8 Kindergarten Teachers Share Their Best Activities for First Day of Kindergarten

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Being a kindergarten teacher is one of the most rewarding and hilarious professions out there. However, when back-to-school rolls around – it can feel pretty overwhelming, even for the most seasoned of teachers. UNLESS you have a solid plan in place, as well as plenty of activities for first day of kindergarten fun!

Every year it seems that if I can juuuuust hang on until October we are finally in a groove as a little family and all is well!

But August? August is usually (less than slightly controlled) chaos. However, with all of these activities for first day of kindergarten at your fingertips – you'll be set up for…(more than slightly controlled) chaos!

First Year Teaching Kindergarten

That little tip about “hanging on until October” was shared with me during my first year teaching kindergarten. Mrs. Becky Phillips is one of the best kinder teachers on the planet – and thankfully her room was straight across the hall from mine. Sitting at my desk provided a direct line of sight to her desk and countless times I just had to look at her for moral support. Like the time when…

She watched me open my first check unbeknownst to me.

I opened it. A look of shock, horror, and overwhelm must have washed over my face. (who took all my money? how was I to pay for school loans and rent with this?)

I looked up. She was already on her way to me to wrap me up in a hug telling me it was going to be ok.

I will forever be thankful to her and her ride-or-die Mrs. Nina Norris. They were Thelma and Louise. I adored them both…and learned a lesson.

YOUR FIRST YEAR TEACHING KINDERGARTEN WILL BE HARD. Worth it and rewarding as all get out….but HARD. So you must:

GET SUPPORT FROM FELLOW KINDERGARTEN TEACHERS.


Funny teacher with oversized glasses checking for kindergarten readiness

Speaking of support – random question for you:

Would you rather be told that your smile looks perfect while at dinner with friends – while you have part of your dinner stuck in your teeth? I thought not. You want a friend who will straight-talk you, laugh about it with you, and expect the same.

That's how I roll. And it's exactly how I communicate with the parents of my kindergartners. If you are new to teaching, or about to have a kindergartener yourself – check out my FREE download and get ready to laugh!


New To Teaching Kindergarten? Here's That SUPPORT

Now, you may be super prepared for that first year, but let me encourage you. Whether you are new to teaching or just new to kindergarten – reach out to people who are walking in your shoes! This is my 10th year teaching kindergarten – and I still look for advice, help, and ideas from my kinder teaching peers.

I have reached out to 8 kindergarten teachers I admire to share their best activities for first day of kindergarten fun. What follows will not only be the links to these kindergarten activities but great advice and tips to boot!

When I think back to getting organized and ready for my FIRST first day of teaching kindergarten, I would have loved to have had all this in one place to choose from! So, my hope is that if you are about to experience that for yourself, you find great value here. I know I did – ever after 10 years in!

Let's meet these amazing superhumans now! I encourage you to go follow them on Instagram and check out all they have to offer on their websites and TPT stores!

Large graphic featuring the images of the 8 kindergarten teachers sharing their best activities for first week of kindergarten:  Kate from Kate in K, Tricia from Mrs. Dougherty's Kindergarten, Miranda from A Teacher and her Cat, Erika Deane, Ijeoma from Smells Like Teach Spirit, Casey from Kindergarten Korner, Pattie from The Kindergarten Zone, and Zeba from Kindergarten Cafe.

Kate from Kate in K

Kate is entering her 11th year of teaching. She has taught kindergarten for 10 years and is embarking on a new adventure this year – she recently moved to Germany last spring and will be teaching first grade next school year! She is excited for new experiences, opportunities, and learning at a new grade level – all while exploring Europe! You can find Kate and her resources on Teachers Pay Teachers or on Instagram at @kate_in_k

Tricia from Mrs. Dougherty's Kinder World

I'm Tricia! I am starting my 30th year of teaching, my 15th in kindergarten. I live in Scranton, PA, and enjoy reading, running, and yoga – and I'm slightly obsessed with Toms and sneaking my Bitmoji into kindergarten things! My Instagram is @mrs.doughertys.kinder.world

Miranda from A Teacher and her Cat

I'm Miranda! The owner and creator behind A Teacher and her Cat. I live in the Niagara region (on the Canadian side) and teach kindergarten! I've been teaching for 9 years and also coordinated weddings on weekends! Kindergarten is my jam and you'll often find me alongside students playing on the floor (or at home on the floor playing with my cat)… basically you can often find me on the floor! You can find Miranda and her resources at www.ateacherandhercat.com or find her on Instagram @ateacherandhercat

Erika Deane

Erika has taught kindergarten for 6 amazing years! She is excited to share her hands-on, engaging math ideas to help make the most of your math block! You can find Erika’s hands-on resources on Teachers Pay Teachers. To see the resources in action head over to her Instagram @erikadeane315!

Ijeoma from Smells Like Teach Spirit

Hi! I'm Ijeoma and I'm a preK-3rd grade teacher. I hold degrees in early childhood education and special education. Kindergarten is my favorite grade to teach! I love watching students' eyes light up when they learn something new. Igniting the joy and love of learning in students is my passion! I'm a former college track and field athlete and I enjoy running and knitting in my free time. In Spring 2021 I became a new mother and I've been loving every moment of it! Ijeoma shares teaching tips, lesson plan ideas, and hands-on, engaging activities for primary-level students. Check her out on Instagram @smellsliketeachspirit and www.smellsliketeachspirit.com.

Casey from Kindergarten Korner

Casey is from Pittsburgh, PA, and has been teaching kindergarten since 2006.  She is a wife, busy mom of three, a TPT Teacher-author, and blogger.  Casey created Kindergarten Korner to support fellow K teachers, parents, and homeschooling families as they guide their children through the magical kindergarten journey.  Find Casey at www.kindergartenkorner.com or on Instagram @kindergartenkornerbycasey.

Patti from The Kindergarten Zone

Patti has taught grades pre-k-2nd for 18 years in Maryland. Fourteen of those years were in kindergarten. She enjoys creating resources to help teachers save time. You can find Patti and all things kindergarten at thekindergartenzone.com or on IG @thekindergartenzone, make sure to give her a follow.

Zeba from Kindergarten Cafe

I’m Zeba McGibbon, founder of Kindergarten Cafe, your home for teaching ideas, activities, and strategies to support you in teaching the whole child! Currently, I am an early childhood educator teaching kindergarten, although I have taught kindergarten through third grade. I support early childhood teachers with classroom-tested strategies and materials that help take the stress off our plates and support our students better from arrival to dismissal. My proudest moments as a teacher have been seeing my students using the strategies I’ve taught them to calm down, work with others, or stay on task with their work—and I know that you can have this feeling too! I love connecting with other educators, so reach out and say hello! You can find more back-to-school tips and kindergarten activities at www.kindergartencafe.org or catch up with Zeba on IG @kindergartencafe – she loves meeting new teacher friends!


Let's Get to Those Tips for First Day of Kindergarten

What is your favorite thing to do on the first day/week of kindergarten with your kids?  

Art/craft type activities that also provide great fine motor building practice and help reinforce expectations for using classroom materials like scissors, glue etc. And reading tons of books on the carpet!

– Kate from Kate in K

Take pictures and ask them what they want to be when they grow up. We then create a class display of “Future World Leaders”

– Miranda from A Teacher and her Cat

I love writing our names and drawing First Day Portraits. We save them and include them in our End of the Year Memory Books.  I also love starting with Nursery Rhymes.  It's a wonderful way to introduce rhyme and rhythm – while encouraging recall and speech development.

– Tricia from Mrs. Dougherty's Kinder World

New Teacher Tips First Day

I love going on a scavenger hunt of the classroom and then the school to get to know their spaces in a fun way!

-Zeba from Kindergarten Cafe

My favorite thing to do during the first week of kindergarten is to have students write their name and draw a self-portrait, and then at the end of the year too. It's amazing to see the growth.

-Patti from The Kindergarten Zone

I love to take pictures of the students and post them around the classroom. It makes them feel like they are part of the classroom.

– Ijeoma from Smells Like Teach Spirit

Sing! We sing about friendship, rules, reading, math, etc!

-Erika Deane

It has become an annual tradition to take my kids on a bear hunt around the school.  It's a fun way to introduce the kids to familiar faces and new places they will see and visit throughout the school year.  You can find my Bear Hunt resource in my TPT Store!

– Casey from Kindergarten Korner

Free First Day of Kindergarten Activities

On the very first day of kindergarten, I like to put pony beads divided into little paper cups at each of their spots. I also lay out a lace that already has a laminated “first day of kindergarten star” strung on. As they come in, they can work on their necklace while everyone gets situated. Don't assume that they will come in knowing what to do! It just takes a moment of set-up, but can save you for the occasional “clinger” who is not sure about coming in. 😉

(I have my favorite beads and laces in my Amazon favorites: )

TIP: If you use yarn, be sure to put scotch tape around the ends to make “lacing” easier for them!)

Here are some excellent activities for first day of kindergarten:

Fun Activities for First Day of Kindergarten

Literacy Activities for First Day of Kindergarten

Math Activities for First Day of Kindergarten

What is something you learned the hard way?  

My first year teaching kindergarten, I only made the exact amount needed for every label, nametag, etc for my class list.  BIG MISTAKE.  I lost 3 kids before the year started, gained 4 more, lost 2 again, gained 1, and then gained 1 more in APRIL.  

The fact that this could happen was lost on me. I learned to ALWAYS print extras, keep spares, and go by a number system rather than names on EVERYTHING) 😉  (This had nothing to do with me by the way, things like zoning, families moving, etc can cause this to happen. But I just didn't know!)

Wait to put names on things until literally a day or two before school starts! There is nothing worse than labeling ALL THE THINGS and then having major additions/removals from your roster. Also – if you have open house or meet the teacher night before the first day – have students and parents sort the supplies they bring in so you don’t have to! Set our boxes or bins and label what you want in each. Saves so much time!

– Kate from Kate in K

That Pinterest Perfect classrooms are staged and near impossible to maintain. For every gorgeous photo, there is a pile of clutter behind that teacher! Don't fall into the trap of feeling like you have to have that perfect-looking classroom. Do what's you!

– Miranda from A Teacher and her Cat

Have more than enough! I’ve found that over-preparing for the first two weeks is WAYYY better than not having enough! Also, building a classroom community is the most important thing. This allows for the rest of the year to run smoothly, so take the time and MODEL everything!

-Erika Deane

Teach explicitly – assume nothing!  Break everything down to its most simple steps and act out the right way and wrong way … how to get in line, how to wash your hands, how to use a gluestick – everything! My first year in kindergarten, I passed gluesticks and had a little one use it like Chapstick.  Immediate note to self – demonstrate and teach the rules first!

– Tricia from Mrs. Dougherty's Kinder World

New Kindergarten Teacher Tips

Something I have learned the hard way is to not check my email once I get home from school.  When I get home, I am at home, this has helped me to spend more quality time with my family.

– Patti from The Kindergarten Zone

When teaching kindergarten, especially when going from an older grade, you have to remember to explain and teach everything… even things you think they might know! My first year teaching K after teaching first grade the first day was going smoothly and then it was dismissal time and I said “stack your chairs” assuming they knew what that was… big mistake! Chaos ensued! Learn from my mistake… over-explain everything and leave PLENTY of time for dismissal that first week!

– Zeba from Kindergarten Cafe

Not teaching EVERYTHING, I assume there were some things my students would just know but I was wrong. They need to be taught how to line up, hang up their things on a hook, raise their hand, etc. Taking the time to take care of these little things will make all the difference in classroom management and routines.

– Ijeoma from Smells Like Teach Spirit

Always have extras on hand for everything in kindergarten – copies, labels, nametags, letters sent home, etc. 

– Casey from Kindegarten Korner

Kindergarten First Week Activities

Do you have a special tip/trick that might help a brand new teacher – or a teacher moving to kindergarten for the first time?

Assume they know absolutely nothing! Don’t assume they know what ‘line up’ means, or how to stay in a line, or that they’ll close the bathroom door, etc. everything has to be explicitly taught and modeled over and over. And give yourself grace! The first few weeks are so hard and so tiring! You’re doing a great job even though it doesn’t always feel like it.

– Kate from Kate in K

Keep a binder on hand with pages for each student for anecdotal notes! Remember it's ok to just be silly and fun sometimes, it doesn't always have to be standards, standards, standards! Students will remember how they felt in kindergarten not necessarily what they learned! Make them feel safe and happy :).

-Miranda from A Teacher and her Cat

Have early finisher activities available. This helps with the range of learners you have coming in. It can be as simple as matching puzzles, sorting, and building cubes – give them tasks that they can do independently. This helps them stay busy and allows you to help others finish.

– Erika Deane

Give your kids – and yourself – some grace!  Kindergarten in September is difficult – and tiring!  Read stories, draw pictures, do puzzles, and play with blocks.  Take it slow!  Take the time to teach rules and routines and build classroom community. Show your kids how fun school can be. It will be time well spent!

-Tricia from Mrs. Dougherty's Kinder World

Remember to enjoy it! Kindergarten is a really special time and the children are extremely precious. Write down somewhere the things they say that make you smile or laugh so that when you have a hard day, which you will have, you'll remember why you love it. Also… make a new student bag! When you are making copies and nametags and folders and everything for your students, make a couple extra so that if you get new students, you don't have to scramble to get everything ready! You'll thank me later!

Zeba from Kindergarten Cafe

In the first 2 months of school, model and practice everything until the students have mastered it. Remember they have most likely never been to school before, you have to teach them everything, from how to get into a line, walk down the hallway, etc.. Make it fun and sing every chance you get!

– Pattie from The Kindergarten Zone

Routines, routines, routines…Take time the first month of kindergarten to establish solid routines and procedures – even if that means slowing down your pace for the curriculum in the beginning.

– Casey from Kindergarten Korner

Don't stress! Everyday is a new start! Do what you can during your contract hours then go home and take care of you! Set boundaries for yourself.

– Ijeoma from Smells Like Teach Spirit

In your expert opinion, what is the MUST HAVE teacher tool that every kindergarten teacher needs?

A good planner (digital or pen and paper) and all the hands on manipulatives!

-Kate from Kate in K

Electric pencil sharpener

– Miranda from A Teacher and her Cat

Open Ended Manipualtives – win-win for students and teachers!

– Erika Deane

An apron! I love my waist apron with lots of pockets.

– Tricia from Mrs. Dougherty's Kinder World

Reusable dry erase sleeves

– Patti from The Kindergarten Zone

Patience – and stickers, of course!  Kindergarteners love earning stickers for just about anything!

– Casey from Kindergarten Korner

Pointer to point to the morning message and model one-to-one correspondence. A computer or speaker to play peaceful music too. Visual timers to show the kids how much time is left.

– Zeba from Kindergarten Cafe

This may seem super basic, but I loved my clipboard! It keeps everything in one place and I know exactly where to look when I need information. I keep my class list, schedules, guided reading groups, etc.

– Ijeoma from Smells Like Teach Spirit

First Year Kindergarten Teacher Must Haves

I'm going to add to those great answers and say, AstroBright Paper, because if you don't have easy access to a color printer, you will want to invest!

You see, that's another tip I learned the hard way! My first school had a color printer in every classroom. (Is your jaw on the floor? Because mine still is! 😉

Let's just say I thought that meant I had the freedom to print any and everything my heart desired. THAT IS UNTIL ONE COLOR OF MY INK RAN OUT. I don't want to tell you how much it cost. So, I immediately fell fast and hard in love with AstroBrights …and the printer in the main workroom. 😉

And…my number one thing I always have at the ready: BOOKS! BOOKS! BOOKS! Sharing read-alouds ranks high on my list of favorite activities for first day of kindergarten.

I have an ongoing wish list of titles on Amazon I share with my parents. I encourage you to start building your own personal library – AND get super friendly with your librarian! My kids can't get enough of read-alouds – we squeeze them in at a moment's notice!

FOR FUN. FOR RELAXATION. And yes, even FOR NECESSITY TO HAVE A MOMENT TO RESET!

First Week of Kindergarten Read Alouds

As I have said, there are so many wonderful read-alouds for the first day and week of kindergarten. All 8 teachers have weighed in on their favorites, and there are a few new-to-me titles that have already made their way into my Amazon cart!

I've listed them all as shown below, but if you would like to see them all in one place, just click the button below to head to my Amazon favorites list.

(And guess what?! Casey from Kindergarten Korner is the author of one of our picks! “We Put the Kind in Kindergarten” – so be sure to check that one out! How cool is that!!)

Pictures of the book covers for "Best Books for Back-To-School" - Kindergarten Teacher Approved activities for first day of kindergarten
  • A Fine, Fine School, by Sharon Creech
  • First Day Jitters, by Julie Danneberg
  • My Teacher Sleeps in School, by Leatie Weiss
  • The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn
  • The King of Kindergarten, by Derrick Barnes & Venessa Brantley-Newton
  • The Queen of Kindergarten, by Derrick Barnes & Venessa Brantley-Newton
  • Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes
  • Our Class is a Family, by Shannon Olsen
  • Oliver and his Alligator, by Paul Schmid
  • The Pigeon HAS to Go to School, by Mo Willems
  • Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon, by Patty Lovell
  • Stuck, by Oliver Jeffers
  • Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, by Joseph Slate
  • We Put the Kind in Kindergarten, by Casey Stewart
  • Enemy Pie, by Derek Munson
  • The Recess Queen, by Alexis O'Neill and Laura Huliska-Beith
  • The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes
  • A Letter From Your Teacher On The First Day of School, by Shannon Olsen
  • All Are Welcome, by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

Each week send good notes home and make good phone calls home, parents love to hear how wonderful their child is. Find something good in every student and share their triumphs with them and their parent.

– Patti from The Kindergarten ZOne

KINDERGARTEN IS…

Finally, I hope that you've found a ton of value here with these awesome activities for first day of kindergarten success – I know I have! When I was wrapping up my little questionnaire for these super teachers, I left them with a prompt. I love their answers! How would YOU finish that sentence? Leave a comment below and let me know!

So very hard, but so so so very rewarding!

– Kate from Kate in K

the greatest place to be!

– Miranda from A Teahcer and her Cat

SPECIAL!

– Erika Deane

…Magical!

– Casey from Kindergarten Korner

…a whirlwind of fun!

– Ijeoma from Smells LIke Teacher Spirit

…Magical! It's a lot of work, but the growth you see in the year is unlike any other grade… it really is magic!!

– Zeba from Kindergarten Cafe

…amazing!

– Patti from The Kindergarten Zone

...gratifying.  It is fun, interesting, and the progress you witness is incredible!

– Tricia from Mrs. Dougherty's Kinder World
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All this talk of first day of kindergarten activites almost made me forget! If you need a brain break or a dance party – I'd be honored if you'd check out my music for kids! It's fun & quirky but also has some hidden SEL messages in there! Like sneaking in some broccoli with dessert!

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