Everyday, Simple Idea #26: Carry a Tray

I am sharing some of the simple, daily things I do at home as a Mom that come from my occupational therapy background.


Everyday, Simple Idea #26: Carry a Tray

One of my favorite activities as a pediatric OT that I have been using at home is having my children carry a tray.  Any kind of tray works, as long as it takes 2 hands to hold in front of the body.

tray carrying options

Why?  Carrying a try helps build key developmental skills.

  • Balance, control, and body awareness.  Having a child walk while holding a tray encourages them to move with control (to prevent things falling off the tray).  It take body awareness to know where you are space while the tray is blocking the view to the floor and your feet.
  • Bilateral skills (using 2 hands together).  Holding the tray requires both hands to work together.
  • Body alignment- core control and shoulder stability.  When a child holds a tray in front of the body with two hands, it naturally engages the core muscles (abdominals and back muscles).  Additionally, it engages the muscles around the shoulder girdle and scapula on the back, encouraging a healthy alignment with scapular stabilizing muscles being used.

Want to increase the challenge?

  • Different trays can increase or decrease the challenge level.  Muffin tins are the easiest, then pans with a tall edge.  Hardest would be a cookie sheet.
  • Increase the distance or add obstacles in the path.
  • Change the object on the tray- some things stay in place more easily, while others roll around.
  • Make the tray heavier to increase the core and shoulder work-out.
  • With adult assistance, try holding the tray while seated on a therapy ball or standing on a balance board.

What to use as a tray?tray carrying options

  • Anything large and flat:
    • Cookie sheets
    • Rectangular pans
    • TV trays
    • Art trays
    • Play tea set trays
    • Sturdy lids from boxes
    • Cardboard
    • Muffin tins

Looking for other ideas to develop arm and hand skills:

Paige Hays is an occupational therapist who provides in-home, pediatric occupational therapy services in the south metro area of the Twin Cities, MN. She is a mother of 2 girls, avid DIYer, and a highly skilled and experienced OT. She specializes in working in pediatrics, with diverse expertise ranging from cognition and sensory issues to working with children with neuromuscular disabilities or complex medical needs.  www.paigehays.net