Tuesday 26 February 2019

10 Play Ideas for the Tuff Tray!

Last summer I finally gave in and brought the kids a tuff tray! I had been putting it off for a while despite seeing all the amazing uses online as I had worried it would be too big and we wouldn't use it enough for the space it would take up. But in reality it has been so well used and slips easily behind the shed when not in use so doesn't actually take up that much space.

Its perfect for using for messy play indoors during the winter months and outdoors in the summer to save your play ideas getting covered in mud, stones or grass! The high edges mean its great for using with things like slime, water and flour/food items as they cant really spill out. But its low enough that kids can easily access the contents and even climb in or out if they want too.

With that in mind I wanted to share with you some of our favourite tuff tray play ideas from ourselves and from some other fabulous bloggers too. We can't wait to try some of these ideas ourselves too!

1) Leaf soup/autumn soup

You will need a container to hold water and then a big tub of leaves, sticks, conkers etc grab some kitchen utensils like a wooden spoof and a sieve and place everyone on the tray.

Invite the kids to come and explore the wet autumn textures in a warmer environment than the cold rain outside. Its a great chance to also discuss the seasons, changes in leaves and all the different colours kids can spot. 

(Photo and idea credit to Jade from Mummies Waiting)

2) Army themed tray

To create this tuff tray you can use things around the house such as some green bubble wrap, black playdough (to hold things in place) etc. You will also need toy soldiers (of course) and some artificial grass samples, along with some pebbles, small canes and moss, of course though you can adapt this to what you can find locally.

Then just lay the grass patches out in different areas and then built some small hides and walls for the army men to hide behind. Creating your own army base or camp. 

(Photo and idea credit to Leslie from Messy Blog)

3) Baking 

We all know how messy baking with kids can get! But the tuff tray is a great place to do some baking. Just make sure you properly clean/sterilise the tray before you begin.

Set up all of your ingredients, a weighing scale or jug (kids will have lots of fun and learning weighing out their own ingredients, with your help of course). Add a big mixing bowl and spoon and get baking. An apron might also be handy too!

(Photo and idea credit to Mandy from One Slice Of Lemon)

4) Ice Cream scoops

For this tuff spot, you can use uncooked cous cous or even kinetic sand to create an ice cream ‘cone’, then use foamy soap or shaving foam for the ice cream. 

You could then pop a little food colouring into some water to make pink ice cube fish for ‘sprinkles’. If you don't have a fishy ice cube tray you could easily use traditional cake sprinkles! 

(Photo and idea credit to Julie from Pondering Parenthood)

5) Mud Kitchen

As kids most of us will remember making mud pies with various bits we found in the garden and this tuff tray definitely lends itself to that idea.

Fill your tuff tray with mud (either from the garden or purchase a bag of soil) add lots of old bowls, cutlery, trays and utensils for scooping, digging and sieving. I then like to add extras that you might find outside such as stones, sand, twigs and leaves. Don't forget to place a bowl of water in the tuff tray or nearby to add in to the soil for making those mud pies or muddy potions!

(Photo credit to Jenny from The Gingerbread House)

6) Water Play 

Sometimes the most simple ideas can be the most fun and water play is always a favourite with my two! 

Just fill the tuff tray with some warm water, you can even add some bubbles if you want too. Then add in whatever water toys you like, things like bath toys, dolls and barbies, scoops, sieves, pipettes, cups, sponges and we picked up a little water mill from the outdoor toy section in Tesco that works really well too. 

If it can go in water it can go in this tuff tray, anything goes really! 

(Photo credit to Jenna from Chic Geek Diary)

7) Dinosaurs

Kids will love stomping through the mud with this dinosaur themed tuff tray.

Fill your tuff tray with mud, stones or even bark. Add in some twigs and leaves which make great hidey places for the dinosaurs or great to stomp on. You could even add some water in certain areas to make splashy muddy puddles. Finally just add your plastic dinosaurs to complete the tray.

(Photo and idea credit to Hollie from ThriftyMum)

8) Ice Investigation

Ice investigation can be a fantastic activities for kids of all ages, even the older kids enjoy this one!

To begin make various ice cubes and fill with whatever you have to hand things like small pom poms, small toys or even buttons work great for this. Once they have frozen place them on the tray with lots of tools including things like sugar, coloured water, warm water and cold water and various tools.

The task is to see which works best to remove the items from the ice. You can the ice cubs in various shapes and sizes (you can use rubber or latex gloves to make the hand shapes) and kids will have lots of fun trying to get into each one. 

(Photo and idea credit to Sarah from Arthurwears)

9) Down at the Beach

A trip to the beach is always a highlight in the summer but not always possible, especially during the colder months. However thanks to the tuff tray you can set up the beach right in your own home!

To make this activity fill half of your tuff tray with sand and the other half with water, the water will make absorb into some of the sand making it perfect for building with. To add to the beach theme you can add buckets, spaces, sea shells and sand toys too.

(Photo credit to Jade from Mummies Waiting)

10) Painting with tracks 

This is such a simple idea but lots of fun too! Gather up all the toys with wheels you can find. Everything from large diggers to little toy cars, you can also use bouncy balls for this too.

Line your tuff tray with paper, I find it easiest to build up several layers of paper before you begin, it means when one gets full you can just take off the top layer. Then just add plates with various colours on paint in onto the tray. Plates work best for this as they are large and flat enough for kids to be able to wheel the cars in before wheels, rolling and driving the toys across the paper. Kids will have lots of fun seeing what tracks each toy makes and mixing all of the colours!

(Photo and idea credit to Julie from Pondering Parenthood)

Of course these ideas are all great but when it comes to the tuff tray the play possibilities really are endless. Plus you will find yourself scrolling Pinterest for ideas and having just as much fun setting it up for the kids to discover in the morning! The tuff tray is not only lots of fun but a great tool for setting up learning and educational play areas, invitations to play and perfect for rainy day activities.

If you have young children and are considering a tuff tray, do it! You wont regret it and the kids will love it. If you already have a tuff tray, what are your favourite play ideas for it?



  1. These look a great ideas, there is so much you can use them for!

  2. These are all really fun and creative ideas! I love the ice play and the beach ones they’re my favourite! Who knew you could do so many things on a tuff tray!

  3. I've seen a lot about these tuff trays and they look great! I didn't realise there was so much you could do with it.

  4. Oh my goodness I wish we had one of these when my daughter was a toddler - so many play possibilities and all self contained!

  5. These are amazing ideas! I’m going to bookmark this and do them all with my son

  6. How fab, so many great ideas. I love the ice investigation and army ones, these weren't about when mine were small. Mich x

  7. These are all such cool ideas, I don't really know anyone who does anything like this with their kids but I'm sure they'd love it x

  8. I have always wanted to get a tuff tray, because the options of play are truly endless!

  9. We love doing seasonal activities with our tuff tray - however the last time I saw it, it was under a mountain of snow last month! x Great suggestions x

  10. We love our tuff spots, the messier the better for the kids

  11. We live in a flat but I'm definitely thinking about getting a tuff tray as it spares so much tiding up and it's so fun.

  12. I love these idea, my little ones would love all of them! I definitely need to get a tuff tray!

  13. These are great ideas! We don't play with ours anymore but they used to love it!

  14. This looks like such a great and versatile tray, there are so many great uses for one x

  15. Brilliant ideas and they look so much fun ! We love our tuff tray

  16. Lots of wonderful ideas, I got one of these for my kids but after a while my husband ended up using it for what they were made for in the first place.....mixing cement!

  17. Brilliant ideas. Been meaning to get one of these for my boy.