The Benefits of Tray Play

outer space tuff tray play set up

This article has been written by mother of two and tray play advocate, Rachel Moffatt.

How does tray play benefit children?

Learning through play is the main focus of the early years foundation stage. It is all about making learning fun.

Tray play provides a focused area of play with the contents ‘somewhat contained’. Setting out inviting activities with cognitive and physical challenges has a significant benefit to early childhood development. Tray play gives children the opportunity to explore and discover independently, and fosters their creativity and imagination.

There are many types of trays that can be combined with all types of invitation to play, learn and create.

Small Trays

Small trays, especially those with handles, are easy to transport and move into different learning environments. Tray play gives children a spacial awareness of an area they can use to play and create. Small trays for individual use are very effective for focused learning activities that can include numeracy, literacy learning or practical skills, such as pre-writing tracing and cutting.

numbers small tray play set up

Large Trays

On a larger scale, Tuff Trays in particular encourage group play, allowing numerous children at once to join the activity, playing along side each other or together. This creates a great opportunity to build on social skills, confidence and speech and language development.

The size and shape of a Tuff Tray or Tuff Spot means that children are free to move around and explore an activity from different angles giving a different perspective.

What is particularly special about a Tuff Tray & Stand is that they have adjustable heights for different ages and early years settings. Alternatively, they can be used on the floor for play ‘within’ the tray, which is perfect for baby and toddler exploration and first sensory or messy play experiences. They can be used safely for a very hands on approach to learning at a very early age.

mirror rainbow tuff tray play set up

Tray based activities can be prepared ahead of time, stored and left out to explore and revisit – a great benefit of a ‘contained invitation to play’ and ‘closed environment’.

A Tuff Tray Cover is an added bonus that extends the life of messy play in particular and protects the contents of the tray, especially handy for Tuff Trays being used outdoors.

Tray play can be used to create an environment where children can play, discover and learn many skill sets depending on the type of play invitation set out. Invitations to play with lots of open-ended resources, art materials, messy play etc. gives a children chance to self express and create using stimulating sensory experiences.

Due to the boundary and set area, tray play needs less supervision, which gives children the freedom to explore at their own pace and engages curiosity. The ‘containment’ of tray play activities also makes play easier to manage and clean up afterwards that open surfaces do not give.

Here are two sets of ideas for ‘Types of Tray’ and ‘Types of Activity’ that you can combine for an invitation to play!

Types of Tray

types of tray

Tuff Tray

Tuff Tray, so versatile! A large deep plastic tray, perfect for a home or early years environment. Best for large scale and group play activities.

in the garden minibeast tuff tray play set up
big builders construction tuff tray play set up

Clear Tray

A clear sensory exploration tray or a plastic box looks fantastic when it is used over a light pad for sensory play, messy play and process art.

clear tray flower light table play set up
clear tray numbers light table play set up

Circle Tray

A circular serving tray is great for smaller scale messy play, sensory play, small world play and discovery play.

circle tray polar lands play set up

Compartment trays are also great for play dough and crafts, holding lots of different materials.

easter circle compartment tray play set up

Wooden Tinker Tray

Wooden tinker trays and baking trays are good for focused educational activities, cognitive and motor skill development, sorting practice, loose parts play etc.

autumn natural wooden tinker tray play set up

Types of Activity

About Rachel Moffatt

Rachel Moffatt is a mother of two, passionate about learning through play and fostering creativity in children. She is an advocate for Tray Play, especially the use of tuff trays indoors and out. She shares her play ideas on her Instagram page @rachelmoffatt13, and her play challenge @trayfortheday focuses solely on sharing tray play ideas. The hashtag #trayfortheday currently contains over 13,000 tray play ideas perfect for any early year’s environment.

Follow these pages for a wealth of inspiration!

Link to shop resources for tray play

Comments are closed here.