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Tuff Tray Set Ups

Hi, I am Sally Wright, an Early Years Teacher from Cheshire, UK.  I run my own home based child care business with my husband and friend, both of whom are registered Early Years practitioners. Together we also lead an Early Years Play Group and a Parent and Toddler Group.

I wanted to share with you our ‘tuff  tray’ journey as we have come so far in such little time. This time last year we had never even heard of a tuff tray and we tried to avoid mess at all costs. Our sensory play consisted of water, sand and painting!

It started out with a young boy who loved sensory play, he was an ‘investigator’ and would combine and mix whatever he could get his hands on!! We had to change to try to meet this little one on his level. First we had to learn how to ‘embrace the mess’! We started out using small planting trays from the garden center for our sensory and exploration play.

Jelly & Frozen Pirates  


Shaving Foam, paint & water

They were such a big hit!

We soon progressed to a tuff tray to enable more children to access the activity at one time and we now offer a tuff tray activity during each session which we use to explore many different areas of learning.

Here are some of my personal favourites:

Threading Cheerio’s

You will need:
  • Cheerios
  • Straws (which we stood upright using blue tac to promote problem solving skills),Pipe cleaners and any other thin tubular items to thread the cheerio’s onto.

This activity is particularly good for hand eye co-ordination and the development of fine motor skills. The task takes concentration and determination and the children get a real sense of achievement after completing the task. Some children also used their threaded pipe cleaners to make bird feeders!

Making soap suds to promote hand washing skills

You will need:
  • Empty soap dispensers (preferably with a little hand soap left in the bottom) Half fill with water and shake up to create bubbles..
  • Sponges
  • Bars of soap

This activity was a lovely sensory activity which supported our hand washing topic. The children enjoyed the process of creating the soap suds and we talked about the fact that when we wash our hands we should cover our whole hands in ‘bubbles’ or ‘soap suds’.

Moon Dough and Herbs

You will need:
  • Hair conditioner and cornflour (combined to make the moon dough). Tip cornflour into a bowl and gradually add conditioner until you create your dough….it’s that easy. Helpful Tip: use your hands as it’s the kneading of the dough that makes it combine together.
  • Fresh herbs…we used some picked from the garden and potted ones from the supermarket.
  • We also included tools such as rolling pins and pots

This activity was great for promoting scissor skills along with exploring our sense of smell. The children made herb cakes and each created their own unique smell! We talked about the different herbs and which we liked the smell of  best, but the best part for the children was chopping up the herb plants.  

The introduction of the sensory play into our setting has changed our whole ethos and as a setting and team we have evolved and progressed so much in the last year.

If you would like to follow our progress please come and like our page by clicking our logo below:


See you soon, Sally xx

Note: This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links.

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Amy Louise
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  1. The way that you set up the activity just makes it so attractive and invites discovery and play.

  2. These are such an awesome ideas for using tuff tray!


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