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Play setup: Instagram VS Reality

Play setup: Instagram VS Reality

We all see lots of beautiful setups on Instagram and think "Oh wow, I should do this for my child too!", but let's be realistic, we haven't got the time for it! And not only that, it's not even that beneficial for our kids. Why?

A beautiful "Instagram setup":


  • It looks beautiful, inviting, colourful, engaging, fun.
  • Setting up a tuff tray needs to be enjoyable for us. For some adults, it can be some kind of art therapy. If it's not enjoyable, we won't do it again. Play is not about all or nothing, it's about consistency. We need to keep it real to make it fit our busy life.
  • If you enjoy setting it up, you won't mind if the child doesn't engage for long! They might one day, and they might not the next, you just never know!


  • It takes time to set up, and we are all very busy!
  • Setting up a tuff tray or a complex activity is NOT on anyone's priority list. If it feels overwhelming just to think about it, it won't happen.
  • If a tray has too many items or textures the child will find it very overwhelming. They will mix everything together and walk away, or they will find some of the items quite annoying because they take all of the space and they can't even come up with their own ideas.

"SIMPLE activity"

  • Less is more, keep it simple
  • It is quick to set up. It doesn't need much thought. You are more likely to do it more often.
  • It allows the child to be creative and use their problem-solving skills to come up with their unique ideas.
  • There is space for the child to bring their own toys / materials if they need to, depending on what they decide to do.
  • It's also much quicker to clean up!


Today I tried this with my kids. I set up a really simple tray and they knew what to do straight away. To set up something simple, you can just add a few figures, some blocks, and a bowl with dry rice for example. He lined up the penguins following the arrows, hid some in the igloo, stacked the stars, and brought some other toys in it. They engaged for quite a while.

Then, in the afternoon, I set up a “better looking” tray adding pluffle, crepe paper, linking discs, etc. It took me a lot longer as I had to add a lot more thought into it. It took a lot longer to clean up too! (In fact, I haven't cleaned it up yet and I won't any time soon...). They came in and got excited when they saw it. They mixed the snowman and the blue pluffle. Then they moved everything else to the side because they didn’t want it, and then THEY ASKED ME FOR AN EMPTY TRAY!!! They used the snowman to make "meatballs" and went to get the muffin tray to put them in the oven. They turned their new "empty trays" into a kitchen.


The more things you give them, the less options they have.

Read more about “how to set up a simple tuff tray” here


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