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Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files!

Early finisher activities for kindergarten and first grade. Fun activities to keep fast finishers learning after center activities are complete or during extra time throughout the day!

Early finisher activities for kindergarten and first grade. Fun activities to keep fast finishers learning after center activities are complete or during extra time throughout the day!

Early Finisher Activities

I am sure you would love to have a collection of perfectly timed activities in which all of your students complete their tasks at THE. EXACT.  SAME. MOMENT… that is not reality. If you use any of my literacy or math centers, you know that some of them are never-ending, meaning they are never done. However, some center activities do have a beginning, middle, and end. That is where fast finisher activities come in! These are tasks that continue to provide learning opportunities for students who finish the assigned activity while the rest of the class may still be engaged in those never-ending centers. 

Dessert Tubs... AKA Early Finisher Activities

Some time ago… I started making “Dessert Tubs.”  I got the term “dessert” from my clever friend, Cara Carroll.  That is what she called them and… well… I DO love dessert!

Dessert tubs for kindergarten and first grade.

When students have finished an activity during literacy centers or anytime throughout the day, they simply go and grab a “dessert tub.”  These were a great way to cut down on the visiting and gypsy-like movements in my classroom.  And of course, my students ALWAYS had the option to read a book at their desk instead. It was important however, students understood that dessert tubs were only to be accessed when they had done their best work on the assigned task. I have had great success using dessert tubs in my classroom and have a few ideas to share with you. 

What goes in the tub?

There are a variety of activities that can be used in dessert tubs. For my tubs, I had 3 guidelines for my early finisher tasks:

  • I wanted the activities to be self-explanatory and something students were already familiar with. This was important to be sure students wouldn’t need to interrupt my small-group time to ask for step-by-step directions.
  • I wanted the activities to be “paperless” meaning… no paper activity sheet.  Students may only be at these tasks for a few minutes.  I didn’t want MORE paper in my life… save the TREES!
  • I wanted the activities to provide meaningful work in a fun way.

Early Finisher Ideas

Here is a list of early finisher activities that are low prep and can be used throughout the school year. 

Number and Letter Formation

Can you ever have enough handwriting practice? These number and letter formation cards, along with dry erase boards make a great dessert tub activity for handwriting skill practice.

Handwriting practice for kindergarten
Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 1

ABC Games

I may have a million of these little ABC games.  They are quick and fun to play.  They can be played with a partner or they can pretend to play with “Dexter” (my dog… who was not in the classroom).  That would always make my students giggle.  

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 2

As the year progresses, you can add CVC and CVCe word cards. 

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 3

Clean Sweep

These board games are a great option for practicing literacy skills.

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 4
Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 5

Time Me ELA Fluency Games

Time Me! is a great activity for practicing fluency.  You can start the year with the alphabet cards, then move onto sight words.  You can create several sets of cards and therefore differentiate this activity.  SIMPLE! (There is a free sample at the end of this post).

Time Me Sight Word fluency games

Plus, this game is editable so you can add your own sight words. You can also give students the option of working with a partner to help them keep time and also validate their accuracy.

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 6

Sequence Games

Sequence is a fun game that my students seemed to never grow weary of and they loved playing it during free time.  Students will spin a spinner,  then look for a picture that starts the same. The example below offers ending sounds  BUT (once again) I have a bunch of versions… from letter ID to more complex phonics. These are a great warm-up for small groups, too!

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 7

If you’re looking to save colored ink, check out the printable pack! You can colored chips OR an ultimate kindergarten favorite… daubers! 

Printable sequence activities
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Roll, Say, Keep

Another card game that has a TON of different versions for fun practice all year long. 

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 9

Again, this game is editable so you can add your own word list.

Roll, Say, Keep game for practicing sight words

There are also Roll, Say, Keep games to practice math skills! Check it out here:

Roll, Say, Keep Math Bundle

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 10

Eraser Sort (FREE FILE #1)

I get so excited about new erasers in the dollar bin at Target! This eraser sort is a fun activity that you can add to the dessert bins any time of the year. Just change out the erasers for the season!

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 11

BUMP Games

Your students will LOVE this early finisher activity! 

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 12
Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 13

BUMP Games are perfect for dessert tubs because of their predictability and they cover so many different math and literacy skills. You can see more about these games in this blog post

100 Chart Mystery Puzzles

These differentiated mystery puzzles are so fun and make great fast-finisher activities that can be worked on over time by multiple students. This would be an early finishers activity that stays in a hundred chart somewhere in your classroom. 

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 14

Your students will love the fun puzzles for each season of the year! You can try out a free sample from this blog post

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 15

Word Building Task Cards

Your students will stay engaged in learning with these hands-on spelling activities. 

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 16

I purchased the letter snap cubes from Amazon. You can read more about this word building activity and find the link for the snap cubes in this blog post.

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 17

Partner Plays

This next activity is a new resource that provides a pair of students with a great opportunity to practice reading fluency. 

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 18

The readers theater scripts are decodable and are perfect for the kindergarten and first grade level. 

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 19

Climb and Slide Board Games

Another fun board game to practice alphabet and phonics skills. The seasonal board games are great resources to use during the entire school year.

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Clip It Activities

These clip it activities provide engaging language arts practice. The best part, students work on developing their fine motor skills, too! 

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 21

Play Dough Activity Mats

Dough mats are great for independent work and are often a popular free choice pick for students. 

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 22

These play dough mats are an engaging way for early elementary students to practice math and literacy skills. 

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 23

You can find out more about these play dough mats and ideas for using them throughout the year in this blog post

Decodable Fluency Practice

That speedy student of yours will love these fluency practice cards. Add a sand timer to make this early finisher activity extra fun! These also double as a quick assessment tool!

Decodable fluency practice that works great for assessments!

Digital Choice Boards

If you want to go completely paperless with absolutely no printing involved, you can opt for a digital choice board with digital activities for students. A while back, I created a digital choice board template that provides student choice for early finisher activities that can be played using a tablet. You can download the free template and check out some different ways to provide extra practice using technology in this blog post:

​I hope you can use some of these early finishers activities for your dessert bins! Don’t forget to snag 2 more free files below!

Dessert Tub Labels (FREE FILE #2)

If you are going to have dessert tubs, you need dessert tub labels! 

Early Finisher Activities for Kindergarten | Free Files! 24

Time Me Fluency Practice (FREE FILE #3)

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Early finisher activities for kindergarten and first grade. Fun activities to keep fast finishers learning after center activities are complete or during extra time throughout the day!

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Deedee Wills

Deedee Wills

My teaching career allowed me to experience teaching in different classroom environments and grades. My heart belongs to early childhood education. My job is to make teaching FUN, ENGAGING, and EASIER. Welcome!

Hi, I'm DeedeE.

My teaching career allowed me to experience teaching in different classroom environments and grades. My heart belongs to early childhood education. My job is to make teaching FUN, ENGAGING, and EASIER. Welcome!
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22 Responses

  1. Thanks Deedee! I have a similar system – we call them Sponge Activities – they are a bit more open-ended for exploration but I like some of the games you shared! They become more interested in those as the year goes on and they are more confident in their abilities. I also like how you designate what each table does – do you feel like that cuts down on "rushers"? How do you handle friends that rush to get to that dessert?

    1. Shoot! I thought I had responded to this already… sorry! I have a few habitual rushers. So I ask them to drop their response paper by my desk. I also talk to the masses about what quality work looks like.

      My desserts are engaging, but not really THE most exciting thing in my classroom, so we have not had a problem…yet ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. I love the idea of these tubs!! I cant wait to take some of the products I already have to make some simple changes to start this this coming January!!

    What do you mean when you say you pull the numbers off and move them down. (I totally get that concept, but then what does that mean for students that finish early) Table rectangle finishes early they can only pick bucket 3?

    Thanks so much!!
    Sarah
    [email protected]

  3. Hello,
    I am also a kindergarten teacher and am looking for a new behavior chart. I found on pinterest your behavior chart. It has two kids faces on each color and starts off at amazing and goes to Oh-dear! It is so cute! I have tried to find it on your website as well as on teacherpayteacher, but I haven’t been able to come across it. Do you still have it? Is it a free download?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi there! Yes, you can find it in my Facebook Fan FREE file. Just go to my Facebook page (you can find the link on my blog by the social media buttons). You click on the folder and it is in there. NOTE: You can NOT see the folder if you are on a mobile or tablet. So look for it when you can be on your computer. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. How do you keep your kids who are in stations from coming up to your table while you are doing small group activities? I have tried everything! Also, Do you get to every child every day in your small group?

  5. After watching the “Mastering Centers Like a Boss” webinar, it referred to the math bundle for the number formation on dessert bin in early finishers blog. I own the small group math bundle that you and Deanna Jump made and I also bought the neat handwriting so I have the letter formations, but am looking for the number formation cards. I am unable to find the number formation cards in the bundle I bought. Any suggestions?

  6. Hi Deedee,

    I love your idea for early finishers and how you have it set up in your classroom. I would love to get it set up in my kindergarten classroom this year. I wonder if you have this ideas as a packet on your teachers pay teachers site? I would love to have my room mom set this up for me before school starts this year. I just don’t know where to begin, or how to instruct her. Can you help me out? I like to change things up for my kiddos and I think this would be great for them. I’ll be looking for your reply. Thank you! Have a great rest of your summer!

    1. Hi Carmen!

      I’m sorry I missed your question earlier. I don’t have the idea of early finishers on TpT, but the blog post will link you to the resources you may want to consider putting in your early finisher bins. Does that help?

  7. Do you allow more than one students to work together on these tub activities or are they to take it back to their seat and work individually? I love the idea.

    1. No, the students share the bins, so there could conceivably be 4 students working at their early finisher bin at one time.

  8. Hi DeeDee. I love this idea of Dessert Tubs. Im trying to print them out, but I only see one icecream cone and it already has a green shape. There are no other pages. Can you send me them all or just a blank icecream cone and I’ll make my own shapes?? Thanks.

  9. Thank you for sharing these early finisher activities for kindergarten! It’s wonderful to have engaging resources that keep our little learners motivated and entertained. The fact that these files are free is an added bonus! I can’t wait to try them out with my kindergarten class. Your generosity is truly appreciated.

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