Boards and Trays

There are a variety of boards and trays that you can make for a child to explore on a Resonance Board, table top, or wheelchair tray. One of the key features of Active Learning is that materials are presented in such a way that the learner is able to independently explore and manipulate them. This encourages the learner to reach out and interact with objects, finding out about their properties, while also developing motor skills, and building cognitive concepts, such as cause and effect. Wooden boards and trays can be made in a variety of ways that are interesting and accessible to different levels of fine motor skills and exploration strategies.

Elastic Board

A child uses a horizontal elastic board.
A child uses a horizontal elastic board.
Elastic board with various patterns of objects.
Elastic board with various patterns of objects.


Download Making Your Own Elastic Boards Word File

 Download Making Your Own Elastic Boards PDF File.

To make an elastic board you will need the following supplies:

    1. Birch plywood – size can vary, but item shown below is 21×13
    2. Birch trim 1×1
    3. 1/8” elastic – minimal width, use larger widths for children that have increased strength
    4. plastic tubing – optional
    5. loop turner – optional – available at JoAnn Fabric – for pulling elastic through tubing
    6. drill – to put holes in wood or items to be placed on boards
    7. Items to be attached to board
    8. router – optional to soften edges of board
    9. sander or sandpaper
    10. polyurethane                  

Cut plywood to appropriate length.  Cut one inch trim to outline the plywood.  Assemble board with wood glue and wood nails as desired. Allow to dry completely.  Sand and polyurethane the board.  Allow to dry and apply second coat as needed.  Drill holes in sides of board.

Attach elastic to the end of the board.  String or tie items to length of elastic.  Once enough items have been tied or strung to the elastic – attach other end of elastic to opposite side of the board.

Caution must be used to determine appropriate items to be attached to the board. Do not use any items that pose a choking hazard, that are easily broken, or that have sharp edges. The builder is responsible for the safety of the child using the equipment.

The items placed on a board are determined by the developmental level of the child or children to play with the board.  Evaluate items for sensory characteristics – visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and taste.  Evaluate an item for the skill needed to manipulate it – pushing, batting, grasping, pulling, scratching, taking apart, putting together, etc. Ensure that items can be compared to others of size, weight, shape, etc.

A board that requires skills that are too developmental high or too low for a child will not promote active learning, and may result in limited or stereotypical activity or no activity at all.


Lilli Nielsen, 1992, SIKON: Space and Self.

Lilli Nielsen, 1989, SIKON: Spatial Relations in Congenitally Blind Infants.

Lilli Nielsen, 1993, SIKON: Early Learning – Step by Step.

Lilli Nielsen, 1998, SIKON: The FIELA Curriculum – 730 Learning Environments.

Bell and Castanet Board

Board with bells and castanets.
Board with bells and castanets.

The pegboard on the right has bells and castanets attached with elastic, which enables the learner to manipulate and explore the items, while they remain in a fixed location. The edges of the pegboard are wrapped in duct tape as protection from scratches.

Door Stop Board

Board with doorstops.
Board with doorstops.

This board is made with door stoppers that can be purchased at any hardware store. They are easy for the child to move and they make a great sound! Simply screw these into the board or tray at intervals.

Tipping Tray

A dowel is glued to the bottom of the tray so that it will rock when touched; this tray has wooden dowel rods inside.
A dowel is glued to the bottom of the tray so that it will rock when touched; this tray has wooden dowel rods inside.

This device is made by attaching a dowel rod underneath a tray.  A collection of dowel rods or other objects such as ping pong balls can be placed in the tray which the child activates easily by pushing down on one end. You may also use a metal cookie sheet or APH materials tray if you do not want to make your own tray.

Elastic Boards pin