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15 Kindergarten Must Haves and Tips for Setting Up a Classroom

Who’s ready for back-to-school time? If you nervously shrugged, you’re not alone! Setting up a classroom for a new school year is a big undertaking. Knowing which tools and materials will make the most difference for your kiddos can be hard! To help remedy this dilemma, I’m sharing my top 15 favorite kindergarten must-haves for an awesome year. Let’s start planning!

Setting Up a Classroom for Success

Setting up a classroom with intention greatly impacts how things will go that year. Before you begin, I always recommend sitting down and thinking about your layout last year. Draw a quick sketch of how you had the room laid out. If this is your first year, draw a sketch of how you’d like to set things up. Take a minute to think about possible issues you see with the floor plan. Here are some common red flags for kindergarten:

Setting up a classroom using these tips will ensure you are using the space you have available in the best possible way.
  • Too many wide-open spaces: Aside from your morning meeting area, try to avoid large areas without furniture. Kindergarteners see these as an invitation to run!
  • Center placement flaws: When deciding which center goes where think about the noise level and how the students will use each area. For example, setting a block center next to the library or small group area isn’t the best plan. Louder, play-based centers will cause major distractions during reading time. Instead, try to align these centers near each other and move quiet ones to the other side of the room.
  • Supply storage: The last thing you want is 32 kiddos carrying open containers of glue and paint across the room to the art center. Try to make sure supplies that children will have access to are right next to the area they’ll be working in.
  • Transition area: Remember to include a transition area somewhere near your entry. This space is where children will put their belongings away for the day, turn in homework, and grab their morning work.

These are just some of the things to look out for, but I think you get the idea. After a few years in the classroom, you’ll find things that are on your “red flag” list too! Ultimately, you’ll want to make sure you make the space as functional as possible for both you and the children when setting up a classroom.

Choosing Classroom Materials

If you’re a first-year kindergarten teacher or just looking to revamp your supplies, I know how overwhelming it can be! There are SO many learning tools out there, and we have a limited budget to spend. Choosing materials that will get you the most bang for your buck is essential! To help guide you in setting up a classroom, I’m sharing 10 of my favorite learning materials along with 5 teacher must-haves I can’t live without!

1. Magnetic Tiles

Magnetic Tiles like these are definitely a kindergarten must have because they can be used for so many different activities throughout the year.

In my classroom, we start the day with morning STEM bins. After kiddos get their backpacks and coats put away, they work on building and socializing with each other. This is a wonderful morning start and helps ease everyone in. The hands-down fave bin of students is these magnetic tiles. They are a bit pricey, but SO worth it. Students will build with these forever! They can make a great addition to a building center too.

2. Pipe Blocks

Next up, these pipe blocks are another great option for morning STEM bins. This set includes wheels to encourage creativity in building. I also love to use these ones for letter and number formation activities. If you have a block center, these are also great to rotate out in that area!

3. Rainbow Links

These rainbow links are a great hands on manipulative for a variety of activities. A definite kindergarten classroom must have.

Rainbow links are another kindergarten must-have on my list. These are great for focusing on fine motor skills and encouraging children to work on math skills like counting and patterning.

Use these with center cards for prompting, or simply have kiddos work on AB, ABC, and ABB patterns in a hands-on format.

4. Bear Counters

Every classroom needs a set of bear counters! These come in handy during morning work time, math centers, and even small groups.

Use them for counting, sorting, weighing, comparing, and more! Plus, these bear counters will hold up year after year!

5. Foam Dice

Foam dice are a classroom must have for keeping down the noise during math centers or other classroom games.

We play many math games in my classroom, and I’m a huge fan of using foam dice. When you have a whole classroom full of kiddos rolling regular dice, things can get pretty noisy very quickly! Use foam dice to keep the noise level down. Students will be just as engaged as with plastic dice.

Students LOVE dice, so having a variety of dice on hand is a great way to turn any activity into a game. You can find dice with dots, numbers, and pictures. And. . . for some number sense fun, check out this foam tens frame dice. These dice are the perfect addition to a number recognition math center.

6. Pattern Blocks

We use a lot of pattern block activities in my classroom because they’re a fun way to master colors, shapes, counting, comparing, and more. I recommend getting a sturdy set of pattern blocks like these to use year after year.

These will be the makings of a great morning work activity, center games, or small group lessons for the beginning of the year!

7. Magnetic Letters

Magnetic letters are another kindergarten must-have when setting up a classroom. You will likely use these every single day. Grab a few sets, so that you can add them to a center or small group activity. I like to find the sets that have the vowels a different color than consonants like this one. This allows me to reinforce phonics skills that we have learned.

8. Alphabet Soup Sorters

This adorable alphabet soup game is my favorite! It’s such a cute, hands-on activity to work on mastering letters and letter sounds. Once you have introduced beginning sounds to your students, this makes a great independent center or small group activity.

To play, grab a few cans and dump them out on the table. Students will identify letters and pictures and sort them into the correct can. This is a great intervention activity and also a fun one to offer students during center time as a partner game.

9. Lacing Letter Beads

When setting up a classroom, you’ll likely notice that many of the materials I recommend target a specific academic skill but also double as a fine-motor activity.

This is no accident! Kindergarten is a key time for growth in fine motor development. With so much to cover, during the year, it is important for activities to help students with multiple skills and concepts. I try to incorporate as many of these fine motor activities as possible.

These letter-lacing beads are one of my favorites! Kiddos will love spelling out their names, sight words, and CVC words with these beads.

10. Alphabet Puzzles

Alphabet puzzles like these are such a great thing to have on hand. They make an instant center with no other materials required. I love using these at the beginning of the year and then bringing them back out for review a few times as well. Once your kiddos have letters down, rhyming puzzles are another great option to add to the mix too!

Kindergarten Must-Haves for Teachers!

Aside from classroom learning materials, I have a whole list of fun tools for teachers too!

These are my favorite teacher must-haves to grab when setting up a classroom for the fall.

11. Lesson Plan Book

I love the Schoolgirl Style lesson plan books. They’re so perfect for what I need to keep track of in the classroom. Plus, they’re super cute! This animal print one is my favorite. It has tons of space for weekly planning, monthly calendars, communication logs, and more!

12. Flair Pens

You obviously NEED a new set of flair pens to write in your fabulous planner, right? This might be an extra to some people, but to me, it’s an absolute MUST! Flair pens are my favorite, but I also like to keep a set of colored Sharpies on hand too!

I love to color code my lesson plans, small group materials, and so many other things. It makes finding just what I need easy.

13. Drawer Carts

organization carts like this one are great for organizing small group materials, center supplies or even extra teaching resources

Drawer carts like these are my favorite way to organize worksheets, folders, and other printables for each week. I label them by the day and sort things out to keep them easy to access.

I like to have one of these in my small group center and use a specific drawer for each group. I also have one by my desk with our weekly worksheets and printables. These work well for sorting out Astrobrights paper too!

14. Supply Cart

Supply carts are another kindergarten must-have for setting up a classroom. I love that these can be filled with your own materials or materials for students to access.

I like to grab a few of these and place them around the room. The nice thing about them is they can easily be moved around the room as needed!

15. Personal Laminator

I know your school likely has a big laminator in the staff prep room, but I have found that a personal laminator is much easier to use for prepping center activities. And. . . the lamination film is generally thicker and more durable than what is in the teacher’s lounge.

I like that these can be stored in my own room, and I can have parent helpers work on prepping center activities without having to leave. Plus, we all know how tricky it can be to get tiny things to line up correctly on the big school laminator!

Setting Up a Classroom Your Way

When it’s all said and done, this list is a great start for setting up a classroom, but YOU know what you need better than anyone! Your students might have different needs, your schedule might be different than mine, and you might need to adjust a bit.

If you want to browse more of my favorites to check out other options, be sure to take a peek at my Amazon Faves. You’ll find everything from my list there, along with tons of other fun things to incorporate when setting up a classroom!

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This post is filled with my best tips for setting up a classroom and kindergarten must-haves. Pin this post on Pinterest so you can come back to it during back-to-school time!

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Hi, I’m Julie!

If you are looking for hands-on, engaging kindergarten activities, you came to the right place!

I’m here to save you time by sharing tried and true kindergarten resources, tips, and ideas and hopefully give you some ideas for your own kindergarten lesson plans!

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