Thursday, 29 November 2012

Leave-Behind Activity Trays: Hands-On Parenting Tool

After I discovered and fell in love research about Montessori methods, I started to leave behind "do it herself" activity trays available for my new preschooler while I was at work.  I didn't even know the full Montessori curriculum - you don't need to - it was really just for fun.  Or to lessen the guilt.  (Ok, both).

I would be thrilled to come home and find that she did some things I left for her.  It was almost as if I was there myself!
Her activity trays before and after their debut on her playroom shelves.  
Much as I wanted to do all the creative stuff on the homeschool blogs I follow, it simply isn't possible to be that hands-on for a working mom.  Literally, career talaga these homeschool moms.

What working moms need to start are easy:
  • Trays for self-contained activities.  This can be anything from cardboard shoebox lids to baskets.  I was OC, so I got mine for 40 each at Japan Home.
  • Easy-access tables/shelves where the trays stay as a ready invitation to play.
  • An actual floor time lesson or two to show her how to get and return trays on her shelf.  We spent some weekend time doing some trays together as well, so she knows how the general thing works

"What's this?" - Ladybug Girl's excitement when she first discovered the trays in her room (July 2011)
I found I needed to tweak things a bit so that Ladybug Girl can do things on her own, since she tends to get discouraged when she doesn't immediately succeed.  

A lot of ideas in the homeschool blogs are generally ones that need a lot of setup and direct supervision, so here I will capture the tools I discovered that make setup easy and lessen the potential of frustration when I'm not around to guide her.  

Here's a quick one:
Clear contact paper!  (find this in True Value, Handyman or Ace)
Since she does her trays pretty much alone, sticky contact paper keeps things in place like an invisible guide. To illustrate:
Cut out and attach to a clipboard, sticky side up, to hold paper games in place.  Games can be anything you can think of.
Contact paper on a larger-scale for an inviting and neat way to work on puzzles
Attach it to glass for an anything goes canvas for art.  It stays sticky for a long time so we leave it up and keep reusing it.
It's DIY, it's hands-on while allowing me to be at work, and it's playful learning for Ladybug Girl.  

I love stumbling upon these simple solutions.  


  1. So creative! How on earth do you keep all your DIY supplies in order?

    1. Ah, that's another post altogether! My closets are being revamped by a handyman as we speak!

  2. Love this post. I'm so stealing this for my kids.

  3. How old was your daughter when you started the leave behind trays? I'm thinking of starting for my 2 year old but she doesn't seem very interested!


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