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Morning Bin Ideas for 1st & 2nd Grade

Routines & Procedures

Written by: Mary Kate Bolinder

Are you ready for a change to your morning routine? Discover the buzz about morning tubs, and give these morning bin ideas a try! Morning bins are a popular idea for preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Are you wondering how this routine could be successful in 1st and 2nd grade? Keep reading for everything you need to know about planning, storing, and implementing a successful morning bin routine in your classroom.

What are Morning Bins?

Morning bins are organized activities that students can engage with independently at the beginning of the day. Morning bins usually contain creative, open-ended materials, or other types of hands-on activities like centers, board games, or art supplies.

Benefits of a Morning Bin Routine

Teachers, let’s think about how we want to start our best day. Imagine walking into your classroom, and immediately having to go to a meeting, listen to a presentation, or complete an assignment. Sure, these things happen. But what if you could walk calmly into your space, unpack, get settled, chat with your teacher besties, and sink into the flow of classroom life? That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Our students feel the same way. Morning bins allow students to have a “soft start” to their day.

Wise Words from Lucky 2nd Grade Teachers

“It gets pretty chatty in my room but usually they’re talking about what they’re doing. This also helps get some playfulness out of the way first thing. I don’t feel pressure to hurry up in the morning and the day starts on a positive note.”

“Most of them (morning bins) are puzzles, logic, or they can do a reading center they like. It really throws off some teachers when they come in and see us “playing,” talking, and interacting, but it has made a big difference in my students’ abilities to get on task in the morning and interact well socially.” 

How to Set Up Morning Bins

At the beginning of the year, using open-ended materials in morning bins is a great way to teach the routine and allow students to freely explore classroom materials. Some favorite materials to use in morning bins include:

  • Building blocks
  • Lego
  • Play-doh, clay, kinetic sand
  • Craft materials (popsicle sticks, plastic cups, toothpicks, pom-poms, etc.)
  • wiki sticks
  • pipe cleaners with beads
  • puzzles
  • magnets
  • race cars
  • drawing materials
  • marbles and marble run
  • magnatiles
  • magnetic letters
  • Board games
  • playing cards
  • card games
  • Math Manipulatives (tangrams, unifix cubes, dominos, dice, base ten blocks, counting chips, etc.)
“I started doing morning tubs this year. Today a group made a block portrait of ME 😂 complete with the word “love” on top.❤️ This made me smile!” Alayne J., Lucky 2nd Grade Teachers Facebook Group

Wise Words About Morning Bin Materials

“I find that when the kids have had a chance to explore and play with the math manipulatives they are better able to use them during math as “tools” rather than “toys” – they’ve already had the opportunity to play with them, so they don’t have to during math!”

Once kids have had a chance to practice the morning bins routine with open-ended manipulatives, try using your favorite math and literacy hands-on interventions or math and literacy centers as morning bin activities!

Here are some of our favorite activities to get you started:

Literacy Hands-On Intervention Activities

Math Hands-On Intervention Activities

How to Assign Morning Bins

Choose what works best for your students when assigning morning bins. Here are a few suggestions from our teaching community:

  • Label each bin with a number. When students arrive in the morning, they choose a number and work on that bin.
  • The teacher may assign a bin
  • Students may choose for themselves – if other students ask to join them, they share the materials (set a limit for how many students can use a morning bin at one time. Different materials will have different limits of how many people can work at once!)

How to Teach Expectations for Morning Bins

At the beginning of the school year, create an anchor chart with students to explain expectations for morning bins. Some expectations to consider:

  • I am on task
  • I respect the materials
  • I can put away the morning bin the way I found it
  • I respect the classmates who are using the bin with me
  • I include any classmate that wants to share the materials
  • I can clean up and put away the morning bin when asked
  • I will use a calm, working voice during the activity

Wise Words About Morning Bin Expectations

“Go over expectations for working and using materials, voice levels, tell them what work you expect, and make sure kids know how to play games. It will save you time. Make sure they know not to interrupt you if you are working with children.”

How to Transition from Morning Bins to the Next Activity

Many teachers have found that morning bins are a natural transition to either morning work or morning meeting. When managing expectations, let students know that you will give them a two-minute alert to start winding down the activity and cleaning up.

Wise Words About Morning Bin Transitions

“I used morning tubs the last two months of school to try it out. My kids LOVED it. The tubs I used included Legos, Geoboards, Unifix cubes, craft boxes (stencils, fancy scissors, and colored paper), and magnetic/wooden dress-up dolls. This year I will be adding play-doh and more Legos. I also used this time for students to have free time on Kindles and computers. When students heard the morning bell they knew they had 2 minutes to clean up.”

Accountability and Morning Bins

Morning bins are meant to be a soft start activity. The activities in morning bins should be used to review and maintain previously taught skills. Let them have fun exploring the materials! Morning tubs are also a great way to work on some fine motor skills improvement, and collaborative and cooperative play, which is so crucial for young learners!

Top teacher tip: Take a picture of what the bin should look like when it is put away, and tape it to the top of the bin. This is a way to model how to respect and maintain materials.

Wise Words About Morning Bin Accountability

“I do not hold them accountable except that they have to choose a different bin everyday. The bins are numbered 1-5. I may incorporate a 1-5 checklist for them this year so they can remember which bins they have done for the week.”

How to Store Morning Bins

Keep morning bins in an accessible, easy-to-reach place in the classroom. Students should be able to take out and put away bins independently.

What is the teacher doing during morning bin time?

When morning bins are first introduced, observe to ensure that students are on task and using materials appropriately. As students get used to the morning bin routine, this allows your morning time a bit of flexibility. This is the time to get ALL THE THINGS done to start your school day. Attendance, lunch count, last-minute parent emails, reviewing lesson plans, discussions with specialists and assistant teachers, working one-on-one or small group with students for quick review or check-in, or assessing skills. This is also a time to talk, observe, engage and connect with your students.

Share your tips for a successful morning bin routine in the comments!

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Welcome, I’m Angie!

Hello there! I’m Angie Olson- a teacher, curriculum developer, educational blogger and owner of Lucky Little Learners.

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