Art trays are fantastic! What’s an art tray you ask? Well, once you use one, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without one. An art tray is any tray you can use to contain mess and define space while the little ones work on their creations. You could get the fantastic ones from Oriental Trading that I have (click on the picture above to link to their site), or use old cookie sheets or plastic trays from your own collection or your favorite thrift store. Just choose something that is leak proof and large enough to contain your general project size, yet small enough to accommodate the space you are using. Set the art trays down, put the supplies on the tray, and let those little fingers go to work!
Art trays save your surface by keeping arts and craft projects from soaking through to your tabletop and possibly dripping onto your floor. They also define the working area for the children. This is particularly helpful for preventing disputes over materials. No more arguments over who has molding rights over that particular lump of clay. If it’s on your tray, it’s yours. Trays also help when working with a group of children in a free choice or center type of classroom situation. They can see from the number of trays how many children should be working at the table. Clean-up is much quicker with art trays as well. Not only do you have less mess on your tabletop, but you can quickly stack the trays, pile the materials on top, and set them in a sink.
If you aren’t using art trays yet, give them a shot. Trust me. You’ll wonder why you spent all that time in the past, scrubbing those bled through marker stains and wiping up spilled watercolors!