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Tuff Tray Set Ups

Sensory Tuff Trays for Preschool and Early Years

I love nothing more than a good hands on Tuff Tray. A tray that stimulates the senses and ignites the imagination. If you follow us on Instagram - you get an inside glimpse of our set ups through the Instalive videos. I love sharing them with you all and I value all your suggestions and comments too - thank you! It's a blessing to have such a wonderful community of people who are so passionate about children's learning.
Today I am sharing with you a handful of some of the best sensory Tuff Trays on the internet, courtesy of the lovely creator - Sally Wright.
This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links.

Sally is an Early Years Teacher from Cheshire, UK. She runs her own home based child care business with her husband and friend, both of whom are registered Early Years practitioners. Together they also lead an Early Years Play Group and a Parent and Toddler Group.
It really is a pleasure to have Sally joining us today. She produces some of the most beautiful set ups I have seen. Hold on tight and prepare to be inspired.

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. 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. He would combine and mix whatever he could get his hands on! We had to change to try to meet this little one desire to explore and experiment. First we had to learn how to embrace the mess.
We started out using small planting trays from the garden centre. Today we use a range of trays and Tuff Trays and have even released a book on our set ups -

50 Fantastic Ideas for Tuff Trays is jam packed full of ideas for tuff trays that support children's books, promote mathematics and are ideal for celebrations and festivals. Our aim is to always create inviting opportunities for learning to be met in an exciting and creative way.

Lets take a look at a handful of our trays:

Jelly & Frozen Pirates  

Sensory Tuff Trays for Preschool and Early Years

As much as possible we try to link our play sessions to the interests of the children. It really is heart warming to observe their moments of joy and amazement as they discover set ups that link to something they are passionate about. 

Ice works well with anything like this. Use a variety of containers and pop toys inside that link to your themes and interests. Swill them before play to begin the melting process to avoid the ice being sticky. Jelly added another and scent to the activity. Pipettes and paint brushes were also available for the children

Shaving Foam, Paint and Water

Sensory Tuff Trays for Preschool and Early Years

Lots of experimentation went on here. We went on to do this a couple of times at our setting as the children were so drawn in and mesmerised with what was on offer.

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.

More Tuff Trays on Learning and Exploring Through Play:

Ramadan Tuff Tray Activities for Children    Pig Week Tuff Tray    Bee's Needs Week Tuff Tray Bee Activities for Kids

Here are some of my personal favourites:

Threading Cheerio’s

Sensory Tuff Trays for Preschool and Early Years

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

Sensory Tuff Trays for Preschool and Early Years

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

Sensory Tuff Trays for Preschool and Early Years

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.  

More Tuff Trays on Learning and Exploring Through Play:

Duck Tuff Tray. Duck Activities for Kids.    Handas Suprize Tuff Tray    Bird Tuff Tray. Bird Themed Activities for Preschool.

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.

I am over the moon with the release of our book - 50 Fantastic Ideas for Tuff Trays. It is such a pleasure to share with others!

The tuff tray is often underused in early years settings. However, when used effectively, a tuff tray can enhance a child's learning through its versatile usage, such as messy play or as enhancements to support themes and ideas that are being explored. A simple tuff tray provocation can offer many learning opportunities to help a child progress and develop, as it often promotes open-ended investigations and problem solving. 50 Fantastic Ideas for Tuff Trays is packed full of exciting activities that are not only simple and easy to prepare and manage, but that also use materials and tools found in most settings and at very low cost. 

A big thank you to Sally for joining us! I adore your activities and the book has inspired me to provide lots more Tuff Tray opportunities for the children I work with.

Sensory Tuff Trays for Preschool and Early Years

Have you joined our Learning Through Play GROUP yet? Its the place you can be inspired by other like minded people and share your photos to inspire too! We have everything being shared from Outdoor Areas, Tuff Trays, Dens, Literacy set ups, Funky Fingers and endless crafts!
You can request to join our GROUP here - Learning and Exploring Through Play GROUP

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You may also like:

Duck Tuff Tray. Duck activities for Preschool. Spring Activities.    Shake Process Art    Space Themed Sensory Play. Space week.

Mrak Making with Kinetic Sand. Sensory Play.    We're Going on a Bear Hunt Small World    Recycled Carton Bird Feeders

Autumn Crafts for Preschool. Autumn Salt Dough Leaves.    Ramadan Tuff Tray    Snowman Keepsake Salt Dough Ornament.

Learning Through Play
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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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