How to Use Morning Tubs When You Can't Share Manipulatives

In the age of COVID, so many things have changed, especially how children can participate in hands-on activities like morning tubs.  Despite these changes, you can still get those morning tubs and manipulatives into your student's hands, and I'm going to share with you exactly how!  

You can use morning tubs in a socially distanced classroom during Covid.  Learn how to set up morning tub kits so kids can still have some hands on fun.

Pencil Box / Plastic Pouch Morning Tub Storage

I always have plastic pencil boxes on hand in my classroom for students who need them.  They are a perfect size (and cost) for personal math manipulative collections.  I'm setting up individual kits for each of my morning tubs.  If the manipulatives/task cards are too big for a pencil box, I will use a plastic pouch instead.  

If you are uncertain about starting the day this way, be sure to check out this post that highlights 5 reasons why you should use morning tubs to start the day.  

I have morning tub activities for 15 different math manipulatives, and almost all of them will fit easily in a pencil box.  Each plastic box will be filled with the manipulative and the task cards (if they fit) that a student will use.  Within each manipulative set, there are generally 5 - 7 different activities.  

But how will this work because kids can't share...

Here is my plan:  

Student 1 is working with pattern blocks all week long.  Each day they will have a different activity to do with the same manipulative.  I think this will provide enough variety.  In the past, students have loved starting the day this way and revisiting tasks over and over.  It really is a joyful way to start the day.  This is what it might look like: 

Day 1 Duplicate My Design 
Day 2 Cover the Creation
Day 3 Symmetry Strips
Day 4 Cover up Challenge
Day 5 Pattern Puzzlers

At the end of the week, the pencil box contents can be sprayed down and disinfected.  Another option is to wash them and lay them to try.  I am thinking about using a mesh bag and putting the manipulatives in the bag to wash.  

Use a mesh bag to clean math manipulatives.  It will keep them together when you wash and you have to scoop by the handful from the sink when washing.

I am unsure of protocols but wonder if the materials were left to sit untouched from Friday afternoon until Monday morning if it would be fine without sanitizing.  I will adhere to whatever protocol, but if leaving it untouched for 2 days works, then I am happy to do that.  

Using morning tubs with pattern blocks is an engaging way to start the day with your students.

I have enough manipulatives that I should be able to make about 4 pencil boxes of each type of manipulative.  That leaves me extras if I need them.  I plan on making kits for all of these manipulatives to start: 
  • Counting bears
  • Tangrams
  • Dominos
  • Colored Tiles
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Links
Using all of these manipulatives, I will have 24 boxes for a class of 23 or less, so I am confident I can make this work.  I most likely will do other activities to start the day on occasion, too, so I won't need these morning tub kits every day.  

To get the boxes ready, the cards in these boxes were printed a smaller size.  When printing in Adobe, choose "multiple" and choose either 2 or 4 to a page.  An alternative would be to put the bigger pieces of paper in a Ziploc that goes with each case.  

Create morning tub kits with plastic pencil boxes and math manipulatives.  Each kit has a case of manipulatives and task cards that can be switched out as necessary.

But I don't have enough manipulatives to share among my entire class, or I'm teaching virtually...

Digital Morning Tubs!

This isn't a truly hands-on experience, but it allows your students the opportunity to work on your morning tubs digitally.  

These digital morning tubs can be used in many ways.  

  • Morning work - My students work on them before signing into our live meeting. 
  • As part of a lesson - I have used them to demonstrate a concept, such as symmetry or number comparison.
  • Independent Math Centers - assign as a math activity. 
  • Fast Finisher - Even in the virtual classroom, some students finish and need something else.  These activities work perfectly for that too.  

Click on the image to check out all of these digital morning tubs! 

Would you like 2 free activities to use with your students? I created 2 more google slides activities not found in any of these resources.  Click below to join my mailing list and get the files sent to your inbox.  

I know that none of this is ideal, but I am happy to use one of my favourite resources during this time.  They are a hit every year with students, and although they won't be able to partner up to work on them, I am sure they will enjoy doing the tasks independently.  

You can still have morning tubs in your classroom this year even though you probably can't share manipulatives.  Find out how to set up individual kits to run your morning tub program.

Until next time, 


  1. Hi Christina,
    Thank you for thinking this through as much as you could based on the no direction/ chaotic situation. Many of us use the "morning tubs or learning bins", your ideas gave us a really good starting point to think about how to change the routine around them.

  2. Where can we find the cards that you made for the kids to build on?

    1. I apologize. Your comment got buried in spam. If you are still looking please reach out to me at


  3. I sent you an email requesting access to the cards also:) Thank you for such a great resource!