Inside: Find out why you should replace your morning worksheets with morning tubs in preschool and kindergarten. And get inspired with easy and inexpensive morning tub ideas! Plus- grab a FREE PRINTABLE to help you get started with morning tubs!
What are Morning Tubs?
Morning tubs are plastic bins filled with hands-on activities designed to warm up students’ minds and hands for a day of learning. More and more teachers are realizing that morning worksheets are not the best way to prepare students for learning. In fact, after reading this article I’m pretty sure you’ll ditch your morning worksheets and replace them with developmentally appropriate morning tubs instead! So keep reading for ideas, inspiration, and some free printables.
Why Morning Worksheets are NOT the Answer
In many preschool and kindergarten classrooms, children start their day with a written spiral review called “Morning Work.” While it is tempting to want children to be focused and quiet right away, and while there are definite benefits to spiral reviews, there are better ways to engage your students when they arrive. Worksheets generally have a “right” answer, so we create stress right at the start of the day for students who may not understand what to do. They usually can’t be completed independently in preschool and kindergarten (even if they WERE developmentally appropriate!). So, as a teacher, you’re forced to read the directions over and over to each new child who arrives. Because children arrive in stages, some students will finish the entire worksheet and then be bored, while others will only finish 1-2 problems.
Morning worksheets cause stress for both students and teachers. They require brain power and focus that most little learners don’t have early in the morning. And they require effort on your part to copy, check, and send home. Do you see where I’m going with this? Morning worksheets are not the answer in preschool and kindergarten.
I’ve found a solution that my students and I both love. We call it “Morning Tubs,” and students can’t wait to unpack and get started on these hands-on activity tubs day after day. Morning Tubs are inexpensive and easy to set up. You can use a variety of materials from the Dollar Tree, Target Dollar Spot, Walmart, or your own craft closet! The activities are straightforward enough that students know what’s expected. But they can also be set up in ways that encourage creativity. Ready to learn more about morning tubs?
Any plastic tubs with lids will work just fine. You can even use plastic shoe boxes from the dollar store. However, I’ve found that if I invest in slightly sturdier Sterlite tubs they’re more likely to last for several years. The cheaper tubs generally crack at some point in the school year. You definitely need to choose tubs with tops because many morning tubs contain small, loose parts that could be spilled easily. You’ll also want to choose tubs that can be stacked easily. This will enable you to keep lots of morning tubs in one area without taking up too much room. Here are my two favorite plastic bins to use for morning tubs. (Please note that I’ve used affiliate links throughout this post for your shopping convenience. I earn a small commission if you make a purchase using these links, but it doesn’t cost you any additional money!
Click a link to check these out: Sterlite 6 Qt Storage Box | Sterlite 2.7 Qt Storage Box
Next, you’ll want to gather lots of hands on materials for your morning tubs. I always keep an eye out at the Target Dollar Spot for small games and manipulatives, because these are perfect for morning tubs. You likely already have many materials in your supply cabinets or craft bins that will work perfectly, too! Here’s a list with some ideas of materials you can gather to create your morning tubs.
Like all classroom routines, you need to practice from day one and practice often. The more practice you give students, the more quickly they will become independent in their morning routine. I also like to use picture cues to remind students what they need to do and when they need to do it as they arrive each morning. (For more ideas on using a visual schedule in preschool, check out THIS post.)
For my students, I have them place their nightly folder in a bucket and place their snack and lunch in a bucket. Then, they hang up their backpack and use the restroom. Finally, they choose a morning tub and get started with it at one of our small group tables.
I have about a 10-15 minute time period between the first car rider arriving and the first bus arriving. I also teach my students that as soon as they hear the bus pull up outside our door, they are to immediately clean up their morning tub, put it back in its place, and head to the rug. That’s because we only have about 20 minutes after the bus riders arrive to have circle time/morning meeting before we head to breakfast. Check out THIS POST for more ways to engage students as soon as they arrive so morning drop off isn’t stressful!
11 Easy and Inexpensive Morning Tub Ideas
- Pom Pom Transfer- Add colorful silicone cupcake liners, jumbo tongs/tweezers, and colorful pom poms to a bin. Have students pick up a pom pom and transfer it to the cupcake liner whose color matches the pom pom.
- Toothpick Transfer- Purchase toothpick holders with 3 holes in the top. Remove all the toothpicks from the container, and have students pick up one toothpick at a time and place it in one of the three holes.
- Rainbow Loom Patterns- Provide colorful jumbo craft sticks and rainbow loom bands. Have students put the bands on the craft sticks, trying to create a pattern while doing so.
- Place colorful linking cubes in a bin. Have students create AB, ABB, and ABC patterns using the cubes.
- Place some small containers of playdoh and some alphabet flash cards in a morning tub. Encourage students to create letters using the playdoh.
- Write numerals 1-10 on pieces of card stock or cardboard. Provide small colorful clothespins as well. Have students clip the correct number of clothespins on each number card.
- Attach Velcro dots to the ends of jumbo craft sticks. Have students use the sticks to build structures or letters.
- Fill a morning tub with cake pop sticks and pony beads. Have students make a pattern by sliding the pony beads onto the lollipop stick.
- Put small building materials in a tub for students to be creative with. (plus blocks, Legos, magnet blocks, etc.)
- Add alphabet punch cards and a child-friendly hole puncher to a bin.
- Place number cards and duck chip clips in a tub. Have students read the numeral and clip that many ducks on the “pond.” You can see them HERE but I found mine at the Dollar Tree for just 3 for $1!
Check out some of the morning tub ideas in pictures:
How Many Morning Tubs Do you Need?
There’s no magic number of morning tubs to have. You decide what will work best in your classroom. Because only my car riders do morning tubs while waiting for the bus riders to arrive, I generally only need 6-8 morning tubs at any given time. However, if your entire class will be doing morning tubs together you’ll need one tub per 1-2 students. Since my bus riders don’t get to do the morning tubs, they are able to choose them during center time so they don’t feel like they missed out on the activities!
Switching Out the Activities
You can fill ziploc bags with morning tub materials and keep them in a storage container. Then, periodically you can replace some of the buckets with new activities. This will keep the excitement and engagement high for your students. However, always make sure you show students explicitly how to use the materials and care for them when you introduce a new morning tub. Also, be sure the activities can be completed independently so you can take care of teacher tasks while students are engaged!
A Free Printable to Get You Started!
Are you ready to give morning tubs a try in your preschool or kindergarten classroom? These morning bins are developmentally appropriate and give excellent fine motor practice for little learners. Plus, they’re FUN! I’ve created a FREE printable for you that includes labels for up to 32 morning tubs, pictures for your to create your own visual morning routine, and printables to create the duck chip clip bin and the clothespin bin. You can get your FREE printable by filling out the form below!
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