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6 Montessori Inspired Trays for Toddlers that Love to Pinch

The closer Nora gets to 3-years-old, the more I have noticed that she becomes more and more interested in refining and strengthening her hand movements. I have noticed this by watching what she actually does while she is playing. I watch as she gravitates towards work where her hands are busy. I also noticed that she was starting to walk up to different things {including some of the pets and people in the house} and pinch them. It wasn't out of malice, but out of genuine curiosity. 

Seeing these signs, and knowing that reading and writing were around the corner, I started introducing more work incorporating a pinching motion. Similar to the squeezing motion, this work allows her to work those all important hand muscles as she moves toward the refined pincer grip she will need for writing.  

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So, here are six tray ideas that encourage that pinching motion: 

Tiny Pom-Pom Drop

This is a simple little transfer tray! Here I used a glass bottle with a stopper {that also requires a pinch to open} and some tiny pom-poms. The pom-poms are so tiny that Nora must pinch to pick them up. Then, she can put in the bottle. Pouring them all out at the end in just about as much fun!  

Strawberry Hulling 

Here is a real practical tray! Instead of cutting off the top of a strawberry {one of Nora's favorite fruits} I gave her a small tong to pull it out instead. Not only is this a great pinching motion, it also helps to waste less food. Nora has done this a few times, and its actually proven to be quite the challenge that keeps her very engaged. 

Mini Clothesline

Here, I strung a pipe cleaner across a small basket type tray. Then, I included some mini-clips that Nora could pinch and string along the pipe cleaner. I used mini-frog clips because they are cute and I have them, but you can easily use any type of mini-clothespin

Pom-Pom Transfer

This is an easy, Montessori classic! Just two cups, some pom-poms and a mini-tong! Always a favorite. Although, don't be surprised, if after a few minutes of pinching, this becomes a pouring work! 

Water Dropper

This is another classic -- water transfer using a dropper. Here, I fill one cup with a small amount of water. {Remember with toddlers, never give more water than you are personally willing to clean up!} Then, it takes pinching motions to pick up water and to transfer it to the other cup. I love that it takes two pinches to complete the motion. Nora loves it because WATER! 

Toothpick Drop

Nora was introduced to this work way back when she was just a baby! {Video here} But, now, when she does this work, it is much more refined. She is actually pinching the sticks and dropping them through the holes of the spice jar. To make this work more difficult, you can use smaller sticks and smaller holes! 

You may notice that these trays are much less "practical" than I typically suggest for toddlers. This is one area where I've noticed these little trays are helpful. But, while I've highlighted six here, I would have -- at most -- two of these trays available at any one time for Nora.

Is your toddler attracted to pinching? How have you satisfied that need? 


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