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Montessori At Home: Our Work Shelves at 2 Years

I haven’t introduced many Montessori Trays for Alfie because for a long time he didn’t have the ability or inclination to sit still and do desk work.

That changed with the arrival of his Playmobil Farm (see our review here) when he found something so engaging he’d sit with it for nearly an hour! Once he developed that skill I knew he was ready for shelf work.

The Point of Tray Work

Another reason I avoided Montessori Trays was because I dislike ‘busy’ work, i.e. work that’s sole purpose is to keep a child busy. If Alfie was still an only child we might not be doing any tray work, instead we’d find opportunities within day-to-day practical life.

What children enjoy about these activities is the Point of Interest (ie something new that grabs their curiosity), to gain mastery a child must repeat the action again and again. Now that I’m busy with Indi it’s less frustrating for both of us if he explores the POIs in this environment.

I’m very careful to only offer him trays that will appeal to a specific interest of his and will have an immediately transferable skill in real life. For this reason these Trays might not work for another child.


This is a very simple activity that invites the child to transfer the water from one bowl to another using a sponge. All very easy, yes? No!

Montessori Work Trays for a Two Year Old
Montessori Sponging tray

This little task requires a child to fill their jug, pour their water, dunk and squeeze their sponge, hold it very gently as they slowly move it across the tray, hold it still, squeeze it again, repeat and finally get a cloth wipe up spills and return the work.

This is a work of precision and self-control. As well as hand-eye-coordination it also strengthens the fingers and wrist muscles and cements left-right working; all of which are essential for writing.

It would appeal to children who are interested in pouring, transferring or like water play.

Practical applications: cleaning up spills, washing dishes


Alfie has been doing this on and off for a few months, prompted by his love of digging in the pot plants!

Montessori Work Trays for a Two Year Old
Montessori Transferring Tray

This is similar to the above task in that it merely requires moving beans/lentils from one bowl to another. Likewise it requires precision and concentration to complete well.

Practical applications: eating, cooking, care of others.


A surprising hit! This is a multistep piece of work though it looks quite simple, and unlike the sponging tray these tasks are all quite independent of each other. This demands lots of memory work.

Montessori Work Trays for a Two Year Old
Montessori Punching Work

Initially it was a challenge for him as the lever is stiff, on a plus note I want him to use both hands for chopping so this helps build that muscle memory!

I’m not overly enthused by the waste of paper though so I’m saving it for some gluing work in a few weeks time. He doesn’t always centre the paper so rarely punches a heart!

Practical uses: two handed chopping.

Using the Trays

For their first presentation I show Alfie once how to complete the full task then return everything to it’s starting position. (More on How To Present Work) It’s usually enough then for Alfie to be dying to get his hands on the items, if he’s not I leave them out and offer them again in a day or two. If he’s still not interested by then I admit defeat!

Once he is used to the items I leave the work on his shelf for the part of the day. His morning is his best work period so I remove them at lunch, I find if I don’t remove it then it becomes ‘junk’ and isn’t used correctly.

If he chooses the work himself then he usually stays with it for roughly 10 minutes before moving on.

Head over to Instagram or Facebook to see daily snippets of these trays in action, as well as plenty of other Montessori Moments.

Montessori Trays for a toddler
Montessori Trays for a Two Year Old

Hello and welcome! I’m Ted, a Mother, a Reader and a Montessori Believer! Here you'll find how we're using Montessori at home and all the ways that we try to celebrate the joy in every day (mostly with books, labdradoodles and chickens).

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