100 Tuff Tray Play Ideas

The popular Tuff Tray is such a versatile resource to have for children at home or in your setting. With or without a stand it can be used for many small world set ups, messy play, investigation, explorations, adventures and crafts. Tray Play filled with provocations and invitations to play help children to play and learn at the same time.

Below, we show 100 of our best tuff tray play ideas. Some great invitations to play.

You don’t even need a Tuff Tray, rectangular builders trays from hardware stores, circular metal trays, smaller sand trays or even a washing up bowl or the lid of a storage box will do.

  • Small World Set Ups – from pirates and fairies to Duplo, Lego, Playmobil and Dinosaurs!
  • Messy Play
  • Painting and Art / Crafts
  • Early Mark Making
  • Themes – Pirates, Dinosaurs, Fairies, Dragons
  • Exploring colours, number and shape
  • Storytime
  • Learning Colours and Numbers
  • Water Play
  • Planting
  • Wild Animals
  • Science investigations and exploration

Here are our best Tuff Tray play ideas:

  1. Fairy Small World Play in the Tuff Tray
  2. Planting seeds in the tuff tray
  3. Natural collections in a tinker tray
  4. Potion making in the tuff tray

  5. Sensory play in the tuff tray with Dinosaur Jelly
  6. Big art messy play in the tuff tray
  7. Mark making in the tuff tray
  8. Exploring circles and fractions in a tray
  9. Washing toys in the tuff tray
  10. Duplo in the tuff tray
  11. Easter play in a tinker tray
  12. Exploring dinosaurs and mud in a tuff tray
  13. Discover and dig for dinosaurs in a small tray
  14. Dinosaur tinker tray exploration in a tuff tray
  15. Exploring numbers in a tuff tray
  16. Exploring colours and rainbows in a tuff tray
  17. Discover Pirates and dig for treasure in the tuff tray
  18. Playmobil Pirates small world play in a tuff tray
  19. Sand Art in the tuff tray
  20. Sand Play
  21. Sand and Wild Cats
  22. Sensory Sand on the mirror Tray – baby play
  23. Small Worlds – Fairy Mushroom on Sand Tray Play
  24. Water play and boats in the tuff tray
  25. Recycled cardboard box castle in the tuff tray
  26. Messy mud play with dinosaurs in the tuff tray
  27. Gruffalo storytime in a small metal tray
  28. Turtles and water play in the tuff tray
  29. Transport in the tuff tray
  30. Comparing sizes in the tuff tray
  31. Small world animal scenes in the tuff tray
  32. Small world Bears and wooden platform in a tuff tray
  33. Messy exploding science in a tuff tray
  34. Discover and learn about Bees in the tuff tray
  35. Balls in the tuff tray
  36. Shaving foam in the tuff tray
  37. Thomas Trains in the tuff tray
  38. Sensory edible frozen fruit smash in the tuff tray
  39. Exploring shadows in the tuff tray
  40. Sensory potion and perfume making in the tuff tray
  41. Marvellous metallics in the tuff tray
  42. Big art recycled cardboard loose parts creations in the tuff tray

  43. Small World Recycled Cardboard Tray Play – Painted!
  44. Polar Regions small world play in the tuff tray
  45. Winter and Polar Bears Small World Tray Play
  46. Minibeasts and minibeast hotel making in the tuff tray
  47. Elephants
  48. Big Cats

  49. Rainbow Sensory Chickpea Mirror Tray Play
  50. Rainbow Investigation Tray Play
  51. Wooden Rainbow Loose Parts – Grimms Rainbow – Tray Play

  52. Halloween Recycled Treehouse Small World Nature Tray
  53. Halloween Castle Small World Sensory Chickpea Tray Play
  54. Halloween Art Wreath
    (Colour Sheets from Mrs Mactivity)
  55. Halloween Sensory Loose Parts Invitation to Play Tray
  56. Autumn Nature Small World Tray Play
  57. Autumn Leaves Tray Play
  58. Magical Dragons
  59. Sunflower Investigation Tray Play
  60. Sunflower Counting Tray
  61. Autumn Bears Invitation to Play Idea
  62. Autumn – Conker Investigation and Counting Tuff Tray
  63. Autumn leaves and Conker Small World Tray Play
  64. Messy Mark Making Tray Play
  65. Big Art Tray Play
  66. Wild Animals Tray Play
  67. Blackberry Investigation Tray Play
  68. Diwali Activities Tray Play
  69. Exploring White Tray Play
  70. Autumn Story Tray Play
  71. Dinosaur Dig and Investigation
  72. Space Tray Play
  73. DIY Light Box Loose Parts The Big Freeze

  74. Russian Dolls Tray Play
  75. Parts of a plant Tray Investigation
  76. Diggers and Conkers Tray Play
  77. Storytime with miniature bears
  78. Dear Zoo – Storytime Tray Play
  79. Small World Fairy Castle Tray Play
  80. Nature and Outdoor Treasures Tray Play
  81. Christmas Sensory Tray Play for Babies
  82. Halloween Witches Broth Slime Tray Play
  83. Water Play for Baby Tray Play
  84. Small World Mouse Castle Tray Play
  85. Discussing Feelings Tray Play
  86. Wellbeing and talking about feelings Tray Play
  87. Exploring Dinosaurs and Bone Dig Tray Play
  88. Ladybird Counting Spots Tray Play
  89. Flower Soup Tray Play
  90. Exploring Sensory Lemons Tray Play
  91. Train Tray Play for Baby
  92. Holidays Sensory Tray Play Idea
  93. Bears Family Storytime Tray Play
  94. Nature Collections – looking in more detail – Tray Play
  95. Pooh Sticks Storytime Tray Play
  96. Collecting Magnetic Shiny Objects – Basic Science Tray Play

We always have a variety of accessories to hand to dress our tuff tray. Our most popular inserts and mats are our artificial grass mat, Mirror insert and felt scenery mats (all from Cosy Direct). We also have a box of items such as sticks, dried leaves, pinecones, conkers, Acorns, stones, pebbles, wooden circles and cuttings, wooden pieces to build with, small world trees and figures, potted plants, water beads, glass beads and fabrics. Fairy Lights also make tray play magical.

We also love these tuff tray alternatives and accessories:

This is an amazing wheelchair friendly disabled access tray and stand – what a fabulous idea for inclusion and accessibility for disabled children.

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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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