When starting off with Montessori or tray activities, something that I think deserves a bit of basic attention is a discussion of the how to choose a Montessori tray for activities! The trays? What’s so special about them? Well, that’s what we will be discussing today! Different types of trays and why it matters.
While the activities themselves are crucial to learning, the type of tray we use is important beyond just offering an aesthetically pleasing appearance to the shelves. The type of tray we present activities on can make it more difficult for children to get activities themselves and clean them up.
In Montessori, it is important that activities are presented in a way that is logical and tidy for children. Using a tray that does not fit the work can also be distracting. If the work cannot be presented in a way that is logical, a child may not know where to begin with the activity, or how to clean it up when she or he is finished. Choosing the right trays for your home is pretty simple, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
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How to choose the perfect Montessori tray
When it comes to trays for toddlers or younger children, I always prefer ones with handles to ones without.
A tray with handles will offer an easier way for a child to move a tray without spilling items. Handles also make it easier for a child to remove a tray from a shelf.
We do use trays without handles for Y who is now four and a half years old though. Trays like this work well for him, but I still prefer handles.
When choosing the right tray for your activities, you should also keep in mind ease of use for the child and not just fitting the activity itself onto the tray. Some works are bigger and heavier, which may make it more of a challenge for your child to carry them independently from the shelf to their table or mat.
The tray itself should be light enough for the child to lift, but sturdy enough to hold works.
This tray is small, but lacks handles. A child that is familiar with using trays could likely carry it easily…
But if you are starting out, a tray like this would be ideal because it is small, has handles, and fits works neatly:
When it comes to choosing trays, I personally only have wooden ones. It’s my personal preference because I like that they are durable, neutral in appearance, and I find them aesthetically pleasing.
In general, I prefer natural materials for our learning materials. Wood is not too heavy, but it is durable which is always a nice factor when it comes to activities.
Plastic trays are also available in multiple colours. You could color coordinate activities on the trays themselves, which can also look nice. Colored trays also can be used to code types of works by color, such as all math works in blue, geography red, etc. We have not done this.
Personally, I have never bothered to color code and prefer the simple appearance of wood. However, to be honest, I don’t think this matters and that this is up to your personal preference. The only suggestion I would make is to avoid busy trays. Trays should not distract from the work itself, so I think it is worthwhile to avoid trays with designs. Instead, if you do go for a colored trays, pick ones that are solid colors and simple.
Fits the work
To summarize, when choosing a Montessori tray, think about
- The tray should have handles (for children just starting out)
- The tray should fit the work neatly but remain small enough and light enough that the child can carry it
- The Montessori tray should not have distracting elements on it, but remain neutral and beautiful. Natural materials like wood work wonderfully for this purpose. Plastic ones or colored ones can be picked out to match a work by color. This is up to you.
- The most important aspect to keep in mind is the ease of use for the child! The child should be able to take the tray from the shelving unit to their work area independently.
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