Skip to main content

Activity Trays and Interest Tables

One of the key things I like to include in my weekly or daily environment set ups are ‘activity trays’… also sometimes referred to as ‘interest tables’, ‘discovery trays’ or ‘sensory bins’.

IMG_20180425_210640_655

It’s essentially a hodge podge of various bits and pieces, thoughtfully curated and arranged in a way to generate interest in children to explore and discover.

I like them because they often add a pop of colour or an interesting corner to the general play area. Plus if they hit the right spots, they can captivate and engage a child for ages on end.

Sometimes I set them up around a particular theme or area of interest we happen to be focusing on. Other times I keep it a bit more simple, featuring a particular toy, game or a collection of materials for the children to explore or incorporate into their general play.

Coloured chickpeas #familydaycare #kidsactivities #sensorytray

A post shared by Serenely (@livingserenely) on

To churn out these activity trays on a regular basis, I keep a modest collection of ‘loose parts’ which I organise in clear containers to rotate around. Coloured pebbles, gumnuts, seashells, bean bags, bottle tops, coloured pasta, pegs, pompoms, popsicle sticks, small blocks and  so on. Basically a neatly organised hoard of ‘rubbish’.

Loose parts play with recycled squeezy yoghurt lids #familydaycare #loosepartsplay

A post shared by Serenely (@livingserenely) on

It’s often tempting to dress the tray up to make it aesthetically pleasing to the adult eye. But one thing I’ve learnt is that what looks appealing to adults do not necessarily capture children’s interest in the same way.

And if I attach too many preconceived ideas on how the objects are meant to be played with, I end up getting stressed out when the entire tray is completely disassembled and deconstructed. So now I’ve learnt, once I’ve put it out there, I must be prepared to “let it go”.

With ‘themed’ trays, it’s important to remember that they may not necessarily generate the expected response you hope for from younger children.

Older children should be able to grasp the concept or idea behind themed activity trays fairly easily. However younger children or toddlers will likely be more interested in the individual objects or materials on their own.

The important thing is that the set up is capturing the child’s interest and imagination, and channeling their boundless energy in a productive way.

mini zoo animals #smallworldplay

A post shared by Serenely (@livingserenely) on

And even if the interest in the set up does not turn out as expected, I take in on board as a learning on what works well and what doesn’t, to incorporate into future set ups.

And always keep an open mind. Children may surprise you with new and novel ways of playing with the activity tray.


If you enjoyed this post, you can check out our
other activities and  play and learning ideas.

Comments

More Popular Posts



DSC07989Our DIY outdoor chalkboard

Today’s entry is not so much a post as it is just a way to showcase the latest addition to our outdoor play area… Our new mega sized outdoor chalkboard!

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY »


SnailCraftCollage2Learning about snails

This past week has been all about snails.The children are always fascinated by the snails in our garden and ask endless questions about them.A couple of weeks back, one of my boys stumbled across a snail crawling along the ground.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY »


DIY magnet shapes

A couple of weeks ago, I had posted this snapshot of these set of magnetic shapes I made on my Instagram.  I received a few curious questions on how I made them.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY »


DSC06501A_thumb[1]Three Questions

And so Nathan’s very first day of kindergarten is over. It was a mixture of good, bad, sweet and sour. I think that so much happens throughout the day, it can be challenging for a little person to filter through it all.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY »


DSC05282My cup runneth over

These days my days are packed full to the brim. From the moment I wake up to the sound of Grace calling through the baby monitor and Nathan’s cheeky face peering at me over the edge of the bed… to the evening when I finally tuck them into bed and say goodnight.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY »


Catch up with me on Instagram @livingserenely