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Eight Art Trays to Try - Montessori at Home 3-5 years+

Montessori Preschooler Art Trays at three years How we Montessori 2020

Are you looking for a few new art activities to try at home? I suggest most of these activities for children from around three years however some like the nature clay collage would be suitable or adaptable for toddlers. All of the materials the child needs are presented on the tray. I use melamine trays (similar) as they are super easy to wipe clean and will contain spills.  

Some of these trays contain two-step activities. It doesn't matter if the child doesn't follow the steps however they provide a good opportunity for the child to learn to follow steps and perhaps also to show restraint, for example painting the page first and then sprinkling the salt. To begin with, an adult or older child may need to demonstrate or use their own tray alongside the child. Once the child is familiar with the process a few verbal prompts may be all that is needed "paint the paper first, then sprinkle on the salt.".

I like to use card, often A5 and smaller, watercolour paper is always recommended when using watercolour paints as it doesn't get so soggy. I've shown a few examples below of how our activities turned out when completed by a three-year-old, but all children react differently. Remember the intent is process (not product) art.  

Cotton bud foil painting - we've used this many times before and it's always a hit. I wrap some cardboard with aluminium foil (use 100% recycled). I put paint in little jars and add cotton buds/swabs. The child uses the cotton buds to paint on the foil. As the foil is reflective and nice and shiny it provides a nice painting surface.

Roller paints - paints are poured into recycled deodorant roller bottles. This works better with some paints than others, for example, our blue paint comes out smoothly while the others are slightly blotchy. The child uses the recycled deodorant bottles to roll the paint on to the paper.

Watercolour crayon resist - this is a wonderful way to introduce the child to a two-step art process. The child uses the crayons to draw on the paper. Harder and thicker lines produce a better resist. The child then applies watercolour paints (similar here). The paints don't stick to the crayon so the crayon is visible once the paint dries. 

Glass markers on jars - we have ceramic and glass markers so I've been thinking of ways to use them. We have a few spare jars in the cupboard which I have presented with the markers. The child simply draws on the jars. With our markers the adult then needs to bake the jars in the oven to set the marker. Then we can use the jars as vases or hold pencils, or give as gifts.

Watercolour glue resist - this is another two-step resist activity. The child applies the glue to the card and allows it to dry. Depending on the weather the glue may take an hour or more to completely dry. Then the child applies the watercolour paints. The paints don't stick to the dried glue so the glue is visible once the paint dries. Makes a nice artistic effect. These make lovely gift cards or special notes.

Glue + coloured sand - this is also a two-step activity. The child applies glue to the card and while the glue is still wet the child sprinkles the coloured sand or coloured salt over the card. Then the child gently picks up the card shaking off all the salt that isn't stuck to the glue. This was the biggest hit with my thee year old. The glue is in a smallish squeeze bottle and the coloured salt is in small recycled/reused salt shakers.

Watercolours + salt - the child paints the paper with the watercolour paint. It is best to use watercolour paper and use a wet on wet technique (wet the paper first). Then the child sprinkles the salt on top which create a snowflake/crystal type effect. Once the paint has dried we can brush off the salt.

Nature clay collage - simple collage activity with a piece of clay and items collected from nature. I sometime forget about collage and sculpture and believe these are as important as painting.

Q tip painting at How we Montessori

Cotton bud foil painting. This is always a hit. Look at how these three-year-old hands are working.  Activities like this can help to prepare the child's hand for writing. 

DIYchild made vase jar

Glass (and ceramic) markers on jars. This is a nice way to recycle jars that can be used as a vase or pencil holder. 

Glue resist watercolour paint tray at How we Montessori

Watercolour glue resist. These are so pretty.

Glue and colour salt activity at How we Montessori

This is the first step in the glue + coloured sand activity (we used coloured salt). The child applies the glue to the card. I like to use small squeeze bottles for the glue, so the child doesn't use and waste too much glue and because they are easy for little hands to use. 

Glue and colour salt activity at How we Montessori

In the next step, the child adds the coloured salt. I've put the coloured salt in these little recycled salt shakers. Unfortunately ours are opaque so the child can't see which colour is inside. Still, it's a nice way to recycle the materials we have at home. 

How we Montessori glue salt art activity by three year old Otto

The final product! The child shakes off the extra salt and allows the artwork to dry. 

Nature collage with clay (1)

Finally some nature collage with clay. 

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