Scooping tray activities for toddlers and preschoolers

Scooping is one of the easiest Montessori style tray activities for toddlers and can be introduced at the same time as they are perfecting their spooning skills during meal times – giving them a little extra practise when spills are not so difficult to clean up!

Start with large, non-slippery objects that fit easily into a scoop (see mega marbles) and move to more fiddly materials like the popcorn or rice examples below. All you need is two containers (one to  to scoop from and one to scoop into), something to scoop with (spoon, scoop, ladle, etc.) and something to scoop (pompoms, noodles, rice, jewels, marbles, beads, dried beans, pasta etc.)

Have a look through your art and craft supplies, kitchen cupboards and junk drawers and you will be surprised at what you can put together in just a few minutes.

These pompoms are scooped into a plastic chocolate container insert with depressions in it. The scoop comes from a washing powder container.

This is a piece of packing foam that has indentations all over it; perfect for filling with marbles. The scoop is a pasta spoon from a child’s cooking set.

Dry popcorn kernels in espresso coffee cups with a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon.

Montessori trays are traditionally presented with the material to be scooped on the left hand side to help with left to right directionality for later reading and writing skills.

Green split peas are scooped from bowl to bowl.

Coloured rice is a very attractive scooping material.

When my toddlers were older and no longer finding simple scooping activities very interesting, I gave them this tray with a variety of containers to scoop, pour and tip with. They loved it.

Montessori inspired practical life: dry pouring tray activities for toddlers

If you are looking for inspiration for toddler tray activities, dry pouring is a great place to start. It is a practical life skill that is easily introduced in a simplified form and can be gradually made more challenging as your toddler progresses. Learning to pour liquids carefully and accurately is difficult for young children, so starting with a dry material is a more forgiving and easily mastered beginning. Giving children cups and containers to pour water in the bath develops the skill in a non-messy environment and dry pouring activities are great for mat time, highchair time or table time.

This is the first dry pouring experience I give my toddlers. Tipping the jewels out of the cup into a baking tin and collecting them up again is surprisingly absorbing and makes a satisfying racket as they do it. If you prefer a quieter option, try pompoms (see below), however I can guarantee the children will enjoy the jewels, beads, rocks or other noisy versions more!

Pouring from one container to another is the next step. Choose 2 containers of the same size, without handles. A set of straight-sided small tumbler type cups is best; something that is easily gripped in a toddler’s hand. Add small objects such as dried beans to pour from one to the other and change the containers and material to pour every so often to keep interest high.

Rice is one of the last materials to introduce. If you colour it, it is very attractive but it is almost guaranteed to spill and is not quite as easy to clean up. Toddlers need to be taught how to collect the spilt rice in one corner of the tray and carefully pour it back into the container.

I was able to find a cute mini dustpan and broom which I include with my rice pouring activities to clean up the spills which is a practical life skill in itself. Tape a square shape with masking tape in the centre of the tray and teach the children how to first sweep the rice into a little pile within the tape boundary before sweeping it into the dustpan.

Adding funnels to a dry pouring activity adds yet another dimension and when I have had simple pouring activities available for quite a while, I set up a combined scooping, pouring and funnelling tray for a  more complicated experience. After I have changed this around for a while, I then add teddies and other small animals or toys and turn it into more of a pretend play type activity. This allows a broader scope of play and promotes longer engagement by older toddlers and preschoolers.

Montessori style tray activity for toddlers: Bucket of giant beads

Today I’m moving away from water transfer for all those who can’t stand the mess or have little ones who are just not ready for that yet! This is the second Montessori style tray activity for toddlers that I ever introduced, to follow on from the mega marbles transfer. Both require less fine  motor control and can be completed successfully by young toddlers. Easy to set up and adapt to the materials you have on hand, you can get this one together in minutes. A great highchair or table activity, it works well for keeping little ones occupied while homeschooling and can easily be carried to the Montessori mats traditionally used to delineate each child’s work-space.

DESCRIPTION:

  • The child uses the scoop provided to transfer the large wooden beads from one bucket to the other and back again.

CATEGORY/SUBJECT AREA:

  • Practical life: dry transfer

CONCEPT/SKILL:

  • Fine motor development
  • Control of ladle or scoop
  • Transferring dry materials

EQUIPMENT & MATERIALS:

  • Ladle (scoop, icecream scoop, measuring spoon, large spoon, pasta spoon or any other utensil that fits one bead at a time into it. Choose a short-handled utensil for ease of manipulation.)
  • Large beads or alternative material to transfer
  • 2  containers (metal containers make a pleasing sound as the beads drop in.)
  • Tray

Please see my articles titled “Workjobs and Learning Styles” and “Brief Montessori Overview” for more information.