the domestic tales of four sisters

Tot Trays

When we made the transition to the new daycare room after Christmas break, I decided it was a good time to change our daycare schedule a bit.  While we have a handful of preschoolers, it was growing increasingly difficult to accomplish much traditional ‘preschool’ time with multiple toddlers running around.  I was doing my research scanning Pinterest for ideas one evening, and came across Tot Trays also called Tot School.

I fell instantly in love and decided it could very well be our answer!

I loved that the kids would be introduced to new activities and experiences but in a controlled manner.  Read: I wouldn’t have to worry about all 8-10 of them painting/playing with water/exploring the sensory bin all at once.  So, I started gathering my supplies.  Enter Amazon.

I ordered these trays (all pictures are clickable affiliate links).

And a few other items I thought would improve the experience like kid friendly tweezers, a simple science set, Playdoh, jumbo eye droppers, and some basic buttons.


I was like a kid at Christmas when these items arrived! So much fun!! All that was left, was to actually implement all of this new fun!

Well…. it didn’t exactly go according to planned.

After our experience using Quiet Time Bins that lead to me creating my own version, I was expecting to need to make some adjustments.  When you’re implementing something meant for one or two kidos with 8-10, it rarely looks the same.  I will say, if you’re only going to be working with a couple kids, I highly encourage you to do it the way explained over at 1+1+1=1.  Tot School is meant to be completely self directed, it just wasn’t working well with our crew, so we made a few changes.

So how did we make it work for our daycare crew? We took the choice out of it, and started using a timer. 🙂 You see, the kids were trying to fly through upwards of 10 activities in just a few minutes each day.  They were also starting to boycott all other activities when they had their sights set on one.  I was able to address both of these with my phone, well… the timer on my phone.

Each day I set out enough activities for the kids in attendance.  I call the kids to the table and hand each child a tray containing one of the days activities.  I set my phone timer for 5 minutes and they explore.  When my phone goes off everyone slides their tray to the left and I reset the timer… 5 more minutes.  We have tray time long enough that each child gets to try each activity every day. If there are 4 kids we have a total of 20 minutes, 5 kids we go 25 and so on.  The kids know they’re going to get to do each activity so no one gets upset or tries to boycott anything.  We’ve been using the trays for almost 3 months now, and we’re sailing right along!

Here are few pictures of our Tray Time!

Tot Trays |
Buttons for color sorting!
Jumbo Eye Droppers
Scooping & Pouring with the Science Set.
Math activities using the jumbo tweezers!

Looks like a ton of fun, huh? We love it! The only other thing we addressed was how the toddlers enjoy this time of day.  Initially, we had them at high chairs.  They would do really well for a bit and then would lose interest.  We decided to ditch the chairs and opt for a free flowing version for the little ones.  Each day we set out a few activities that they only see at this time of day.  They’re usually completely enthralled for the entire 20-30 minutes! Here’s a look at their table time. 😉

They’re fans. 🙂 I highly encourage you to give this a try! It’s a great way to incorporate some fun new activities/experiences into your day and the kids will love it!

Have you tried a version of Tot Trays or Tot School? Have any fun ideas? I’d love to hear about it, leave me a comment below!


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