Working with 3-5-year-olds for the first time and not sure where to start? Maybe you have been with this age for a while and are looking for a change or better resources. Finding resources and lessons for this age range can be more difficult because things are so much more hands-on. For me personally, it took some time to figure out not only what worked for them, but what worked for me as well. Below is a list of what I consider 10 Prek-K must-haves and favorites. This post contains affiliate links.
Must-Have: Craft Supplies
Any skill or concept you can turn into a craft is usually a winner, and there are so many ways you can do this. I like to keep a variety of craft supplies on hand including toilet paper rolls, tissue paper, pom-pom balls, googly eyes, coloring supplies, paper plates, construction or colored paper, etc. Make up your own craft or search Pinterest for inspiration! Keep in mind that crafts aren’t for everyone, and that’s ok! It’s definitely still something I try to keep in my toolbox of ideas.
Games are a great way for students to practice taking turns, patience, and many other social skills! Plus, your students won’t even realize they are learning!
Must-Have: Interactive or Adapted Books
What is an interactive or adapted book? Interactive books, also referred to as adapted books, are ideal for early learners or students with lower literacy levels. They usually consist of 10-12 pages featuring short statements about a particular topic or theme. Some are more advanced with extra information and may read like a social story. Each page has a corresponding visual for the student to find and attach with hook and loop fasteners (Velcro). They are great for this age because they are hands-on, short, have a clear ending (when all of the pictures are gone, they are done), and are a great way to collect data. Most of the interactive books I have seen and have created include at least 2 books per topic, making it easy to tailor to your age group.
Must-Have: Sorting Activities
I love sorting activities because they are hands-on and a great way to take data. A lot of the goals I write and come across in IEPs include categorization. For the little ones, you can sort images on a mat, read different cards for them to sort into bags, or ask them to identify an item amongst others. I use them so much that I created sorting activities for different topics with 3D bags or boxes and my students love them! They make great companion activities for books, videos, and more.
Must-Have: Fidgets & Sensory Tools
There is a wide variety of fidgets and sensory tools to choose from. What you should buy really depends on what you think will work best for your student population. I keep a large collection in a drawer in my office, and when a student needs a fidget I choose 3-5 I think would work best for them and then let them choose from that. Some of my favorites include squares of textured scrapbook paper taped to the table, calm jars, stretchy characters (you can find these in the Target Dollar Spot), and stress balls. Chewable pencil toppers come in handy for kindergarten age too. If a student is using their tool in the classroom I attach a pencil cup to their desk. This is where they keep their tool when they are not using it! You can also attach visual expectations for the fidget to the cup. It is important when introducing fidgets that you model how to use them. I usually take some time sitting next to them in class, using my own, to show them what to do and what not to do.
Favorite Books: Short Board Books
Martine Agassi and Elizabeth Verdick do an amazing job with the Best Behavior Series and Toddler Tools books. They are relevant to the school setting, short, and simple to understand. Some of them even offer interactive opportunities while reading. When I use these books, I often supplement with a song, sorting activity, or interactive book. I’ve linked some of my favorites below. If ordering on Amazon, the title will include which series the book is part of and suggestions for others in the series.
Favorite Curriculum: We Thinkers From Social Thinking
This curriculum comes with 5 storybooks and has enough material to last the entire year if implemented correctly. Each book focuses on a different skill and builds off of each other including thoughts, feelings, and listening with your body. The guidebook for this set includes visual aids, talking points for corresponding pages, interactive hands-on activities, and more. There are 12 songs you can also purchase separately to reinforce the different concepts. When you are ready to move on from this curriculum, there is a We Thinkers 2 (great for K-2nd).
Favorite Type of Lesson: Lessons Paired With Songs
Songs are a great addition to any Prek-K lesson. They help keep students engaged by switching up the method of delivery and getting them up and moving. Songs for this age range are usually repetitive as well, making them memorable. To incorporate, I like to introduce the topic and wrap up with the song. You can make up your own or search YouTube for a specific topic. The PlayKids and Sesame Street channels have a lot to pick from.
Favorite Intervention: Social Stories
A social story is a tool that includes simple expectations and/or solutions for a given situation. The situation can be something they are struggling to make positive choices in or something that is causing them stress. You can write social stories yourself, buy them on Teachers Pay Teachers, or purchase a book with stories to print off. I prefer to write my own because I can personalize them more for the student. I also prefer to include blackline pictures so the student has the opportunity to color them, giving them more ownership over the story. You can download this one for free in my TpT store.
Favorite Regulation Technique: Interactive Coping Skills
When teaching coping skills, interactive techniques are a MUST. These techniques are the ones my students will remember the most, refer to, and request often. You can make them up or follow scripts in a book (Breathe Like a Bear is one of my favorites!). An example of an interactive technique for deep breathing would be pretending to smell a cup of hot cocoa (holding a pretend cup in their hands) and blowing on it to cool it off. Pinwheel breathing is another interactive technique – for this one you could use an actual pinwheel, having them inhale and exhale on it to make it spin. Mindful tracing activities are a great technique as well because anything can be traced wherever they are. I was using these so much that I went ahead and made seasonal tracing activities to change up the technique and help my students find one that is the most helpful and memorable for them.
Some other Prek-K must-haves you might want to consider include playdough, shaving cream, bubbles, carpet spots, and supplies for sensory bins. Bubbles in particular make for a great incentive if the student is struggling to complete work. They can also be used to reference personal space bubbles! I hope you found this list helpful!
Do you also need recommendations for students kindergarten and up? You might find this list helpful.