Sunshine Circles

Sunshine Circles ® are adult-directed, interactive group activities designed by The Theraplay Institute to promote an atmosphere of fun, caring, acceptance and encouragement that leads to better social, emotional and even cognitive development. Through playing games that emphasise cooperation and trust in a warm and nurturing environment, children develop the emotional confidence to explore and develop.

When one of the rules of the game is to "have fun" you can expect the children to enjoy the planned sessions. In our experience at Snapdragons, they have embraced getting to know each other and  looking after their friends whilst having fun. "Sunshine Circles" are used in the nurseries to help the children develop their Personal, Social and Emotional Development, supporting them to look after themselves and others, which is a key skill for life and one to encourage.

We know from brain research that when we are relaxed we learn better and absorb more information. During the sessions we encourage the children to relax and look after themselves and their friends using the "check in routine". Children readily start to rub lotion into their friends' hands, acknowledging their "baddies". They also become familiar with saying positive, supportive comments to each other, for example, "what beautiful, big, brown eyes you have" and "your hands are so strong". 

Children enjoy having their individual time and feel valued. Songs and rhythm are part of the session and all the children love the 'Toodie ta' song, with its silly actions and words. Please accept my apologies if they are driving you potty singing it! Children engage in the carefully planned activities and learn new skills.


"Check in" time, and using touch to connect with each other. 


Having fun, whilst learning and making friends, is key to "Sunshine Circles". 


Sunshine Circles create joy and build trust; they give a sense of belonging to a community. Children like having clear rules, boundaries and structure and Sunshine Circles support this. They also encourage the children to learn and practise self-control - we choose activities to get them excited and playful and then support them to calm themselves, so that, when they experience this outside of the group, they know how to control their mood. They learn how to regulate their own behaviour.


Challenge is a big part of the fun: here a child is using different parts of his body to keep the bag of balloons up in the air. A good way of getting some physical development as well.  

Nurture in the group helps all children to feel safe, relaxed and able to learn. Children enjoy the snack and unique way we "feed"; this helps the brain to relax and remember a nurturing time in their development. 


Children indicate when they want "feeding" by opening their mouths and letting us feed them. Drinking through a straw also soothes them, whilst they listen to a story. 


When I visit the nurseries, children greet me with a cry of "am I coming to play?" How wonderful and lucky I am to be part of a child's day, knowing that I can help them to develop in a nurturing way. 

Alison Shires