Reassessing Tot School: No More Tot Trays

I’m a nerd.  The displays of pencils and binders at Wal-mart make me giddy.  The abundance of recent back-to-school blog posts has left me starry eyed.  This time of year is more exciting than the actual New Year.  Oh, the possibilities: the things to be learned, the fun to be had!  I am so happy to finally start planning for this next year.  While everyone else has been planning I’ve been busy canning.  I still have loads of food piled in my entryway but I can’t wait any longer to get Kent’s stuff together.

Kent is only two.  I get that!  I’m not busting out a stack of workbooks for him or anything like that.  However, he’s definitely old enough to get something out of our planned “school” time.  I want to make the most of it.

We’ll be using a first real curriculum to study the Bible, and we’ll be focusing on practical life and sensory activities using Montessori principles.  I have the big stuff figured out but I am reassessing what we’ll actually do on a day-to-day basis and how we’ll set it all up.

Looking back on our last year there are some things that Kent really enjoyed and wanted to do again and again:

  • pouring and transferring activities
  • messy art and sensory play
  • water play/scrubbing activities
  • food prep (slicing, chopping, spreading)
  • our obstacle course and other gross motor activities
  • circle/song time
  • small world play
  • bath painting and other bath fun
  • reading, reading, and more reading!
  • playdough
  • learning and using sign language

There were a fair amount of things that he really wasn’t interested in and would do only once or twice, or not at all:

  • most of our tot trays!
  • stringing/threading
  • sorting
  • matching two printables (versus matching an object to a printable, which he doesn’t mind)
  • clipping
  • piano (he loves music but wasn’t interested in playing on the keyboard)

I definitely want to incorporate more of the things he loves, but occasionally try some of the other activities again.  I also want to add a calendar/circle time board, and start using our felt and magnet board more often.  I always have good ideas for the felt board but in the rush to get school set up on Sunday night they never get implemented.

He favorite activities were the things that got taken to the kitchen: either art at the big table, sensory bins and water play done on the floor, or food prep/pouring/transferring activities done at his table.  A lot of times I would plan a one time activity like that but would still feel the need to find an activity for the tray that could stay on the tray and be accessible all week.  For example, we might slice strawberries (practical life) but I would still have a practical life tray out with something like sock sorting.   Slicing strawberries every day would be less work for me, and less to plan, and he would be happier.

My Tot School planning for the past several months centered largely on the Tot Trays.  I tried to have one tray each for sensory, fine motor, cognitive, practical life, language and literacy, and color review.  I put out new trays almost every week.  Being honest, though, I think the trays are his least favorite part of Tot School.  He might like one or two trays each week but many go unnoticed.

So, I may take a cue from common Montessori practice yet again and start leaving some of the same trays out for longer and only occasionally introducing new material.  Really, the things he plays with most on a daily basis are his cylinder blocks, his horses toob, and his sea animals toob – and those are out all the time.  Maybe leaving more materials out all the time will spark his interest.  Leaving the same materials out for a few weeks or more will take a lot of the stress off of me, too, and free up more time for playing and having fun.

I also want to rearrange some of the shelving in our house and start using something else to hold the trays.  The shelf that we have has worked great but the trays go in short side first so it is harder for him to carry heavy ones without spilling.  If he could grab both short sides it would be better.

We’ll still be doing trays but with all these changes I won’t consider them “tot trays” anymore.  They will be more like real, big kid trays.  Since, you know, Kent is so big now!  whimper

Sorry if I’m rambling.  This is me brainstorming! 🙂


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