Coming up with activities and ideas for kindergarteners to do when they finish their work early is a challenge. Giving 5 and 6 year olds more paper-pencil tasks is not developmentally appropriate and probably not engaging either. Early finisher activity bins are a great hands-on option. These are my 5 favorite activities for early finishers in kindergarten.
My biggest advice for using early finisher bins is to choose materials and manipulatives that you can use all year long that give students an opportunity to practice fine motor skills. Then you can switch out the activity mats but keep your expectations the same. This way you aren't spending time teaching your students how to use the bins.
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Pattern Blocks Early Finisher Tub Activities
Pattern blocks are a great tool that you can use in all different ways.
At the beginning of the year, I like to give students number or alphabet mats (or have 2 different tubs) to build. Then your students will use the pattern blocks to build the numbers or letters on the mat. This keeps kids using fine motor skills and getting extra practice with letters and numbers.
I always suggest using foam pattern blocks like these to cut down on noise and distractions. These letter mats are included in my letter fine motor centers here in my TPT store.
Playdough Early Finisher Tub Activities
Playdough is another great fine motor activity. Kids love to play with playdough so why not incorporate some academic benefits.
You can create a playdough early finisher tub to practice almost any kindergarten skill. Kids can create patterns, work on number mats, roll playdough to make letters, and more! When you teach your playdough expectations, all you have to do is switch the activities mats throughout the year.
Playdough is a great thing to ask parents or PTO to donate (especially if you aren't particular about what color). You can get giant packs on clearance at Sams Club or Costco after holidays (like Halloween and Christmas). This big back on Amazon is a pretty good deal, too.
Snap Cubes Early Finisher Activities
Another fun manipulative for early finisher tubs is snap cubes (also known as connecting cubes).
These cubes are fun for stacking and making patterns. You can even use them to build letters and words. Their size makes them great for fine motor skills. I always had at least 2 snap cube centers because I had so many snap cubes available.
If you need snap cubes, this 100 pack on Amazon will get you started. You can find my numbers 1-20 snap cube mats here.
Hole Punching Early Finisher Activities
Using a hole punch or a giant pushpin is great for developing fine motor skills, too.
You can print out letters, words, numbers, or other pictures for your students to “punch out”. Kids love getting to use “grown-up” tools like hole punches or pushpins which helps to make this fine motor tub even more fun.
These hole punches on amazon are kid-friendly (they can squeeze them) and I got my big push pins at Hobby Lobby.
Tweezers Early Finisher Activities
Using tweezers is another great tool to build those fine motor skills. You can use them with pom-poms, mini erasers, or other small manipulatives. Your kindergarteners can use these on activity mats in a variety of ways. They can build letters, sort things by color or size, represent numbers, create patterns, and more!
These alligator tweezers I found on Amazon are great for kindergarten hands and they are durable. The Dollar Tree sells tweezers, too, but I find they break more easily and can be more expensive. Walmart and Dollar Tree are great places to find craft supplies like pom-poms to use in this early finisher bin.
*You can also use these fine motor mats with dot markers, like these on Amazon. It's a fun, not-too-messy way to practice, too!
What early finisher activities do you use in your kindergarten classroom?
I like this idea especially for students that finish their work fast.