Fun Art Trays To Try - Isolation Edition Part 1

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Montessori Art Tray activities at How we Montessori


We are mid-way through a 7-day isolation period and my preschooler has been desperate for some new activities. It's also been rainy so my mind goes straight to art. I've raided our art cupboard and put together a few new art activities!

These activities allow the child to focus on one activity or one skill at a time. The art trays can be used:

  • to introduce a new skill. 
  • to introduce new materials.
  • on the kitchen table
    • for the children to work on after breakfast.
    • after preschool/daycare/school alongside a healthy snack to relax and decompress.
    • in the afternoon while the caregiver is preparing dinner.
    • in a kitchen helper at the kitchen counter alongside a caregiver.
  • on art shelves, rotated to maintain interest.
  • during playdates.
  • inside or outside.
  • on the kitchen table, kitchen bench, child-size table, Chowki, lap tray or coffee table.

The trays allow the child to easily move the work around and will contain most of the mess. The idea is that everything the child needs for the activity is in the tray, however, sometimes my child will ask for extra colours or for more paper. Children can do the work in the tray, or if they like they can take the work and do it out of the tray. Generally, I don't mind and I follow the child. 

Some of these activities require specialist materials like Squeezy Glue and Zig Zag Scissors. I have three children and we use a lot of art materials so I find it's worth it. These materials can be found for only a few dollars at craft or department stores like KMart in Australia. 

When deciding on activities for your child consider the child's skill level and interests. We want to establish a balance of support and challenge, so the child can successfully do the work, feel a sense of accomplishment and success and also learn new skills. We want to support developing fine motor skills AND creativity!! 

Play dough scuptures at How we Montessori

Play Dough Sculptures - with pipe cleaners. We could also use wire or paper straws. I've provided scissors so the child can cut the pipe cleaners to size. Paper straws are easier for younger children to cut. From 2.5-3yrs. 

Play dough sculptures at How we Montessori

The child can create rainbows, people, animals, robots or anything they can imagine! I would only present this to a child who already has some experience with play dough and can already make spheres, snakes/worms. 

Finger print drawing prints at How we Montessori preschool art tray (1)

Finger Print Drawings. This is fun and easy to put together. We are using colour stamp pads, a cloth for the child to clean their fingers and a felt tip pen. If your child hasn't used a felt tip pen before, I suggest providing a thin marker. For 3yrs+. 

Finger print drawings at How we Montessori

My child had a slow start with this so I make some fingerprint drawings alongside him. The idea wasn't for him to copy my work but to get some ideas and to work alongside each other. 

Finger print drawings at How we Montessori

This is a fun tray to use with older siblings too. 

Drawing rainbow prompt real colour order at How we Montessori art tray

Drawing Rainbows. Yesterday my child asked me to show him a picture of a real rainbow so he could get the colours right. I showed him a picture on my phone but I wanted to take this interest further. I printed out a few different images of rainbows and presented them with soft pastels. I could have easily presented this with crayons, paints, pencils or markers. From 3yrs+.

Drawing a rainbow with soft pastels at How we Montessori drawing prompt invitiation provocation

It was pouring heavily with rain while Otto was doing his drawing, so it's appropriate that he added raindrops to his picture. 🌧

Colour glue squeeze tray at How we Montessori fine motor tray

Squeezy Glue Art. I love activities for pre-writers that strengthen the fingers. These little squeezy glue bottles really put the child's finger muscles to work. The glue is glittery which makes it extra special. I've since figured out that I could make my own DIY squeezy glue with paint and eco glitter, which I might try next time. Kmart (AU) also has squeezy glue for only a couple of dollars. For 3yrs+. 

Squeezy glue art at How we Montessori tray activity

My child loved this. In the future, we could introduce a spatula or other materials to move or squish the glue around. 

Let's Play Herve Tullet art provocation promp Montessori tray

Let's Play Line Drawings. Have you read Let’s Play! by Herve Tullet? It's super fun and here I've paired it with some white paper, a black felt tip pen (for a younger child use a thin marker) and some colour dot stickers. For 2.5-3yrs+.

Herve Tullet Let's Play provovation invitation at how we Montessori

After reading the book we felt inspired to play with our own lines and dots!! 

How we Montessori cutting a spiral scissor work at 4 years preschool

Cutting Spirals. We usually have a cutting/scissor tray out on our shelves. I printed a spiral in different sizes. For 3.5-4yrs+.

Scissor work spirals at How we Montessori four years

The child needs to rotate the paper as they cut it, this is fantastic for developing coordination! 

Cutting with zig zag wavy scissors at How we Montessori art tray

Cutting with Zig Zag and Wavy Scissors. I was sceptical about how this activity would turn out, but it worked fabulously!! My child could use the scissors easily. 💕✂️ I presented different zig zag and wavy scissors (similar here) with coloured paper for cutting practice. Later we would use the paper for pasting work. KMart (AU) also has similar scissors. I would present these to a child who is confident using regular scissors. From 3.5yrs+.

Cutting wtih zig zag scissors at How we Montessori art tray at home

These scissors are fun to use! Each pair of scissors cut a distinctively different pattern.

Cutting wtih zig zag scissors at How we Montessori art tray at home

This is so addictive, once we start cutting it's hard to stop. 

Cutting wtih zig zag scissors at How we Montessori art tray at home

Next, we can explore with the child what to make with the cuttings. These would be cute to use as labels for envelopes or for cutting the pages when making our own books.

Drawing prompt faces at How we Montessori art tray

Drawing Faces. I downloaded and printed this drawing faces prompt. I presented it with markers, pencils or pens could also work well. Children at this age don't need drawing prompts but it's an easy and engaging rain day activity. This is fantastic for older children and siblings, my ten-year-old also enjoyed this. 

Faces drawing prompt at How we Montessori

Some other art tray ideas you might also enjoy:

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