Soft Starts to Begin Your Day

Good bye morning work, hello soft start.
Why soft starts?
Because we should offer our students the same type of entry into the work day that we would like.  When I get to school, I like to get my things put away, say hi to a teacher or two, check my email one last time, and ease into the day.  What if the only thing greeting me at school in the morning was extra work that my colleagues who arrived on time did not have to do and a reminder not to talk to anyone?
Why I got rid of morning work and switched to soft start instead. Use morning tubs to start your day by building creativity and community.
This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my book habit!

Soft starts offer a bridge between the whirlwind of arriving to school and the social, mental, and academic demands of the day.  We give students the opportunity to transition to a school environment and build community with their peers.  It offers a welcome into the school day that an expectation of silence and morning work do not.

Here's a peek at my morning tubs from last year:

I swap out some of the tubs from time to time to keep it fresh.  Legos, blocks, and Play-doh are always stocked because those get used faithfully every day.

The only rules are no more than four people to a tub and clean up after yourself.  I've seen some complicated systems for assigning students to tubs, but I think offering students free choice is important.  So much of their day is structured, we can let them have a voice and choice easily with soft start.

I use the Ikea Trofast system for storage.  You could use tubs from Target or even oversized Ziploc bags for storage.  Here are some of my favorite materials for our morning tubs:

Plastic Animals

I rotate between these dinosaurs and some wild animal toys I got from Walmart.

Wooden Blocks

I use these Melissa and Doug wooden blocks.  I was worried my 3rd graders would think they were too babyish, but I was wrong!


Legos were one of my most expensive to buy.  Wait for a Black Friday deal.  That's the cheapest way to get them.

My Little Ponies

I grabbed these on super clearance from Target, and they get used every day.

Brain Flakes

I'm not really sure what they're building with these Brain Flakes, but they're really happy while they do it.


I got a set of Webkinz from eBay, and once they took a trip through the washing machine, they were good to go!

Town Play Set

I almost didn't buy this wooden play set from Melissa & Doug that I found at Costco.  Surely second graders wouldn't like this, right? Wrong.  I'm so glad I grabbed it.  It gets played with daily.


These magnet tiles are so fun to play with.  A friend and I were stalking them on Amazon this summer, and she let me know when they were a deal of the day.


This tub gets used every. single. day.  I just added a second tub because so many students wanted this one in the morning.  I usually buy the Play-Doh at Walmart for 50 cents, but sometimes Target has it on sale.  I got these lunch trays from Amazon to save my rug and keep the Playdoh clean.


I actually picked these 24 piece puzzles up for a non-fiction reading lesson.  The kids LOVED them.  I'm headed back to Dollar Tree soon to pick up some more because they're crazy for them.  I put a symbol on the back of each.  That way, if they get mixed up (and they do), they're easy to sort out.

I have no clue what these snowflake like connecting discs thingies are really called, but they're a lot of fun to play with.

If you're ready to get started, try asking parents for donations.  Facebook is a great place to ask, too.  People are always cleaning out kids' rooms.  Our neighborhood has a great Facebook group that people post gently used toys in.

If you're a public school teacher, Donors Choose is a great resource especially for STEM type building materials.  Haven't used Donors Choose before?  Use this link to set up your first project and get matching donations during your first week.