Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tot Trays Tuesday

Except this isn't Tuesday. Whoops, but Tuesdays are my goal.

I get asked often how we engage, educate and entertain our 3 year old. Sometimes this question is asked in shock after learning we don't own a television set and that we try to avoid plastic and battery operated toys. Often though friends just want ideas and suggestions for engaging their own children with out resorting to the TV or spending lots of money. I enjoy being super cheap frugal! So basically this is one of those 'This is how we roll' posts in regards to our weekly Tot Trays. I'll show you our set up and some of the things that we're currently doing in our home (we're ever evolving so it could change at any time as we see what best fits our rhythm). Hopefully you'll find something helpful to try at home with your hobbits.

I have to confess that before I became a mom I was an expert on parenting and for some odd reason now that I actually am a mom I seem to be eating a lot of my own expert opinions. One of those was my insistence that bedrooms and the living room would be kept  toy free and uncluttered. We have a beautiful playroom upstairs where toys, books and such should live. Except that my hobbit will not actually play in the playroom and all that stuff started oozing down the stairs. Also when it came time for more organized learning it became a bit burdensome to be running up and down the stairs all the time. So I got a big giant taste of reality and came to terms that the room we spend the most time in should be set up to stimulate and engage the hobbit girl since she wants to be where we are. (usually right behind me so I knock her over anytime I turn around) So we reevaluated and made some changes and here is how we have things set up now to encourage learning and creating.

This is right next to our front door. This is the "school" shelf. Also the 'Build A Bear Cave' as Reggie has coined it. We should probably avoid that store in the future since we look like we're starting a stuffed zoo.

The top shelve houses a plant, a basket of random junk covered with a doily, rotating seasonal decor, Daddy's crayons (he doesn't share well) and any supply that has earned a "time out" which means it was used inappropriately and is now not available for a week. Last week 20 minutes before ballet class R used the basket of markers to "tattoo" herself head to toe so she could be like one of her favorite people at church. This violated our "only mark/color/draw/paint on paper" rule. She hadn't broke that rule in over a year so I guess she was past due.

The second shelf houses school curriculum and various art supplies she has access to when ever she feels inspired.

The third shelf is special books that I leave out all year round and more art supplies.The baskets help her to clean up after herself better. Unless she asks for permission we have a one basket at a time limit. I'm not trying to stifle her creativity by any means but we had a few too many "art explosions" that resulted in a floor so covered you couldn't walk on it. Since she's never too eager to clean that crap up we came up with a new rule.

The bottom shelf houses our seasonal books and play silks.

The shelf is in our stairwell to the left of the front door. The top is reference books for me, board games, counting pebbles and stickers. The second shelf down has a basket of chalks, paper, coloring books, some vintage ChildCraft books which are awesome and the pink bin has more paints, art supplies and flash cards. The next shelf is the music shelf and the bottom has a basket of toys (mostly blocks and random things I find laying around the house) and a couple more games. She really likes games right now.

This shelf is on the other side of the room. I use the top of seasonal decor and then the next shelf down is our nature shelf which currently needs some love and sprucing up. The bottom 2 shelves house our weekly tot trays. I can fit four on there which is plenty for us. I've seen set ups that have 6 or more but for now this is plenty. Tot Trays are a very Montessori inspired learning tool. They are designed to engage and foster independence as well. These are not something I work with her on or "teach" her how to use. I will demonstrate a way or two on how she could possibly use them but I try to keep them open ended and fairly self explanatory. The only rules are one tray at a time and she must clean it up and put it back before getting another. She usually takes the tray to her table but will occasionally sit on the floor to play with it with her daddy. I change the trays out weekly (the goal is on Sunday evening) and Pinterest is an amazing source of inspiration. Most of the things I use were found around the house or acquired at Dollar Tree (or both). This shouldn't be complicated or expensive.

This is R's little table. It's on the other side of the wall from her easel and directly across from her "school" shelf. Despite a fresh coat of paint it is now stained with paint again but that's ok because it means Art was embraced! We LOVE art.

Ok, what's on the trays and why. Which I'm planning to make into a weekly post to help inspire.

Pony beads a pipe cleaners. Makes excellent bracelets and helps those fine motors skills and concentration. Classic Tot Tray benefits.

A small (thrifted) mirror and blocks. My idea was she could explore symmetry and reflection. In her eyes it just makes her tower look REALLY big.

Bean sorting, scoping, counting. This is a great sensory activity that helps those fine motor skills needed to learn to write.

Play Dough Play. This is something she likes to do with daddy.

Hard at work!

These are independent play activities that our set out all week. A couple times a week I also set up an Invitation to Play for her to find after quiet time. I find those to be a great way to stimulate her imagination and provide me with the time I need to start dinner. I'll share some of those as well in the near future.

So there you have it. A basic and simple intro to Tot Trays the way we use them in our home. I'd love for you to share any ideas or questions in the comments section!


Post a Comment