today,
We are clowns today,
Heigh-ho the derry-oh,
We are clowns today.

Additional verses:
We do tricks today....
We make faces today....
We fall down today....

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