Pirate play in the Tuff Tray

My boys LOVE pirates, and the Tuff Tray is the perfect place to set up some great small world scenes and activities to explore.

Below we show 7 of our favourite activities: Digging for treasure, Pirate Sensory Bags, Pirate treasure maps, making potions or Pirate Grog, Playmobil setups and boat making and racing!

Activity 1 – Digging for Treasure

We added a wood effect tray mat (The Range) as a base for the tuff tray and then added play sand but you can just add sand. Hide some treasure under the sand for your little one to search for. What can they discover? You could also add laminated words or letters related to pirates for children to discover. Can they make a hidden word from the letters or a sentence from the words? We used gems and gold coins for our littlest to discover.

Activity 2 – Pirate Treasure Maps

Provide paper in the Tuff Tray for Treasure Map creation. My boys love to create treasure maps. We even bought some Papyrus paper for a more authentic feel – which the boys then roll up! These can be added to the Potion bottles and hidden for an exciting treasure hunt!

Activity 3 – Pirate Sensory Bags

We use Ziplock bags for our Sensory Bags. First, we draw a map onto the bag using a Sharpie pen. We then add a blue toned or clear shower gel to the bag – this smells divine! We then add any pirate themed loose parts to the bag or any other theme you like – such as mermaids. For our Pirate themed sensory bag, we added gems, pirate coins, confetti, and bio glitter. Zip the bag up and let the children discover its contents. Children can also try mark making and forming letters and shapes.

Activity 4 – Potion Making and Pirate ‘Grog’!

Potion making is one of our favourite activities. We LOVE these rainbow coloured Potion Bottles from TTS Group. We stuck labels to the front of ours (trimmed post-it notes) or you can add tags with ingredients on.

Allow children to collect items from nature to add to their potions or ‘Grog’ – we collected petals, sticks, mud, water. You could also add collected treasure to the bottles.

Activity 5 – Playmobil and small world set ups

Playmobil is ideal for small world setups in the Tuff Spot. We have a large Playmobil Pirate Island and accessories but you can make your own with sand and rocks. Indoors we use a shallow tray within the Tuff Tray containing a smaller amount of water. Outdoors however, we fill the tray with water, angling the Tuff Tray slightly with a stick under one of the Tuff Tray stand legs so that the water collates at one end. We then add play sand to the other side creating a pirate island. Bury treasure, add your pirate figures, add some little boats and sharks, fish and shells and children will play and re-arrange the set up for quite some time. To add an extra appeal and for longer play, we add a piece of guttering for boats to slip down using water to make them go faster!

Make simple pool noodle boats – instructions below!

Activity 6 – Making pool noodle boats and racing!

These swimming pool noodle boats are so easy to make and can be used for a variety of activities. Ours were Pirate boats but you can make them with letters and numbers on the sails.

We simply sliced a pool noodle (from any swimming pool or sports centre) using a craft knife – roughly 1.5 inches wide. Use paper straws or plastic straws and either paper or foam for the sails. We used foam sheets that were sticky on one side. Children can then decorate the sails or you can add numbers and letters for identifying and recognition activities.

We have also seen little boats made from corks and cocktail sticks with paper sails. Why not try these too and see which ones float the best. Or which ones sail down a piece of guttering from the Tuff Spot the fastest?

Activity 7 – Mark Making and letter forming in the sparkly pirate sea!

Add bio glitter or sand (or both) to the Tuff Tray for early letter and number formation, mark making and name writing. For a multi-sensory approach you could use sensitive shaving gel or shower gel – spreading it out over the surface of the tray for children to mark make in. This can then be spread over again with hands to start over again.

Always risk assess (as you would with any activity) for children with sensitive skin/allergies.

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Published by Charlotte Parry

Hello. I am a mum to 3 boys! Sharing our play ideas and activities and inspiration for toddlers and children. From tuff tray play to sensory play, small world play, cardboard crafts and outdoor play.

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