3 TIPS TO SET UP AN INVITING TUFF TRAY
A tuff tray is a large tray with higher edges that keeps toys and items contained so children can play without getting overwhelmed by large spaces and keeping the mess on the tray when doing messy play too. This tray makes all types of play very easy, and it is very inviting for children of all ages from babies to primary school aged kids. It also makes it a lot easier for parents to join into their kids play activities. Creating messy and sensory play activities on this tray will be a lot easier as it keeps the mess contained and it is very easy to clean (check our other post with a few tips on how to clean messy play activities.
Younger babies and toddlers prefer to have the tray on the floor and sit on it so they can reach all the different toys that are on the tray and become part of their own play world. Older toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy the tray on the floor and also on a higher position depending on the activity that’s set up and their developmental stage regarding movement and gross motor skills. Older children will prefer the tray on the stand or on a table so they can sit down or stand around it and be more comfortable when playing as they come and go to find new items they can incorporate on their tray.
HOW TO SET UP A TRAY TO MAKE IT INVITING FOR YOUR KIDS?
- LESS IS MORE
Having too many items on a tray can make it very overwhelming for children as they don’t know where to start playing and that will make them lose interest. An empty tray with just one item on it can often keep them engaged much longer than a tray with too many things. We recommend to start with one or a few items and add more as they play. Older kids will be able to use their problem-solving skills to go grab whatever items they think they need as they play. Some ideas to start off:
- A book with a few items related to the book
- Wooden loose parts
- Nature elements (rocks, sticks, leaves..)
- Paint, brush and large paper or paint on the actual tray
- Containers, water and fine motor tools (spoons, droppers, jugs…)
- WHAT IS YOUR CHILD’S LATEST INTEREST?
Observe your child and learn what he/she likes. Add some of those items on the tray. The less prepared the better. If your child is into cars you could draw a road on the tuff tray (or use the way to play flexible roads) and add some cars around it. You could also use masking tape to draw the road or car park spaces and the child will enjoy lining up the cars. If your child likes art then you can set up some containers with different items and a sorting tray with paint and let them explore, combine and mix all the items. If they are on the move you can set up blocks or cups as a tower and add a little ball to play bowling along with building and stackinig.
- USE NATURE ELEMENTS AND FOOD (PASTA, RICE, BEANS, etc)
That is always a big favourite, it gets you outside the door to gather some items and it’s free! Using nature elements also connects the child with the environment as they explore different textures, colours and shapes. It leaves room for creativity and curiosity and they figure out how things work by exploring and asking questions or simply through their senses. Some activities you could do are:
- Painting rocks of different sizes and shapes. Kids could wash them first with water, soap and a brush and dry them with a towel. That is a really fun activity itself! Kids will also enjoy painting leaves or with leaves, stamping them on paper once covered in paint and observing the different patterns.
- Stamping on playdough. Use leaves, rocks, sticks, etc. to stamp on playdough and see what patterns they create. Same as with paint but less messy!
- Create patterns and pictures with flowers, petals, rocks, leaves, etc. Like a collage but with all the elements collected. Can you organise them from bigger to smaller? Can you create a happy face with these? Can you stack them?
- Just add them to any other set ups with your childs favourite toys (character figurines, farm animals, etc.). Kids will love to feed their pretend toys with real food, to transfer it between containers etc. These are some things you could use: rice, pasta, chickpeas, beans, oats, flour… We have rainbow rice available to make it even more special but you could also dye your own!
I hope you can get some ideas from this post to keep your kids busy and having fun. The most important thing to remember is THE EASIER THE BETTER for both you and your child. Do not put pressure on yourself trying to create the most amazing setups. Children don’t need amazing things to stay engaged and learn and have fun, they need simple and real which always leads to creativity and imagination. It is very important that you also enjoy setting this up and feel comfortable letting your child get 100% involved in the activity.