The Activity Tray – Product Exploration

activity trayWith classrooms getting organized and teachers settling into the new school year, we’ve been thinking about versatility. Materials and products that serve multiple purposes are especially beneficial as children and teachers get to know one another and “move into” their space. At Kodo, developing open-ended materials is our passion. This week we’re featuring the Activity Tray.

The philosophy behind the Activity Tray was to create a focused space for children. A space which presents materials for creating and exploring with intentionality. By “framing” their work, children tend to stay within the box and create a world in that space. While we want out-of-the-box thinkers, providing a boundary helps focus a child’s thought and attention on the project at hand. Apart from philosophy, the Activity Tray offers practicality. A shallow tray with substantial side walls which will hold water and countless other materials has endless uses in the classroom. From a containment tray to a science exploration surface, this tray is a teacher’s go to workspace.

Activity Ideas:

activity trayA Ramp space for toddlers. A few 1 foot Discovery Ramps, balls and the Activity Tray provide a controlled space with a built in ramp support and containment for the balls. Toddlers quickly understand how to place the ramps to allow the ball to roll, hit the other side and come back for another ramp launch. Elevate the tray to a toddler’s level by attaching it to the Toddler Art Table using magnets. A great focused area for ramp exploration.

A space for melting ice cubes. The steel interior of the Activity tray provides the perfect surface for experimentation. Melting ice cubes on the tray clearly illustrates the transformation of ice to water. The steel tray retains the cool temperature from the ice cube which can be felt both on top of and underneath by the children.


Block Building. On occasion, children benefit and enjoy the challenge that comes with restrictions on their play. One challenge we use in our classroom is to restrict the space in which they are allowed to build. “We are in the middle of the city and this square is the only city lot available for the construction project.” The Activity Tray provides not only the outline of this space, but also physical walls to keep them true!

By focusing attention on the defined activity space, children have a spatial purpose and are not drawn outward from the start point of their project. They are challenged to focus on building from that start point and plan ahead to stay within the space.

activity trayThe Literal Frame for Art. The Activity Tray lends itself beautifully to art exploration; from collage to interactive dioramas, the framed space speaks canvas. We use various colors of rice or different materials such as flax and millet and spread them in the tray using small scoops.

Colored oobleck is also fascinating for children and the shallow tray with its reflective bottom adds to the experience. Simply adding flax seed or millet to the tray creates a sensory art experience. As you run fingers or tools through the seeds the reflective bottom shines through creating a dramatic visual. Change the perspective by encouraging the tray to become a window into a scene. An interactive diorama which the children create.

The Mini Garden.
When used as a small growing space, the Activity Tray will contain your bean sprouts, lettuce or kitty grass and can be easily moved outdoors each morning to catch a little sun. With the national trend on creating community gardens, this mini classroom version is relevant and can be used to support your social studies and science standards. In the early childhood classroom, opportunities for earth science activities are often designed for the individual child. Each gets his own baggie and cotton ball for the bean, each gets his own sun catching paper and in general the child makes observations on her own. When groups of children participate in this process they are more apt to listen to one another, tend to build off of one another’s findings, and gain the positive feelings of accomplishing a goal as a team.

The Activity Tray provides an alteration for your classroom activities, transforming the everyday into the uncommon. Use it anywhere!

  • Try it with art materials
  • finger paint or bio paint
  • With ramps, balls and matchbox cars
  • As a portable sensory table
  • Attach it to the art table
  • Use it with clay!
  • Transport clipboards, pencils, stacks of paper
  • Use it wet with water, measuring cups, and mud
  • Lego construction
  • Use it in your science center or with the Sift and Sort
  • Use it for clean up! Photo blocks, balls, stuffies, etc.
  • Use it for sorting with baskets or bins with manipulatives (color)
  • Grow grass or sprouts

We hope this has provided some inspiration! Have fun!

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