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20 Tuff Tray Play Ideas and How They Can Help with Children's Development

20 Tuff Tray Play Ideas and How They Can Help with Children's Development

Do you own a tuff tray? If you don’t, then they are a must. The smaller size is perfect for a home setting and the larger size is perfect for a school setting.

We use them all the time and for all differently types of play; messy play, water play, sensory play, creative play (mark making, painting, playdough) and even small world set ups!

Having the option of having the tuff tray on a stand or on the floor means that children are provided with opportunities to play when sitting or standing. The larger tuff trays are also big enough to sit inside and play too!

Shop Original Tuff Tray and Stand Range

4 ideas for sensory play on the tuff tray:

  1. Dyed rice using food colouring, you could create an ocean scene, farm or safari!
  2. Painted pasta for threading
  3. Painted stars and moons pasta to create a space scene
  4. Rainbow painted chickpeas, add some tweezers or scoops and encourage children to count. You could also add some pre writing shapes or a name for the children to place the chick peas onto.
sensory tuff tray play with painted rice

Sensory play is a great way for a child to develop their:

  • communication and explore their emotions
  • language skills
  • fine and gross motor skills
  • mark making skills
  • problem solving skills
  • social interaction
  • memory
  • creativity and imagination
  • understanding of the world around them
  • cognitive growth through sensory exploration
painted pasta play in tuff spot play

4 ideas for messy play on the tuff tray:

  1. Shaving foam ice cream shop, add some coloured rice for the sprinkles
  2. Gelli baff ocean
  3. Bubbling dinosaur play scene with cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar or lemon juice.
  4. DIY snowy arctic with cornflour and shaving foam

Messy play has multiple benefits, it provides children with the opportunity to practise:

  • Taking turns
  • Exploring with their senses
  • Getting creative
  • Engaging in pretend play
  • Practising motor control
  • Working on hand eye coordination
  • Developing new language
  • Curiosity
  • Developing cognitive skills
  • Developing knowledge about the world around them

4 ideas for creative play on the tuff tray:

  1. Painting on a larger scale is the perfect way to develop gross and fine motor skills
  2. Playdough
  3. Mark making, large scale colouring
  4. Shadows drawing in the garden. Place the toys such as dinosaurs on the tuff tray and trace around the shadows.
Shadows drawing with tuff tray

Learning Opportunities:

  • Cognitive development when comparing, predicting, planning and problem-solving.
  • Fine motor development
  • Language development when talking about their creations and art work.
  • Social and emotional development (sharing, relaxing, concentrating, self-esteem)
  • Developing their creativity
  • Concentration
  • Sensory development
  • Literacy skills


4 ideas for water play on the tuff tray:

  1. Ocean scene using water and a drop of food colouring
  2. Pirate scene- add sand, jewels, water and a pirate ship
  3. Fishing- add fish and some fishing nets or hooks
  4. Pond- add some lily pads (could make from foam) and frogs. Add a solar fountain in the middle.
water play tuff tray

Water play is a great way to allow children to develop their:

  • fine and gross motor skills
  • control over use of an object
  • concentration
  • hand-eye coordination
  • bilateral coordination
  • early maths skills- capacity, counting, measuring
  • exploring with their senses
  • knowledge of the world- floating and sinking
  • imagination
  • creativity


4 ideas for small world play on the tuff tray:

  1. Using a chalk pen to draw some roads and add cards, buildings and people
  2. Construction site- add some chickpeas, sand, a crane and some diggers. Add some play bricks too!
  3. Car wash- add cars in mud, chocolate angel delight or cocoa powder and water. Then add a bowl or soapy water and spongers. Add mini duplo people too!
  4. Safari scene or farm scene with animals, grass, mud or sand


small world play on tuff tray

Small world is the perfect way to develop your child’s:

  • Communication and language
  • Knowledge of the world
  • Imagination
  • Creativity
  • Fine motor skills


When building their own small world it also helps to develop:

  • Confidence
  • Pride in their own achievements

When playing with others it also helps to develop:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Social skills


Lastly, tuff trays are the perfect way to contain everything and keep it in one place, creating less mess!

Happy reading :)


Shop Original Tuff Tray and Stand Range

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