12 Japanese Tot Trays and Sensory Bins

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Perhaps this is the first of many themes about particular locations!

We chose Japan for a theme to correspond with a local event. We also treated ourselves to a nice lunch at a Japanese restaurant and it was cute to see him relate things at the restaurant to his school at home.

For this set we did two “bins” of sorts, one that fit in his school (and one of my prized accomplishments! haha) and a larger one as well. I also ended up writing some recap within some of the activity descriptions. Hope you enjoy our Japanese Tot Trays!

  1. Sushi Sensory Bin
  2. Coloring Pages
  3. Cherry Blossom Craft
  4. Zen Garden Sensory Bin
  5. Books
  6. Character/Letter Tracing
  7. Paper Folding
  8. Japanese Flag Pasting #1
  9. Sushi Pretend Play
  10. Japanese Flag Pasting #2
  11. Character Matching
  12. Japanese Maps

Sushi Sensory Bin

  • (I am way too excited about this one.)
  • Sushi-inspired sensory bin has a lot inside:
  • Rice: uncooked white rice
  • Seaweed: About 1.5″ pieces of velvet ribbon AND curls of shiny black ribbon
  • Ginger: Small rectangles of dollar store foam
  • Wasabi: green pom poms
  • Also, a bamboo sushi mat, two bamboo tongs, and two dollar store scoops

Coloring Pages

Cherry Blossom Craft

  • This is not actually how it looked on the tray — all he got was the tree with adhesive already on and a container of blossoms. (See my post about this fun craft!)
  • Made an awesome paper bag tree — idea from Pikadilly Charm — thank you!
  • Cut tissue paper squares and folded into cherry blossoms — idea from AHC arts & crafts — thank you!
  • Put adhesive squares on the ‘branches’ for E to stick blossoms

Zen Garden Sensory Bin

  • Used one of our trusty gray bins
  • D made a rake from three sizes of dowels and wood glue
  • Added some play sand as well as black craft sand
  • Also put in some larger river rocks
  • This is FUN! We put it in the garage. Key here was only a small amount of sand; we think it helped him ‘rake’ vs. ‘dig.’


  • We picked up two appropriate books at the library:
  • Flags of the World: I wanted him to see more about other flags and become familiar with the Japanese flag before the activity about it.
  • My Japan: A very cute book about two kids’ lives in Japan! E made my day on the last day of this week of school when he called it his Japan book!

Character/Letter Tracing

  • Using a website I need to find again… I made a simple graphic of E’s name in Japanese, plus his name in English too
  • Laminated it and included two dry erase markers for tracing

Paper Folding

  • Using two larger Japanese inspired origami papers, we did some basic folds and sharp creases
  • E can fold them as he wants – he kept making boats!

Japanese Flag Pasting #1

  • Used Silhouette Cameo to make six white rectangles with rounded corners, plus six red circles
  • Included a glue stick
  • After looking at the flag in the book and making him a sample, he really had fun pasting his own flags!

Sushi Pretend Play

Japanese Flag Pasting #2

  • For the second round of flag-making, I made it a little harder…
  • Again with the Silhouette Cameo, made six more rounded corner rectangles, but with holes cut out
  • Also included six red squares to paste ‘behind’ the holes
  • Again made a sample and was impressed and how fast he caught on! He kept calling it a “shadow”.

Character Matching

  • Printed Kanji characters
  • Took out six sets to match
  • (This one was too hard for him but still fun to look at!)

Japanese Maps

So to confirm — yes, our Japanese Tot Trays were fun — to think about, set up, and to do with E!  I had a lot of concerns doing a theme as “abstract” but he really seemed to appreciate it. I plan to do another geography-inspired theme very soon.

I’m proud to be linking this post up to 1+1+1=1’s Tot School Gathering Place with activities that E enjoyed at 31 months old! Also linked at Montessori Monday, Inspire Me Mondays, Tuesday Talk, Laugh & Learn Linkup, Turn it Up Tuesdays, A Little Bird Told Me Link Party, Everything Early Childhood Link Up, Wonderful Wednesday Linky Party, Laugh & Learn Linkup, Kitchen Fun & Crafty Friday, TGI Saturdaysand Mommy Solutions!

Cool Books for Japanese Tot Trays

Japan Tot Trays!

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