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  • Writer's pictureDeb


Parents who are new to Montessori often worry that they’ll need new activities every day. That isn’t the case. Montessori education allows children to repeat activities and sees that as essential to help meet the needs of the child’s sensitive period (time when learning a specific skill is easiest).

Homeschool Activity tray of flowers

Preparing activity trays that the child can choose meets the child’s needs for independence. It also meets the child’s need to repeat an activity as many times as the child chooses. It allows the child to reach deeper levels of understanding when an activity is repeated. And it makes life easier for you!


Homeschool activity tray of seashells
  • Printable (obviously!).

  • Materials for printing and cutting (and laminating if desired). I most often use white cardstock for printing. To save time and money while helping protect the environment, I only laminate materials that we use with water, playdough, or another messy activity. For those printables, I cut them out first and then laminate them, leaving a laminate edge when I cut them out again to prevent water from reaching the printable.

  • Activity tray. I most often use inexpensive wooden trays with handles. I especially like nesting ones that are easy to store. I use a variety of trays and baskets, but I look for ones that are attractive, durable, and stackable. In Montessori education, there’s only one of each activity, encouraging children to take turns or work together cooperatively. So you only need to prepare one tray of a specific activity for a homeschool co-op or other group.

  • Small containers for an undivided tray. For most activity trays, I like to have containers for small labels and objects needed for the activity. I often use miniature easels for cards and booklets. An orderly environment helps children develop an inner order. In the same way, an organized tray helps children develop an inner order (along with making the tray more attractive in general). I tend to keep my eyes open for small, attractive containers that will work well with activity trays.

  • 3-dimensional objects to go with the printable wherever possible. When I create activity trays using printables, I emphasize using 3-dimensional objects whenever I can find them to go with the activity.

  • Materials such as tweezers or tongs if you want to add a fine-motor skill to your activity tray.

  • A shelf or shelves for the activity trays where your children can easily reach them, allowing for freedom of choice and repetition in their activities.


  • Decide if you need to laminate the activity and what type of laminating you’ll do.

  • Think of how you can make the activity hands-on. As I said, I often add 3-dimensional objects, such as figures from Safari Ltd. TOOBS or other miniatures. Often, printables can be cut apart to make them into manipulatives. Rather than having a young child draw lines matching two objects on a worksheet, I might cut the pictures apart and let the child match the pictures, find matching pictures buried in a sensory tub, or play a concentration game with them.

  • When preparing the activity tray, make it as attractive and orderly as possible. Typically, you’ll want to arrange your materials in left-to-right order on the tray as an indirect preparation for writing and reading.

That’s it! After preparing a tray, find a place for it on your shelf. To show a young child how to use an activity, simply demonstrate it with slow motions and as few words as possible. Be sure to show your child how to clean up and put away the tray on the shelf. Then have fun observing your child!