The idea to play on a tray was first introduced to me at our former Montessori preschool in New Zealand. The first time I entered the classroom I expected play corners but was greeted with neatly organised shelves with … trays and … things? How little did I know that first day and how much do I love trays today!
This article about ideas to play on a tray is hardly Montessori focused, but I do want to tell you about the many benefits about playing on a tray we’ve discovered over the years.
35 Ideas to Play on a Tray: Simple Invitations to Play, Create and Explore
Here’s what I’ve learned over the years:
- On a tray, children can keep an oversight. Sometimes, when play is scattered all over the room, children lose focus and interest. Simplifying your activity so it fits on a tray may help certain children to focus and keep their heads wrapped around what they’re doing.
- On a tray, there is a better chance of containing the mess. Well, at least it’s what I always hope for, but the odds are most definitely in your favour.
- When working on a tray, the activity is organised or set up in a way that children can work it all out on their own. They have everything they need within reach and can solve (most of) their own problems. (This is a Montessori principle by the way, though they have a prettier way of explaining.)
- When activities contain themselves to a tray, they are easier to put away and get back out at a later time. A lot of children will play with a sensory small world for instance, on and off over the course of a week. Sprawled out in the living room, it won’t even last a day. And there will be tantrums.
- Which leads me to mentioning that play on a tray is very sibling friendly. The boundaries are clear, it’s easy to move out of reach of babies or take it to your room or the kitchen. Don’t want to share? Fine, everyone gets their own tray. True story.
I could go on and on and tell you story after story of play tray successes and epic fails but let me just share with you the best play on a tray ideas I found to this date. I am confident there will be something for everyone. Enjoy.
1. Explore Dirt through Simple Play by Weaving Ideas
2. Invitation to Create with Craft Supplies by Mama Miss
3. Mini Magnetic Fishing Game by Little Worlds
4. Invitation to Cut Fresh Flowers by Crafty Kids at Home
5. Edible Farm Yard Small World Play by Messy Little Monster
6. Invitation to Create a Mini Ocean World by Little Worlds
7. Winter Wonderland Small World Play by Buggy and Buddy
8. Coin Sorting Montessori Inspired Sensory Activity by Rhythms of Play
9. Find the Gold in the Rainbow Sensory Play by Little Worlds
10. Edible Sensory Play Balls by Kids Craft Room
11. Sticky Cutting Tray Invitation to Play by Picklebums
12. Three Billy Goats Gruff Invitation to Tell the Story by Little Worlds
13. Diamond and Jewel Art by Emma Owl
14. Investigating Flowers Science and Art Activity by The Imagination Tree
15. Invitation to Build a Bird Nest by Little Worlds
16. Simple Craft Stick Activities for Kids by Powerful Mothering
17. Creating Art with Spring Colors by Buggy and Buddy
18. Helping Bambi Search for Food Sensory Tray by Little Worlds
19. Play Dough Jungle by Messy Little Monster
20. Australian Outback Small World by The Pinay Homeschooler
21. Invitation to Create a Mini Play Dough Flower Garden by Little Worlds
22. Numbered Nature Tray by Cutting Tiny Bites
23. Rainbow Rice Sensory Tray by Crafty Kids at Home
24. Loose Parts from random Toys ‘n Things Small World by Little Worlds
25. Autumn Nature Tray by Messy Little Monster
26. Apple Color Mixing Science Experiment by Powerful Mothering
27. Invitation to Create a Mini Dinosaur World by Little Worlds
28. Make your own Nature Paint Brushes by Messy Little Monster
29. Using Loose Parts to make Pretend Play Cookies by Little Worlds
30. Easy Zoo Sensory Play by Simple at Home
31. Invitation to Create a Play Dough Fairy World by Little Worlds
32. Montessori Inspired Rhyming Fun by Living Montessori Now
33. Frozen Oobleck Sensory Play by Messy Little Monster
34. Day at the Beach Small World by Little Worlds
35. Flower Arranging Montessori Practical Life Activity by Rhythms of Play
How to get started with your play on a tray adventure
Well, there’s only one thing you need really: trays. I will admit today that I have way more than I actually use in real life but there’s is something about a gorgeous tray at the dollar shop that I just can’t refuse. So yes, I get most of my trays from the dollar shop or the thrift store but now and again I grab one at IKEA or come across a great bargain randomly. Be inspired but what’s available around you.
Then you get playing. Try out a couple of ideas, see what works for your kids and most of all have fun.
Hope you enjoyed this bombshell of play on a tray ideas, feel free to click away for a while and you’re always welcome to reach out and contact me with questions, feedback or share your own play on a tray stories.
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