One morning while sitting with a little friend in my classroom, she looks at me and says “In my old school we had lessons too, but no trays.” This got me thinking that night about the Montessori classroom and the importance of something so small that it may seem insignificant, a tray. Why is a tray important you may ask?
First of all, it is used to display the lesson on the shelf. The children are free to look and choose their work independently. This is the beginning of decision making. Secondly, the tray helps keep the lessons organized so that the children know where to put it back when they are finished working. Thirdly, it helps the children with coordination. Balancing things on the tray is easy for an adult, but can be challenging for a child.
The use and handling of a tray is where independence, order, concentration, and coordination come into play. These skills are the foundation which will enable them to perform more precise tasks later on. This is the aim of the prepared environment where everything the child does has a purpose. Maria Montessori’s goal was for the child to gain independence and not rely on the adult.
“But living in this way, freely in a prepared environment, the child enters into vital communication with this environment, and comes to love it.”