As a preschool teacher, one of the things I struggle with the most is storage space. I want to make lots of free choice activities like sorting trays to keep things fresh with my students and adjust to their developing skills, but I can only store so much in my classroom. My goal was to make a sorting tray that could adapt to different skill sets, and abilities as my students develop over the school year, but that could fit into a plastic bag. I did it, and I want to share my 3 in 1 sorting tray.
Gather your materials. For all three sorting trays you will need a muffin tin, some card stock, a circle punch, double stick tape, pom poms, food pouch lids, play dough, toothpicks or bamboo skewers, beads, and tongs.
Start by punching circles out of your card stock. If you have scraps use those, we just recently made recycled paper and used ours all up.
Attach these to the bottom of the muffin tins with double stick tape. Leave one open for the items to be sorted.
For the first sorting, tray uses the food pouch lids. Children simply match the colors. What I love about this is that only a few lids can fit into the empty cup on the muffin tin and that forces this activity to stay simple allowing even toddlers to complete this independently and feel a sense of accomplishment.
For older kids just add more lids!
Add pom poms for the 2nd of the three sorting trays. Children can use their hands for straight color matching, or tongs for more of a challenge that focuses a little more on fine motor and hand-eye coordination. For my class, we start without the tongs and a few months in when this tray comes out for free choice the tongs are there to be used if desired.
The last of our three sorting trays focuses on fine motor development. I used these little plastic containers ( from the dollar store) and filled them with play dough. This fixes two things, one it makes clean up a snap and two, it keeps the play dough from drying out. Add toothpicks or bamboo skewers and beads in the empty cup. Match them up! * If you are worried about how sharp the skewers are you can use dried spaghetti but I find it breaks easily, and I have never had a child hurt themselves using skewers or toothpicks.
When you are done, EVERYTHING fits into a plastic bag. It doesn’t close, but I keep a bunch of these in a big plastic box ready to be taken out and set up for free choice.