Tot Tray Wednesday #1 | Lone Star Signers

Back in January, we decided to start a toy rotation system with our girls, who are 5 and 2. (You can read all about our decision and organization here.) Three months later, we’re still going strong!

Typical #toyrotationTuesday:
Since Monday is our “outside the house” day, Tuesday morning is a quiet, slow start for everyone. My weekly signing classes are Tuesday evenings and Wednesday mornings, so the girls know that I spend the morning catching up on chores and planning lessons. After getting dressed and eating breakfast, they play together until 10:00 a.m., and then they watch Daniel Tiger and Super Why on PBS in my room.

While they indulge in some rare T.V. time, I gather the toys from our classroom/play area and swap them out for toys in their closet. (This goes so much more smoothly when they’re not involved.) I’m able to choose from items they haven’t seen in a while or grab specific toys they’ve asked for in the past week–as well as think through our center activities for signing class.

In ten minutes or less, I can have a new selection of toys picked out from the “stash.” As soon as the Super Why credits start rolling, the girls run out to start playing, which gives me another 30-60 minutes to fold laundry and run the vacuum before lunch.

My goal is to have six activities picked out that they can both enjoy, but I also have a few items set out for our younger friends who come over. I am always amazed at their excitement as they bounce from toy to toy–but before long, they have picked something to focus on. Kate (our two-year-old) is a master at mixing materials for creative play that I never would have imagined.

After signing class on Wednesday morning, a few items are usually packed back away–it doesn’t take long to see which toys aren’t capturing their interest (or have been dumped out all over the floor too many times).

I’m trying hard to follow the “Tot Tray” principles–since we don’t have the space to display them on shelves, I spread each tray out along the wall in the playroom. We’ll be working on choosing one tray and cleaning up materials before moving on during these next few months.

Tot Tray Wednesday #1 | Lone Star Signers

Week 1:
Signing Class Theme: clothing
Recommended book: Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?

(affiliate links used for your convenience)
Tot Trays:
1. Counting/sorting bears with numeral and number word cards
2. Button lacing string with spring shapes–acquired in a busy bag swap
3. Uppercase letters (on shirt die-cuts) and lowercase letters (on pant die-cuts)
4. Dress-up paper doll with shirts, pants, shoes, hats, and coats
5. Red, green, and yellow stacking cups, bolts, and nuts
6. Color two-part puzzles (out-of-print, sadly)
7. Pattern blocks with bunny template (flower on the reverse side)
Additional toys:
* Musical instruments (for signing class)
* Stuffed bear with dress-up clothes–purchased at a consignment sale
* Large, rainbow-colored pop beads (similar)

I make an effort to include at least one tray for each area: ABCs, colors, shapes/math concept, building, fine-motor skills, and creative play. If I’m lucky, I can find a way to make one tray overlap two or three concepts, like the one pictured below. (Kate has mastered it already, so I’ll need to bump up the challenge level for her later this week.)

Tot Tray Wednesday #1 | Lone Star Signers
Shapes, colors, and fine-motor work–all on one tray!

Note: the clear trays and bowls are all plastic, purchased at Dollar Tree. 🙂

I hope this was a helpful glance into our toy rotation system and how we use tot trays around here. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or share some of your favorite toddler activities! I’d love to hear from you.

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