Are you gearing up for the first week of school? If so, let’s plan together! Today I’m sharing some of my favorite back to school activities for kindergarten. These low-prep, engaging lessons and activities are just what you need to calm the chaos and have a fantastic back to school season!
Preparing Your Mind for Back to School Season
Let’s be honest… back to school season is nuts. Teachers are busy, parents are finding a new rhythm, kiddos are nervous (and excited) and we’re all just trying to make it through! Personally, I love this time of year, but it also comes with its own challenges too. I think the best way to approach this is to prepare your mind before the back to school madness starts up!
What do I mean by this? Well, think about years past. Try and remember your pain points. Maybe it was super stressful trying to make a Pinterest-perfect classroom setup. Or maybe you chose activities that weren’t quite what your students we ready for on the first day. Or maybe you were super rigid with your schedule expectations, and it caused you to feel completely out of sorts. I’ve had ALL of these things happen in the past, so I totally get it.
As teachers, we want to start the year off with a bang, get everything right, and have “perfect” classrooms that are ready to wow our new students. Sound familiar? Let’s take the pressure off this year. Yep, you heard that right. Nothing will ever be perfect, and no matter how much we prepare, there’s going to be some hiccups. And you know what? That’s totally fine!
So let’s take a deep breath together this year as we prep for back to school. As long as we get most of the things checked off of the list, choose engaging activities, keep it simple and streamlined in the classroom, and show up with a smile – it’s all going to be okay.
Choosing Back to School Activities
Keeping all of this in mind, my BEST tip for maintaining your sanity and your peace through this busy time of the year is to be super intentional with the back to school activities you add to your lesson plans. This is especially important if you teach young children, like me! In kindergarten, I’ve learned to fully accept that many of the children that come to me might have never been to school before. They need to learn some basic procedures, rules, and expectations before I can plan on things running smoothly.
For this reason, I choose back to school activities that are easy to explain and use familiar materials for those first few weeks of school. My kindergarteners are often nervous and shy. Don’t underestimate how comforting familiar materials like counting cubes, building bricks, and other manipulatives can be in these scenarios! Sure, you might be using them a bit differently than they do at home, but just the sight of them will evoke some confidence and security.
Another thing I like to keep in mind when choosing back to school activities is keeping them low-prep. I’ve already got a lot to do with setting up my classroom, preparing take-home folders, planning open house, and all.the.things!
Keeping our activities low-prep is key for making it through this hectic time. Now that doesn’t mean I just print off a ton of worksheets either. No, for me, the activities must be low-prep and meaningful to make the cut. If this sounds exactly like what you’re looking for, check out my 6 favorite back to school activities for kindergarten!
1. Back to School Snap Cube Centers
Remember how I mentioned using familiar materials to help kiddos feel more comfortable in the classroom? Snap cube centers are a great way to do just that. Snap cubes are a lot like many of the building materials they’ve likely used at home or in preschool. Using them for learning games is a great way to snag their interest right off the bat and keep it! These are some of my favorite snap cube activities for back to school time:
I love using snap cube centers on the very first day of school since they are SO simple for young children to use. Kiddos need only a quick introduction on how to use them, and they can be fully independent right away.
Plus, they’re super low-prep! I like to print these out and laminate them so we can use them over and over during the school year. I love how quick and easy these are to prep and how much my students enjoy using them!
2. Digital Back to School Activities
If you aren’t using Boom Cards yet, you’re in for a treat! Boom Card activities are one of my favorite things to use during the back to school season, since they require zero prep, and can be used at a moment’s notice. During the first month of school, we often have random pockets of time that need to be filled. This happens as we are adjusting to new routines, learning class rules, and getting in the swing of things. Having Boom Cards ready to go is a great way to keep the learning rolling without skipping a beat.
I like to use a variety of math and literacy decks during the back to school season. Some of the topics we work on include:
- Letter Sorts
- Letter Order
- Letter Matching
- Beginning Sounds
- Counting On
- Shape Matching
- Number Order
- Missing Number
- Number Matching
You can use Boom Cards on a Smart Board for whole group learning, or assign them to individual students during a technology station.
At the beginning of the year, I usually do an introduction on the Smart Board for each new deck we use, and then send kiddos off in pairs to try it on their own. It will take a little while for them to be fully independent, but this is a great opportunity to give it a go!
3. Back to School Writing Activities
Writing is such an important part of the kindergarten classroom. Not only does writing help strengthen fine motor skills, but it helps our students grow in literacy too! I’m a big fan of setting up a back to school writing center and changing out the materials frequently. This is one of those “needle mover” tasks that makes a huge difference in my classroom. If I’m running short on time to set up, I skip something that is a bit more about “aesthetic frills” and make sure to get my writing center in order!
The reason for this is that having a writing center available from day one makes such a difference in how children learn to be independent in the classroom.
It does take a bit of practice for them to understand how to use the materials and put them away correctly, but it’s SO worth it! Once your kiddos are actively writing every day, you’ll be so happy you trained them to use a writing center too!
The key for choosing back to school activities for your writing center is to make sure that you have simple activities to start with and then gradually move up as your kids are ready.
In my back to school writing center, you’ll find vocabulary cards, tracing activities, and simple list-writing prompts that are great for the beginning of the year. As students progress, add more challenging activities to your writing center and see how those kiddos have improved!
4. Back to School Activities for Learning Shapes
In kindergarten, we spend a lot of time working with shapes. I love helping my students learn to recognize and name 2D shapes using fun games and center activities.
These are great options for the very first day of school since many children might already be familiar with some 2D shapes.
These games are perfect for morning tubs, center activities, and partner games. I like to prep these mats ahead of time and place them in a bin with the necessary materials to complete them.
Then, anytime we need a quick activity, or I have a group of fast finishers, there’s a fun and engaging activity at the ready to keep them working.
These games also focus on hands-on learning and fine motor development, making them an excellent choice for those first few weeks of school!
5. Building Bricks Alphabet Mats
Looking for a fun and easy way to brush up on letters? These building bricks alphabet mats are a perfect addition to your back to school activities!
These are a great way for students to practice letter recognition in a fun, hands-on way. To use, students will use building bricks to build each capital and lowercase letter and practice finding and writing the letter on the bottom of the worksheet.
They work well for morning tubs, centers, and even independent learning. We use these throughout the first few weeks of school, and students are always excited to participate.
Just print these off ahead of time, and you’re good to go! I like to print them on colorful Astrobrights paper for an added touch of fun.
This is another activity that takes advantage of familiar, kid-friendly learning materials to maintain student interest.
6. Back to School Lapbooks
Finally, one of my favorite back to school activities! If you’ve been around here a while, you might already know I’m a huge fan of using lapbooks (also called flippy flaps) in our lessons. The reason for this is that they help my students focus on a specific theme while building their very own interactive notebook-style folder. Lapbooks require a lot of hands-on participation, making them great for young children who are growing in fine motor skills. Plus, they make a super cute keepsake to send home too!
At the beginning of the year, lapbooks are a great activity to work on in your small groups. Since we use them all year long, I like to teach my students how they work, what they’re for, and how to assemble them. This is also a great time to assess how each of your students does with scissors, pencils, markers, glue, etc.
Some of the fun topics we work on during the first couple of months are back to school, all about me, apples, and fall. You can check out all of these fun lapbook activities in this back to school bundle.
Try starting with the back to school lapbook to kick off your first week. Then, save the lapbooks to hand out as a gift to parents during your open house. This is always a huge hit!
If you’d like to test these out prior, make sure to grab a FREE First Day of School Lapbook. You can print it out ahead of time and get a feel for how they’d work in your classroom. If you’re anything like me, these will likely be one of your favorite back to school activities too!
FREE Back to School Activities for You!
I hope you had fun reading through some of my favorite back to school activities for kindergarten. As you get ready to plan your own lessons, I thought you might like a set of FREE Math Activities. Follow this link and enter your information to be sent some low-prep math center freebies your students will love!
As you’re planning, and preparing don’t forget what we talked about at the beginning of this post. Keep simplicity in mind, go for low-prep when possible, and remember you don’t have to be perfect. Keeping these things top of mind will help ensure you have your best school year yet!
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