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  • Writer's pictureLara

Hands-On Morning Work In Kindergarten and First Grade

Ugh, Worksheets!

Here's the thing, I’m not completely anti a worksheet if it's more like a recording sheet with an active piece embedded BUT often worksheets for morning work are often a little, dare I say…boring.

I said what I said.

Now I’ve had students who like them they feel like they have “big kid” work the main reason why they are not my first choice for the morning as students come in is because of the dreaded “I’m doooooonnnnneee” (In the singsong voice and I cringe)

I’m not sure why they are always in such a hurry to finish, and some kids will take their time to never get started. All of a sudden, hanging up a backpack takes 15 minutes 🤦🏽‍♀️

Enter hands-on morning work, with an unlimited amount of time it can take.

Benefits of Moring Work or Soft Start


School is not what it used to be and there are so many demands on our time and not enough time to get it done. The in-between while kids trickle in is the perfect time for I’ve heard morning work or a soft start because it eases kids into the day.


Using manipulatives or task cards for a soft start is a great way to give kids the opportunity to socialize and work on social skills like playing, sharing, and interpersonal skills that they may not have time to do during the day.

No More Copies

Once the materials are prepped, you don't have to run around in the morning to make copies or make extra copies for early finishers, or like in my case if a student spills their juice or hand sanitizer all over their paper!

Work on different skills

Since this time is not directly related to the curriculum students can work on skills like spatial reasoning, and patterns, and review previous knowledge in a low-stress, laid-back environment.

It’s fun and engaging!

Your students can use manipulatives they don't often get the chance to use for play, or they have the opportunity to switch what they use, and be a bit more creative with what they are doing! Plus it gets them in the door and unpacked faster (no stragglers here!)

So what kinds of things are your students doing....

Morning work ideas use what you have with an image of 3 bear math manipulatives and stem builders in a pattern by making number sense make sense

Ideas for Hands-On Morning Tubs

The manipulatives you already have!

I know I had things in my classrooms that I hardly ever used, things I didn't have a lot of, or items that were borderline toys. Some of my students’ favorites were bear counters, connecting cubes, snap cubes, fish counters, animal counters, and mini motor counters.

Stem toys

There are many stem toys on Amazon, but the ones my students liked the most were these snowflake-type ones and these little blocks. The Target hashtags were also a popular choice. I would put them in cloth pencil cases or these plastic ones so they each had their own little set. The plastic closer did fall off if they weren't careful. They could usually be fixed but fair warning. I haven't used these but they look like they could work.

Task Cards

Task cards are another great way to add a little something extra to morning tubs to differentiate them from straight playtime! These are some that my kids have enjoyed.

Pop It Task Cards-

Are you students obsessed with Pop Its too?

These pop-it task cards have different popped designs students have to recreate, which is a great visual for students to use without numbers to start.

Multipurpose Rekenrek Task Cards-

Rekenreks are an often underutilized tool but students really like them. Since they are more unique, they often don’t get a chance to really play with them and start to make connections between a tool like a 10 frame and a number rack. These number rack cards are big enough that kids can really count each bead if they need to and eventually move beyond counting by ones

Wikki Stix Numbers

A lot of my students love playing with wiki stix! If you want to seek in a little number and counting practice, you can use wikki stix number cards like these! You can also use those cards for tracing in sand or tracing using hair gel and food coloring. (Double bag is best to avoid a mess!)

Roll Count and Cover

A fun game you can play in the morning is called Roll, Count, and Cover with Pattern Blocks. To play, you roll a die, find the numeral that matches what you rolled, and cover it with a pattern block, there are versions with a dice numeral track to support students still making connections between a numeral can and value. It's a fun way to use the partner blocks you have in your classroom

You can save all of these morning work paperless activities here!

Graphic that says hands on morning work with an image of pop it task cards and pattern block mandala roll count and cover activity


The next few you can get in a free bundle to get your started with hands-on morning work activities!

Scoop and Graph

This is a great way to practice creating bar graphs by scooping a manipulative, counting them, and creating a bar graph to match your scoops!

Spin, Count, and Cover

Do you need your kids to practice counting? This is center is Valentines' themed but still cute! Your students will spin a suction cup spinner or use a paper clip and pencil. They will spin and then find an image that matches their number on the grid and cover it, then continue until they have covered all the images.

Inch Tile Task Cards

With these task cards, your students can either match color for color with inch tiles or they can use the minis and recreate the patterns they see.

Graphic that says "free morning work" with an image of inch tile task cards and spin count and cover

Setting Up Your Morning Work

You can decide what works best for you and your students, here are two models that you might consider when doing a soft start.

  1. Individual pouches with different manipulatives that your students can get and switch when they are ready, provided they clean up

  2. You can give each group one set of items and switch each day so that

eventually, they will get through all of them and it keeps it fresh since they can’t switch so frequently

Do you have any other ways you’ve done morning work?

Make sure to grab your freebie to get you started!

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