How to Start Tot School

How to Start Tot School -- Moms Have Questions Too

What is tot school and/or tot trays and where do I start?

Last week I posted about my very first time doing tot school for Smiley Man! I’ve had a few people ask some questions, so I wanted to give you some great websites that explain the basics of tot school and that give you lots of great ideas for tot school.

How to Start Tot School -- Moms Have Questions Too

First off,  I got my actual trays from Oriental Trading. I also bought 6 cookie sheets from the dollar store because I anticipate wanting to do some magnetic activities. Once I had 12 trays (6 food trays and 6 cookie sheets), I spray painted them all the same color (this is an affiliate link to the color of spray paint I used). I love the color and I especially love how they look on my black bookshelves. Unfortunately, one can of spray paint did not cover all 12 trays. I used 2 cans of spray paint and now all of my trays are covered. Also, spray painting outside in 5 degree weather does not make for the best drying results. ;) Now, more information and ideas for tot school and tot trays.

How to Start Tot School -- Moms Have Questions Too

How to Start Tot School -- Moms Have Questions Too

*Update 8/16/2014* I have now been doing tot trays with Smiley Man for 1 1/2 years, which means I have tons of tot trays ideas. Check out all of my tot trays/tot school posts. I also now have a complete curriculum which includes tot trays and more. I made it specifically for toddlers, but it can easily be adapted for preschoolers. Smiley Man loves it!

I am pretty sure that Carisa over at 1+1+1=1 was the first person to coin the phrase “tot school” and “tot trays.” She has so many amazing resources on her website to get you started with tot trays. Here is her original Behind the Scenes – Tot Trays post. She has ideas by ages, Tot Books and Tot Packs, and a great Tot School FAQ page.  If you want to get started with tot school, I would definitely check this blog first.

The Princess and the Tot has some really creative tot trays that she does for tot school. Her tot is a boy and she has some really fun trays with boyish activities. Her son is much older than Smiley Man so I have to go back pretty far in her blog’s history to find any tot trays that would work for Smiley, but her ideas are great.

This website has some pretty awesome ideas for tot trays. They even have a website that sells learning kits.

Playing House in Maryland is another one of my favorite websites for tot trays. She has so many ideas that I will definitely be using for inspiration.

Train Up a Child has some fantastic tot tray ideas that are much more crafty and artistic than others. I’m not exactly the most artistic person in the world so I need all the help I can get when it comes to artsy tot trays.

This website has SO many tot tray ideas. Her daughter is quite a bit older than Smiley Man so I do have to go back a ways to find ideas that I can use, but there are so many ideas.

Winter Themed Tot School Trays

Be sure to demonstrate to your child how to use each tray before letting your child use the tray.  Demonstrate one tray at a time. Start by showing your child how to pick up the tray and carry it to their work table or a rug. Demonstrate how to use the tray step-by-step.  Demonstrate how to clean up the tray and then demonstrate taking the tray back to the bookshelf. Remember to include carrying the tray to and from the bookshelf as part of the instructions because otherwise, you will have chaos. I demonstrate how to complete each tray during the weekend. I only demonstrate a few at a time so that Smiley Man doesn’t get confused. I show Smiley how to complete each tray, but he may not work on the trays except during school time.

Winter Themed Tot School Trays

Hopefully this information and these websites will help to answer some of your questions about tot school and tot trays. Hopefully they will give you lots of ideas for tot trays. If you have any specific questions, please email me at [email protected] and I will happily answer as best I can. Don’t forget to check out Smiley Man’s winter tot trays. Good luck with tot school!

Learn more about the Toddler Curriculum from Moms Have Questions Too


  1. What a wonderful post! Thank you for the feature and the kind words. Your tot is such a cutie! Best of luck as you have fun educating your little one.

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