Tot Trays

I’ve missed blogging so I’m back. I have no acceptable excuse for such a long absence (nearly a year) other than I’m forgetful….and lazy. Never under-estimate the power those two characteristics have together.

Moving On.

Now that Reagan is 2 and smart as a whip she’s been keeping me on my toes with ways to stimulate, engage and challenge her. I also needed some ideas to encourage her to explore individually as opposed to needing constant companionship and guidance for every activity. As I re-read that I realize that sounds a bit harsh but have you ever encountered a toddler that won’t play on their own or the poor mom who needs a toddler-ectomy to remove the small person so attached to her rear end that she knocks them over every time she moves? Frightening, but also unhealthy for the toddler. So I found some fun activities to engage, encourage individual discovery and build confidence.

We’ve started Tot Trays at the Manor. Tot Trays are a Montessori inspired idea to introduce and engage toddlers in early learning skills and activities. Pinterest is full of ideas and the blog 1+1+1=1 is also a great resource. I would imagine that there are numerous ways to present this concept but I will just tell you how we are approaching it here at the Manor. This could also be entitled “Tot Trays on a Budget” since I’m still embracing frugality.

In our living room I’ve set up a hand me down bookcase right next to our piano. This is our tot tray station.

The top shelf holds our Advent things which I will talk to you about tomorrow. Promise. The next 3 shelves each hold 2 metal cookies sheets from the Dollar Tree. A lot of moms use plastic trays from Oriental Trading or the like but I’m not a huge fan of plastic or paying shipping. Each tray holds a different skill or activity. The tot can pick any tray they would like and engage in it for as long as she would like but she must return the tray to the shelf (and all the pieces on the tray) before selecting another tray. We really need to work on pick up after ourself around here. I will demonstrate the activities one time and only give guidance when she seeks it, other than that it is her gig. We also do not have “Tot Tray time” this is a self guided and directed activity that she can engage in when she chooses as long as we don’t have other chores, obligations ect. I will switch out the trays with other activities on a weekly basis.

So, what’s on the trays this week? Glad you asked…

Bean scooping. Great sensory activity and for building those fine motor skills.

Pouf ball counting/sorting. Great for learning numbers, counting, color sorting and fine motor skills (especially with the bagel tongs). Pouf balls are a big hit around the Manor, I practically buy them in bulk.

Paper cutting for that manual dexterity. Reagan loves to make confetti.

Decorate the Christmas Tree. I printed out a Christmas tree on cardstock and included plastic “jewels” and glue so she can design and decorate.


I brought down the Melissa and Doug Shape/Puzzle clock from the playroom so she can work on mastering puzzles, number and shape recognition and the beginning of time telling skills. It is a bit early for telling time but we can introduce the concept.

And in celebration of the season I made a Nativity magnet play set. I found the images here. I cut out, laminated and put magnets on them so she can play on the tray or the refrigerator. It is a fairly large set.

 This morning when she woke up I waited until she noticed the trays before I explained what they were. It didn’t take long as she is very observant. I also explained the ruler which are one tray at a time and clean up after yourself. As you can see so far she is very interested.

I plan on adding a basket where the guitar is to hold the books we are currently reading/interested in and a lap tray from Michaels craft store the next time I get up to Des Moines.

 All of the things I used to assemble the trays I either had on hand or got at the Dollar Tree (or hand on hand FROM the Dollar Tree). You can make a lot of magic happen with a well stocked art cupboard and a printer. Just a thought.







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