Tot Tray Ideas from Target…

I managed to make it to Target the other day (which was HUGE for me because I am really struggling with pain as my pregnancy comes to an end-I rarely leave the house). I was excited to see the 1$ section restocked with cute items :). Here are a few I set up for Tot Trays, K worked on them today and really liked them.

The first is a mini George sticker book, great for concentration and fine motor skills :). This little blank book came with 4 rolls of stickers. Today I just put on of the rolls on the tray, he really enjoyed working with it and seeing his friend George!Next is a puffy (bath style) Nemo book, that just has color words in it. I added the colored pom poms for him to find as we read the book together. They also had this book with a Cars theme, which I am going to find the cars we have for him to match up with the book while reading.I also got a few more things, but these are the only ones we’ve used so far. Just thought I would share in case anyone is heading out for a weekend Target trip!!!!

Behind the Scenes ~ Tot Trays

What Are Tot Trays



I know most of you probably read my Tot School post from this past Sunday, but if you didn’t read it first, then you’ll know what I am talking about ~ Tot Trays :).
Now, I will answer any questions I could think of that readers might ask :) and if I don’t answer yours, put it below in the comments and I will!

First, WHY Trays?

  • Let me begin by saying that I am in NO way saying that my beliefs are right, they are just MY beliefs. I share openly about what I believe when it comes to educating young children, and yes I do have a college degree, but that in no way makes me any smarter than others out there. I just share what I believe!
  • The TRAY itself: I believe the tray itself provides a sense of space for a young child. When all items are contained on a tray (or a mat, or something similar), it is easier for the child to visualize all involved with the activity and also how to CLEAN it up! Cleaning up is a huge part of this method for me.
  • The ACTIVITIES: I believe in providing simple, yet engaging activities that sometimes expose a skill and sometimes are just fun! I love the discussion times these trays provide. I love the concentration required. I love that Krash is developing perseverance, focus, and determination to accomplish tasks. I love the vocabulary alone that stems from the tray activities, it really is endless. I love that I can change up the activities easily without a ton of work each evening. I love that most of the items on the trays aren’t *toys* so they are refreshing for Krash and engaging.
  • The ENVIRONMENT: Trays provide a more neat and orderly environment for a tot, it is easy to see where the activities are, what is involved, how to clean up, and where to put the tray back. These types of activities also (usually) stimulate a quieter environment as many of the activities require much focus from the tot! In a world of LOUD chaos (at least with MY tot), I enjoy the difference in these types of activities.
  • WHEN: Krash only uses these trays during SCHOOL time. They are not toys, they are not free-play items. My idea behind this is to keep them special and engaging. When a child sees them over and over again, anytime, they become just like the rest of his toys. Sometimes this is hard to manage but that is the goal. We have only recently gone back to this method and he will get used to it more and more as we go on.

Tell me about your shopping spree you spoke of in your Tot School post…

Here’s where I went, with items linked up if I could find them online. Many of these items were pictured in my Tot School post (or will be soon :) )

AC Moore:

  • round paint tray
  • pom poms (bought 3 bags, of the colors we didn’t have already)
  • Valentines Day items for our seasonal collection (2-$1 tins, 1-1$ plastic heart jar, heart cookie cutters)
  • pipe cleaners (we just happened to be almost out!)
  • Cookie cutters-with a spring/Easter theme

Dollar Tree:

  • heart sticks
  • heart shaped ice cube tray
  • skinny long colored spoon assortment
  • cookie cutters assortment
  • foam beads in a box
  • pack of 4 colored clips

Ikea: (I am SO sorry for those of you who don’t live near an Ikea, that have the best stuff for trays!)

~edited to add… the trays themselves are from Oriental TradingI wrote a post sharing alternatives here.

I did not spend a ton of money, and many of these items will be used over and over again. These were just some things I wanted to get at this point, to go along with what we already had. And yes, I do have an educational supply shopping addiction (so my husband says).

How do you organize ALL OF THE STUFF?

  • I decided this FIRST, as I knew if I just brought home a bunch of stuff and mixed it in with the rest of our supplies, I would become overwhelmed with the whole idea and give up. So, when I went shopping, that was my very first priority and I knew I was not coming home until I had the solution! Here it is…The drawers are long, which is really nice for things like pipe cleaners, spoons, etc. Below is a photo of our bottle top collection…
  • I got a closet shoe hanging thing, that has drawer/box things to go inside. I didn’t have any floor space to put a new shelf or drawers or anything so when I saw this-the light bulb went off! We hang ours inside of our guest room/office “closet” area.
  • I made labels for all of the drawers and now that I am home, I plan to get one more red thing and set of boxes, just to not run out of storage-it’s worth it to me. I hung the labels on with key ring things I got at an educational supply store.
  • I also added a set of plastic drawers that I already had, knowing I would need larger spaces for some things. The main idea for this is the items I am collecting from the house (plastic bottles-my favorite is our coffee creamer bottles with the label torn off, TP tubes, PT tubes, and other bigger items we are now saving).
  • I am using a couple of the shelves in the *closet* to store some of the bigger items also, I still need to work on this area.
  • I am not entirely done with the space as I write this, but it will continue to be a work in progress, as all things storage and school related are!

How do you organize your IDEAS in your head when it comes to planning for these types of activities?

I think in the way of tray-themes, then change up within those. Here’s my *theme list* so far:

  • Transferring
  • Pouring
  • Beading
  • Spooning
  • Pasta Fun
  • Sorting
  • Counting
  • Matching
  • Small Spaces
  • Cutting
  • Gluing
  • Stickers
  • Simple Art/Crafts
  • Fine Motor-Muscle Skills

By keeping to these themes, I can wrap my brain around it easier and come up with simple ways to make it fun! I can also list out new ideas under a category-or add a new category!

Speaking of NEW IDEAS, I always find tons of ideas while blog-surfing but have a hard time implementing them (or remembering them), how do you manage this?

  • I struggled with this also, and finally made myself a sheet to keep next to my computer. I will give you the link for it at the end of this post. I jot down the name of the idea, and where I found it. THEN I add it to a folder in my Internet bookmarks so I can come back to it when I am ready to see it again.
  • If it is something I plan to make right away, I will just jot down my materials list and put in our current school plans!
  • I plan to come up with an even better way to sort new ideas as we get going, but this is my start!

What ages would you recommend these activities for?

  • I must tell you I am not a big age-range-suggester. WHY? Because I firmly believe that every child is unique and different and you must take the time to truly know your own child. I always post Krash’s age in my Tot School posts to give readers an idea, but kids are different!
  • I recommend starting simple, with the easiest of ideas and just see how your tot does! If an activity is frustrating for your tot (or you), then put it on the “later on” list!
  • Many of the tray activities are even enjoyed by my oldest son (age 6 1/2), that’s the cool thing about trays-they are simple but fun.

WAIT, THERE”S MORE!!!!

I made a new webpage all about Tot Trays! There’s ideas already there and I have tried to go into as much detail as possible to help you out if you’re looking to add this type of learning to your home. I plan to continually update this page, with ideas, photos, etc. so be sure to bookmark it if you are interested! On this page you will find:

  • The link to the New Ideas sheet
  • Items to Collect sheet, and Shopping Ideas (stores, lists, etc.)
  • Each *tray theme* outlined (with photos if I have them already)
  • More info about storage
  • My Labels (either for you to use exactly or to gather ideas to make your own)

As I said above, if you have any other questions about Tot Trays, please leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them there. I will also add more to the webpage itself as I get new photos and ideas!