9 Meaningful Time Fillers for the Primary Classroom

I know it can be rare to find yourself with a few extra minutes in the school day, but it does happen. And, when it does, it's definitely a good idea to have a variety of time fillers to quickly choose from.

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Time fillers can give you the opportunity to add a bit of whole group fun to your day. They allow you to provide engagement in a different capacity. And, they can be used to foster community and/or quickly reinforce a variety of important skills.

I've decided to compile a list of my all time favorite time fillers that I rely on throughout the year. With each filler, I've identified about how much time it will fill. In many cases, the filler can be used for as long as you'd like, but can also be used when you only have a few minutes. And, I'm sharing them in no particular order, so be sure to work your way down the list. :)

Brain Quest
I just love, love, love Brain Quest. If you aren't familiar with Brain Quest, it's basically a question and answer game. Each set is packed with content related questions, as well as other stuff that kids should (and need to) know. Students are challenged to put their thinking to the test.

Duration: 5-15 minutes


Mad Libs Junior
Mad Libs are so fun! My second grade teacher used to do one with us everyday before lunch. I have many fond memories of our daily Mad Lib time. Every year, I share Mad Libs with my own second graders, and I have yet to meet a group of students who doesn't love them. I can reinforce basic parts of speech, and we all get in a good laugh (laughter is good for the soul). I prefer to use Mad Libs Junior with my students. I know the content is always going to be safe that way. ;)

Duration: 5-10 minutes (depending upon your pacing and/or how many you do)

Mad Libs Junior Sports Star
Mad Libs Junior Under the Sea
Super Silly Mad Libs, Junior
Summer Fun Mad Libs Junior

Whiteboard Review
If your students love using their personal whiteboards, then pull them out when you've got some time to spare. We all know this tool is super versatile, so use it to fill the time and review things that you're currently working on in class.

I often have my students spell words using a new spelling pattern, or solve multi-digit addition and subtraction problems. I also use them to play a quick game of true/false. To do this, I say something like, "There are 24 hours in a day." The students then respond by writing True or False (or "T" for True and "F" for False) on their board.

Duration: 5-10 minutes

Q's Race to the Top (On the Go)
Q's Race to the Top is a Q&A game that is great for discussing topics related to social skills and fostering emotional intelligence. It's actually a set of question and action cards, and not so much a game where you race to the top. There is a board game version of this, but the "on the go" version is just a set of cards (see below). But, they are great for the classroom. There are three different kinds of cards.


The Q cards are scenario cards. They share a scenario that involves Q, the monkey pictured on the lid.  Students then reflect on the scenario and relate it to their own life or experiences.


The You cards also ask a question. These questions lead to opportunities for meaningful discussion.


Then, there are the Do cards. Students follow the directions on the card to perform some kind of action. Quite truthfully, they are not connected to the question cards, but they are a great way to get your students up and moving, if only for a few minutes.


Duration: 5-15 minutes (just depends on how many cards you go through and how much time you have to discuss each card)

Go Noodle
Speaking of moving, Go Noodle is perfect for getting kids up and moving! Students move to song or dance, in most cases. There are so many different options. The goofy Koo Koo Kanagroo guys are always a favorite for jumping around and being silly. And, Maximo is a favorite when it comes to slower paced movements (I like that they require some concentration and focus).

Duration: 1-5 minutes (it just depends on the video you pick)

Read Aloud
Anytime is a good time for a read aloud, if you ask me. Keep a variety of books on hand that give you some flexibility to use a read aloud as a time filler.

The Mercy Watson series is perfect for this! The chapters are super short, and super high interest. Your students will laugh out loud.

Duration: 5-6 minutes per chapter


Read a Poem
Poetry is always another time effective read aloud option, and since kids don't hear them as often, they are usually a captive audience.

Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends is my favorite. This is another time filler I remember my own second grade teacher using back in the day.  His poems are so silly and fun to share.


For even more excitement, let your students listen to Shel tell his poems. It is always entertaining. Sometimes, I pop in the CD shown above (which is no longer available, for a reasonable price, on Amazon). I'm not sure if these recordings are available in other formats or not, but it's worth a quick Google search.

Duration: 2-10 minutes (depending upon which, and how many, poems you read)

I Have, Who Has
Once your students know how to play this game, it can become a great time filler. Plus, your students will practice important skills at the same time!  You can grab this plural noun I Have, Who Has here (it's free!).

Duration: 10-15 minutes


Whiteboard Doodles
I'm all about reinforcing skills and sharing literature whenever I can, but sometimes, you and your students need a short break from each other. Sometimes, students need some time to just unwind.

This is where whiteboard doodling comes in handy.  Let your students take out their personal whiteboards and doodle away. Let them draw or write whatever they want on those boards. They don't always get to use their boards for fun, so when they do, they are happy campers. Let them get lost in their own creations for a few minutes. It will keep them on task, allow them to empty their mind of any ideas floating around in there, and to refresh their brain for the next lesson.

Duration: 5-15 minutes

Do you have a favorite time filler?  Comment below and tell us your favorite way to fill the time. :)

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