Montessori at Home: A Jigsaw Puzzle Tray

Thursday May 26, 2016

Sometimes, the perfect blog post pops up in my feed, solving a problem I didn’t even realize I had. That’s how I discovered the trick of giving your kid a tray alongside a basket of jigsaw puzzle pieces.
Kylie at How We Montessori mentioned it, just as Bean discovered jigsaw puzzles.

She had just outgrown her 6 and 12-piece puzzles and moved onto 24 and 36-piece puzzles, and we’d hit a roadblock. Sometimes, these weren’t in-one-sitting puzzles. Or, the triumph of success meant that we weren’t allowed to put it back on the shelf…for days. You can’t move a completed puzzle without ruining it. She did not like this one bit. Ergo, trying to get her to clean up, let alone put puzzles back on the shelf, had become An Annoying Issue on which to dig in her heels and remind the world yet again that 3 really does last for an entire year.

A tray. Problem solved.


I had a large tray I usually used for cooking and art projects. I simply placed all of Bean’s puzzle pieces in a basket on top of the tray and put it back on her shelf. I had to remind her a few times that the point was to build the puzzle on top of the tray (with Montessori trays, she usually prefers to take everything off the tray and work with it directly on the mat, floor, or table.)

When it was time to clean up, or when she got frustrated and needed a break from working on it, it was easy for her to simply pop the tray back onto the shelf, puzzle in whatever form it was. No more strife over messing up all her hard work. No more puzzle pieces getting lost under cabinets or beds because NO MOMMY LEEEEAAAVE IIIIIIT.


Montessori environments excel at figuring out what the obstacles are for kids, truly understanding why a kid would get upset about something, and finding simple workarounds that respects the kid’s worldview while also respecting the need for calm, uncluttered environments. Now, her work is easy for her to grab, easy for her to work on, and easy for her to put back for later. It’s another Montessori idea that’s easy to implement, and that makes for a much more peaceful home.

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