What are Tot Trays?
Where Do You Find them?
I heard about Tot trays from Counting Coconuts and 1plus1plus1equals1 when Lil’ Red was still too young to use them or need them. (Boy, do we need them now! He is a smart little whipper-snapper.) We have been using them off and on.
Tot trays are activities placed on a tray for your children to do. Very similar to Montessori Work Trays, (cute video about 1 1/2 yr olds) but tailored to your child or a theme you want to explore with your child. If you have girls you won’t want to miss Playing House in Maryland‘s tot trays and if you have boys check out The Princess and the Tot’s tot trays.
Where do you find them?
I had the hardest time finding them at first. I saw the really cute and colorful trays online that were bought in sets but the prices were outrageous for our budget. I kept reading about the dollar store this and look at this cute dollar store find. I was getting so mad that I couldn’t find those darn trays at the 3 different types of dollar stores I had in my area. Then one day I found the most glorious thing:
A $1 shiny, metal, rectangular serving tray at Dollar Tree in the party section! I had been looking in the house wares and NEVER saw them until that day. I also found the plastic tongs 4/$1 and a few other baubles and bits. I was so excited I know the friend that was with me must have thought I was nuts. I bought 4 trays so we could easily set a few up with some back up activities waiting in the wings.
What do you use for the tray?
I took pictures of other “trays” that I have collected over many years back when I was going to teach preschool before Eldest was born. Here are some trays that you probably have in your cabinet or your mother’s or grandmother’s collecting dust.
10 DIFFERENT TYPES OF TRAYS
1. Ice Cube tray– come in all sorts/sizes/shapes
2. Divided Microwaveable Container– yes, the kind from frozen dinners!
3. Jello Mold- this one is NASCAR themed and great to match up little cars.
4. Muffin Tins– large or small, shaped or plain these work great to sort out small items.
5. Egg Carton– simple recycled for matching or counting to 12 or 18.
6. Skinny Ice Cube Tray– water bottle ice cube trays are great to count and sort skinny items like q-tips, straws cut in half, sticks from the backyard, etc.
7. Paint Palette– found at craft stores or artist paint departments in 10 ct. round or 4 ct. rectangle. Great for pom-poms.
8. Round Divided Tray– Keep an eye out during the holidays.
9. Divided Lunch Tray– I found this one at a garage sale for 10 cents! Don’t be mad I’m a really good bargain shopper:)
10. Seasonal Trays– I have a heart ice cube tray, well actually 3 different ones!
What do you use on the trays?
There are 3 categories of stuff to put on the trays:
- The stuff to be sorted/played with- It could be plastic animals, pom-poms, large beads, jumbo erasers, dried beans/peas/corn, etc.
- The stuff to do the sorting- color coded cups/bowls, colored foam/construction paper mats, pictures of real-life animals, matching cards, etc. (I saved Easy Mac cups, applesauce cups, gerber baby food containers, etc. With a sharpie marker you can color any plastic item.) I organized these in empty ice cream tubs labeled for easy identification. Gotta do the free when you cannot pay for storage!
3. The tongs/spoons/pitchers, etc- (I had to rack my brain for these ‘cause when I saw the super cute ones online I wanted them but not at $5 per tong/themed chopstick). I started out with scoops, spoons, and tongs I owned (Melon baller, white tongs, tweezers, purple plastic glow when squeezed from gummy worm candy).
Searched through my mom’s junk utensil drawer and scored 2 plastic tongs, 5 formula scoops, a couple laundry detergent scoops. I remembered I had odds and ends from when I sold Tupperware and found cherry pitters, other scoops, etc. I made a few from clothes pins and tongue depressors. We bought a chopstick gripper set for Chinese New Year this year so those could be added. I bought salad tongs for .50 on clearance even though Lil’ Red was too little for them. (He’s almost old enough to use them!)
I could still use a few more pitchers like creamer pitcher, but I will make do with kiddie Tupperware that we already own.
MORE TOT TRAY IDEAS:
Do you TOT SCHOOL? Have you used Tot Trays?
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How funny. I should totally go through my mom’s cupboards. I am sure she has a million of these trays. Thanks for the idea. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by. A friend of mine yesterday asked where do you get all those trays? Well, I figured I better complete and post the blog post I had started 2 mths ago:) It is the simplest ideas that baffle us the most sometimes:) I’m guilty of making things way more difficult than needed.
Deb @ Living Montessori Now says
Wonderful suggestions for trays, Thaleia! I have a habit from my years as a Montessori teacher of always watching for great deals on trays and objects for practical life activities. Thanks so much for linking up with Montessori Monday. I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/LivingMontessoriNow