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…
Tuff Tray Kits and Activities Your Children Will Love
What is a tuff tray?
There’s no end to what you and your little ones can do with a tuff tray! A tuff tray, also known as a tuff spot or play tray is a large, durable octagon-shaped tray, made from heavy-duty plastic and is often found in educational settings and homes. They’re a staple in early year’s education as they provide endless possibilities for open-ended play, either individually or in groups. It’s a fantastic resource that has become widely popular over the years due to its simplicity while offering plenty of opportunities for learning. The raised sides make it a practical base for containing a variety of activities, from messy, sensory play to imaginative play and everything in between!
Our favourite tuff tray activities and ideas
Tuff Tray kits offer a one-stop shop for activities with each kit designed to provide everything you and your tots need to create inspirational, multi-sensory learning opportunities in the early years’ curriculum. Our wonderful tuff tray kits include a themed mat along with a variety of components and accessories to compliment the theme. In this blog post we delve into 4 of our exclusive kits and suggest some of our favourite activities you may not have considered trying, read on for more!
Once Upon a Time Kit
This kit offers endless opportunities for youngsters to get creative with their imaginative storytelling. Explore traditional tales or move away from the classics for a day and see where their imagination will take them. The Once Upon a Time kit is perfect for bringing stories and fairy tales to life.
Why not present your children with a few of the characters included, for example the wooden unicorn, the bear and the frog and ask them to come up with a story around these 3 characters. Try asking them some key questions to get them started like “how did these 3 meet?” “Are they all friends?”, “Where are they going?”
An alternative would be to ask them to choose their favourite characters from the kit and create a story around them or why not set up a particular scene and ask them to imagine what has happened.
The puppets included in this kit offer an extra dimension to storytelling as they give your little ones the opportunity to “act out” their stories. This set is perfect for letting them take the lead and come up with their own stories using nothing but their imagination.
The various sensory elements in the kit will take sensory play to the next level and provides a full sensory experience for your little ones.
Discover smells and scents with the pod and fruit basket, see what smells the children are familiar with and what they can describe. You could try asking them to close their eyes and test what they can smell, giving them an opportunity to explore new and exciting scents they may not be familiar with, and even incorporate this into storytelling, using the fruits and pods as a trail to the colourful castle in their enchanted wonderland.
Explore other senses like sound with the jingle bells or engage the children in colour exploration with the beautiful bright gemstones and tinsel pipe cleaners. Another activity for you all to try together is colour sorting and recognition. Try organising the different elements into groups. For example grouping all of the gemstones by colour/shade, the nature blocks by shape, and sorting the wooden characters into the following classifications: animal, building, people and plants.
The wooden nature blocks included in this kit are perfect for encouraging the children to build their own castle. They can experiment with the different blocks, all while improving their hand-eye coordination and practice fine motor skills by seeing how tall they can build the tower out of the wooden blocks. Use this activity as a way to build on their communication skills and incorporate elements of learning. Ask them questions like how many blocks did you use? What shape is this block? You could also practice counting together as they pile them high.
Take the set out into nature and see what your little ones can find to complement their construction creations, such as wildflowers, leaves and twigs. This will add a fun sense of exploration and make a beautiful, natural, and majestic scene.
Treasure Island Tuff Tray Kit
What springs to mind whenever pirates are involved? A treasure hunt! The shiny bright gold coins included within the kit are perfect for hiding around your setting and encouraging your little adventure seekers to hunt them out. You could also incorporate the coins into their messy play activities. Use Gelli Slime, sand, shaving foam, or other messy play materials to hide the coins and let the children dig out the treasure using their fingers or spoons.
Why not encourage some counting alongside? Let the little ones know how many coins are hidden and they can count them as they go. They could also practice their pirate slang as they hunt the coins. Aye aye captain, shiver me timbers, ahoy, me hearties! Introduce them to a variety of pirate phrases and let them fully get into character as they put on their best pirate voices!
Fine motor play
Our Treasure Island kit is the perfect resource to combine learning and development with play. Practice fine motor skills with the gator grabber tweezers and see what the children can pick up. Have them pick up and place their newfound treasure onto the pirate ship, ready for sail! Why not try a race to make it a little more challenging and introduce friendly competition. See who can pick up the most coins and gems in an allotted time. You could even add an incentive, whoever comes out on top wins a prize.
The Gator Grabber fine motor tweezers are made for small hands making them easier for your little ones to grasp. They are a fantastic addition to this kit as they help with developmental skills by encouraging proper grip, strengthening little hands, and improving hand-eye coordination. All which are important first step towards performing functional tasks such as writing, shoe tying and scissor skills.
Why not remove the mat, fill your tuff tray with water and let your tots add in the ocean creatures, shells and pebbles! If you don’t own a tuff tray simply use a plastic tray or tub as an alternative. Together you could add soap or shaving cream to the water to replicate sea foam. It’s a great way to explore sea life with the little ones and adds another dimension whilst offering a memorable learning experience. Children love to play in water so they are guaranteed to love this activity.
On the Move Tuff Tray Kit
Colour sorting and counting
Let’s have some maths fun! See how many of the vibrant magnetic counters the children can count or practice odd and even numbers. They could also try sorting the little counters in a sequence of colours or colourful piles of red, blue, green, yellow and more! What happens when they lay two counters on top of one another? What colour can they make by mixing and matching different colours? Encourage colour exploration with the little ones and test their knowledge by asking them to create various colours by overlaying different counters. The counters are a simple yet effective way of helping children with their maths problem-solving skills and colour recognition.
Use the counters to create various shapes, from triangles, rectangles, circles and squares to more challenging shapes such as pentagons and hexagons. This is a great way for your little ones to familiarise themselves with 2D shapes. Try drawing the outline of a shape on a piece of paper, let them fill the space with counters and have them name the shape. Instead you could have them take the lead and create different shapes. Giving them the opportunity to physically make the shapes themselves will help them form their own mental image and support the development of early maths skills.
Science investigation – forces and motion
Experiment with basic scientific concepts of forces and magnetism! Some fun things to try include seeing how many of the vehicles can be pulled along with the magnetic wand and how many counters each wand attracts. Think about what else the children can test around your setting. What can they find that is magnetic?