Wondering What Tot Trays Are?....
Before I started doing any real form of organized educational activities with my son, I stumbled upon the idea of Tot Trays over at the 1+1+1=1 blog. Carisa's basic idea is to use a tray to provide little ones with a variety of materials for play and exploration. These trays are a way of entertaining tots by taking advantage of their natural curiosity, but they can be used for so much more! You can also use them to work on early educational skills such as matching, sorting, counting, arts & crafts, and all sorts of fine motor skills that not only work on improving hand/eye coordination but also help get those little hands ready for writing.
The materials I use for our Tot Trays are a combination of educational toys, things plucked from the recycle bin, and household items sometimes used in new or interesting ways. There are so many things you can find around your house that will be utterly fascinating for a child! Why the educational toys then? Including these on the trays is my way of ensuring that our educational toys get played with as much as our matchbox cars. (OK, maybe not as much but definitely more.) I hope I'm not the only one guilty of letting a great educational toy sit on the shelf for fear of pieces being strewn everywhere on an already busy day or fear of the baby getting hold of a small piece of one of our preschool toys that could be a choking hazard. Putting these type toys on the trays provides more order in our house. This way things get played with, rotated, and my older son knows he can only use his trays at the kitchen table or when little brother is napping. It's really a great system for us!
Here is the list of skills I keep in mind when I'm brainstorming for new tray ideas:
- Squeezing (a sponge, playdough, etc.)
- Practical Life skills (folding, sweeping, etc.)
- Threading Beads (onto sticks, string, pipecleaners, etc.)
- Threading Sticks (straws, or spaghetti into small spaces)
- Stacking & Balancing Objects
- Using Glue
- Using Stickers
- Simple Crafts
- 1 to 1 Correspondence
- Other activities to work those hand muscles (clothespins, hole punches, etc.)
I hope this answers the question of how Tot Trays work for us.
Feel free to post questions in the comments section if you have any. I'll be sure to reply.
You can see any of our Tot Tray Posts for details of some of the tot trays we've used.