Friday, July 24, 2015

First Day Fun with Playdough!

Happy Friday everyone! It's Lisa from over at Second Grade Stories. Are you thinking about your first day of school? (I know just a few of you have already HAD your first day of school!) The first day of school is an important and exciting day for teachers AND students!  We get to know our kids for the first time and our students get to know us - and the other students whom they'll be spending the year with.

In my school, everyone meets in the gym the first morning, and we all come upstairs together as a class on the first day.  I love starting the year meeting altogether with the whole school, but it means ALL my kiddos come in AT THE SAME TIME on the first day - and that means notes and backpacks and lunches and "My Mom said to give this to you" and "I have 4 folders, want to see?" Some of my kiddos are too anxious and worried to even say anything!  I want to start the first day with an activity that EVERY student can be successful at, one with no worries about being able to "get it right" - an activity that most, if not all of my kiddos have already done, and an activity that will give ME some time to handle everything that needs to be done before the day starts.  My answer? Playdough!
(Confession:  I am not at home.  I do not have a printer, camera other than my phone, even ziploc bags! I apologize for the quality of any of the pictures I DO post here, and for the lack of others that would make this post better.. like one here showing the playdough on their desks on the first day.. I'm sure I have a picture somewhere in my files at home...sigh... summer.. :-)

When we come back to the room  on the first day, I have my students go directly to their seats and just plunk all their stuff on the floor next to them.  DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING OUT!  This usually works fine because there is a ball of playdough on a paper plate at their seat for them to play with and they are immediately distracted and start to have fun.  This gives me the chance to walk around to each table, gather important notes, organize school supplies, and most importantly - chat with each student briefly in a nonthreatening way.  I really do learn a lot about each kiddo in that first conversation. I ask them about what they're making, how they created it... give encouragement if anyone is feeling frustrated because they can't make what they want, etc. I have never had a student refuse to play with the playdough.  And in addition to feeling a little more relaxed that first morning, the playdough lends itself to conversation with others at their table - even if they don't really know them.  I have seen friendships form over those balls of dough that last the whole year!

After all the organizational pieces for the day have been taken care of, I ask students to show me some specific things with their playdough. Can you make your name? Roll 1 ball for each person in your family.  What's your favorite animal?  These questions let me know even more about my kiddos.  By the end of the first 20-30 minutes, I have had a one-on-one conversation with each child, watched them interact with others, checked out some fine motor skills and spatial planning, and gotten to know a little about everyone.  Now I call that a successful beginning of the day!

Want to know a secret for making brightly colored playdough that smells great?
Koolaid!  Yep, that's right.  I have made soo many different kinds of playdough over the years and this is the recipe I love the best.  It's easy and the kool-aid makes the colors really bright, and it smells so good!  Here's the recipe I use.
I make 3 different color recipes and that's plenty for 20 kids.

To keep the fun going, I make take-home bags of playdough for each student.  I include the dry ingredients and the directions.  (The recipe I send home is slightly different than the one I use for the whole class.) I bag everything up and add a cute tag and send it home on the first day!
I keep the playdough out as our "morning work" each day that week.  Students know they come into the room, take care of what they need to do, and then get some playdough to work with.  It's a great way to start each morning the first week!

I put everything I use into a freebie you can download if you'd like to use it in your classroom. Just click the image below to download.

Try it!  You can do the activity at a different time during the first day, or any time at the beginning of school.  Happy back to school!


  1. Wow - this seems really great! I'm always looking for fun things for that 1st day of school! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you for this! It's like you read my mind! I was just driving and thinking about the first day of school and how I'd like to try doing playdough as a first day first activity. I went on IG when I got home and saw the picture about this blog post- how perfect! Thank you for the recipe and the cute printouts!
    Covered in Glitter and Glue

  3. Love this idea! Thanks for sharing.

    Lori Flaglor

  4. Lisa, I can't get the link for the freebie to work. Love the idea!

  5. Love this idea! I was also really impressed with your blog so I have nominated you for the Liebster Award over at my blog, Crayons, Pencils, and Students - OH MY! Hop on over and read this blog post to read to find out how to accept the award!

    Crayons, Pencils, and Students - OH MY!

  6. This is great! I just sent the idea to my co-teacher. I've done this in preprimary when I used to teach, but this would be an easy way for kids to enter the room on the first day and leave school with a fun treat to play with.