Quality Time learning colour tot trays

The first of a few posts on activities aimed at children aged between 6 and 36 months.

Colour tot trays are the easiest way to start learning through play with your baby. Colours are the such a huge part of a babies life. However, more and more research is showing that babies are being overstimulated by our busy lifes, colourful toys and of course, screen time. So whilst these trays can help with colour learning I feel there are other advantages. By gathering multiple items of one colour you remove that as a variable. It, therefore, allows your child to focus on the items themselves rather than the bombardment of many colours. For very little ones gather all the items you can find of one colour, that are a safe size. It will probably end up mostly toys but it doesn’t have to be. This is a type of treasure basket. 

Offer the child the tray or basket and see what they are first drawn to. Once they have selected an item you can introduce the colour aspect. However, when teaching young children colours always try to avoid stating ‘a green car’. To the baby the statement ‘green car’ just means the sounds related to that object are ‘green car’. They do not understand that the word green is a description. It is much better to point to the object or hold it up at the right focal length for your baby  and say ‘car – the car is green.’ The ‘is’ part is key to helping the child understand description.  Once you have lifted several items, named them and stated their colour you can move on to other characteristics – ‘the car is shiny’, ‘the car has wheels’ or ‘the car is hard’. (When you repeat this activity as the baby get older you can add comparisons a the car is smaller than the block.) 

Next you can show the child what each item is by wheeling the car along the floor or building a tower. Use simple language throughout and try to avoid background noise from the tv or radio.   If your child hasn’t already, show them what objects from the box can fit inside other objects or bang together to make noise. Introduce different textures by encouraging the child to touch each item.    It always stuns me how quickly role play begins in babies and I just loved how Elyse put the penguin to bed.    I found treasure baskets very helpful. We have a lot of toys and sometimes it is overwhelming choosing what to do. This mix of objects in a treasure basket encourages creativity and is a huge language building opportunity.

Once we had covered all the colours like this and my children were all at the toddling stage I extended colour tot trays to a water tray and added a sensory base material, flash cards and colour counters (which are quite small and unsuitable for babies).  The base material here is green rice. The addition of the base material changes the experience by adding a sensory element. Scooping and pouring is such a favourite toddler activity that I’ll be doing a seperate post about it. For the blue tray I found some lovely blue sand.  For the yellow it was shredded paper. And for red it was rice again.  More ideas for 0-3 year olds to follow. 

Please feel free to share any of your colour tot tray pictures on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/qualitytimeresources

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