Kitchen Montessori Trays – Preschool Learning Activity

As part of our homeschooling routine, I like to add in Montessori practical life trays for my toddler and preschooler. Here are some ideas for how to do it on the cheap, using objects you may already have in your kitchen or can get at the dollar store! I get these trays out for my kids all the time as they are also perfect boredom busters and rainy day activities.

How to Make Montessori Pracitcal Life Trays using items from the Kitchen via My Merry Messy Life

What Is the Purpose?

If you’re new to Montessori, you might think as I did at first – what is point of pouring and scooping for learning? Isn’t it just play and fun? Then I learned from lots of fantastic Montessori blogs that practical life trays, like the ones in this post, are fun ways to help children develop hand-eye coordination, muscles for preparing their own food and drinks, muscles for handwriting, concentration, focus, and more! The best part it is, young children love pouring and scooping, so they learn without knowing it, without pressure.

The best thing my children have picked up from doing these kinds of activities is they have learned to clean up after themselves. It’s a very big part of the cycle in Montessori classrooms and works well at home, too! They now take pride in keeping their areas clean on the table.

Some Basic Montessori Things To Keep in Mind

  • The teacher/parent is just there when needed, but is not the center of attention. Demonstrate the activity, then step back and let your child take the lead.
  • Practical life activities like these are to develop fine motor skills needed for, well, practical life. So get creative with kitchen utensils and food!
  • Child-sized objects work best as they cause less frustration.
  • Give your child something they can tackle and master to build confidence.
  • If you’re worried about a mess, do it in the garage or outside.
  • Provide a sponge and/or a towel for the child to keep their space clean.
  • It is customary to use glass or porcelain instead of plastic materials to teach children to be gentle and to take care of their things. However, it’s not always practical for me, so I do it when I can be right there with them.
  • Spilling is okay – we all learn best from our mistakes.

So, here are the activities we came up with to guide you. I got my trays from Wal-Mart – they are just baking tins for $2.88 each – score! Amazon also has some really nice ]plastic Montessori trays (where to buy) that I’ve purchased for about $5 each.

Rice Transferring

Kitchen Montessori Tray - Rice Transferring for Toddlers and Preschoolers


  • Ramekins or small bowls
  • Funnel with a large enough hole for the rice
  • Small spoon or measuring spoon – got this one at Dollar General because it has a flat bottom and is perfect for pouring
  • Ice cube tray
  • About a cup of rice, lentils, popcorn kernels, etc.

Popcorn Kernel Transfer

Kitchen Montessori Trays - Popcorn Kernel Transfer for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Transfer the popcorn back and forth between the bowls. You might be amazed how long a young child will sit and do this one!


  • 2 glass ramekins (where to buy) or small bowls (I do like the glass ones better because it makes such a nice sound, it’s almost musical. So it really engages all their senses.)
  • Small spoon
  • Popcorn kernels or lentil beans. For an even younger child, you might try larger beans. Of course, rice would work here, too.

Water Pouring

Kitchen Montessori Trays - Water Transfer and Pouring Using Items from the Kitchen

This is by far my kids’ favorite one – water transfer. I have another post showing some Montessori water transfer trays I put together using turkey basters, ice cube trays and more. I have since purchased two water transfer sets from Montessori Services.


  • Sponge (to clean up any spilled water)
  • 4 oz. creamer (Perfect for small hands. I got the stainless steel ones from Amazon (buy here)).
  • Small cups (The ones in the picture are espresso cups I already had. Shot glasses would be perfect).
  • Or use a tea cup set

Kitchen Montessori Trays - Rice Transfer Fun with Toddlers and Preschoolers


This post is linking up at Living Montessori Now.



About Sara McFall

Sara is the owner and founder of My Merry Messy Life, which started in 2011 as a way to chronicle her journey to a natural, chemical-free lifestyle and to share her passions of mothering, real food, homeschooling and crochet. She is a mama to three precious and energetic little boys and wife to a university professor who loves to sing, dance ballet and ballroom, and live simply and naturally.


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