Skip to Content

Carrying a Tray in Montessori: How to Teach a Child to Carry a Tray

Carrying a tray in Montessori is an important Practical Life skill. Categorized as a Control of Movement activity and introduced very early in the Montessori learning environment, this is an important skill that children will use throughout their Montessori classroom careers.

In this article, you will learn why trays are used in Montessori and how to teach a child to carefully carry a tray.

You will also get activity extension ideas and learn where to purchase quality Montessori trays for classroom or home use.

image of a child carrying a tray in Montessori.

(This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing from these links costs you nothing extra, but helps with our website upkeep.)

Overview of carrying a tray in Montessori

In Montessori environments, order is valued. One of the ways Montessori keeps its environment ordered is with the use of shelves.

Montessori works are displayed on shelves so children can see what is available to work with. Many Montessori materials and activities are kept on trays upon the shelves.

Children choose the desired activity, then carry the tray to either a table or a work mat on the floor.

Because trays are utilized so much in Montessori, it’s important that children learn how to carry them properly.

Introducing carrying a tray in Montessori is about more than learning how to handle trays correctly, though.

The skills developed through the carrying a tray activity benefit a child’s cognitive development and help them control their body movements so they can interact safely and respectfully with their learning environment and classmates.

Other preliminary Practical Life activities that carry these benefits include learning how to use work mats and Walking the Line.

Montessori trays can be found at thrift stores and some department store chains, though it can take a little searching.

If you are looking to purchase trays online Wooden Living is a brand that has good quality trays that come in various sizes and are easy for children to carry.

Aim of the Montessori carrying a tray activity

  • To transport items on a tray

Indirect aims

  • To encourage a child’s control of movement
  • Improve a child’s concentration
  • Improve a child’s sense of order

Control of error

  • Whether or not the object on the tray moves or falls

Points of interest

  • Walking slowly and silently
  • The weight of the tray

How to teach a child carrying a tray in Montessori

For this activity, you can use any object. So as not to frustrate the child on the introduction of trays, it is best not to use things that can spill.

A book or a wooden block are acceptable items.

  • Invite the child to learn how to carry a tray.
  • Show the child how to handle the tray by placing one hand on each end, fingers below, and thumbs over top of the edges.
  • Holding the tray slightly away from your body and with your arms toward your sides, carry the tray slowly and carefully to table and set it down quietly.
  • After looking at the object on the tray to see if it has shifted, pick the tray up slowly and carry it back to the shelf in the same manner as how you brought it to the table.
  • Invite the child to perform the activity themselves.

Montessori carrying a tray activity extensions

Different size trays

Invite the child to try the activity using various sizes of trays. If you have trays made of different materials, like a more dense wood or metal, your child can practice carrying those trays, too, as those will give different sensory feedback and provide more of a challenge.

Walk around work mats

Position several work mats on the floor and have the child carry the tray carefully around them, taking care to not step on the mats.

Walking the line with a tray

Place a long strip of tape on the floor and have the child carry the tray while maintaining their balance on the tape.

Fragile objects and liquid

Invite the child to carry a glass of water, a flower arrangement, or a tall-ish cylinder on the tray.


As you can see, carrying a tray is an important skill in Montessori. This activity is both challenging and rewarding for children, as well as beneficial to their development.

Do you use trays for your shelf work in your classroom or at home? If so, do you find that the child(ren) enjoy using them?

Cheers and don’t forget to subscribe!

Sharing is caring!