In this post of our #31daysofactivities series, we bring you yet another fun activity to do with your kids. This one has a bunch of tuff tray ideas including a special dinosaur ice tuff tray activity brought to you by Katy from What Katy Said.
I love the process of setting up an activity that invites children to explore and play. It is so interesting to see what they do with the things you set out for them. Plus, more often than not they entertain themselves and leave you in peace – bonus!
8 Fun Tuff Tray Ideas
Using a Tuff Tray is a great way to contain messy play, create small world play scenes, and allow little children to have a designated space for their activities. They can be used inside or outside, winter or summer. They are amazing for sensory play activities and can keep children engaged for a long time.
I want to show you a simple activity that has always been a firm favourite with my children – you just need some balloons, some water and whatever objects you want to put inside. In our case, we are bringing you a dinosaur tuff tray activity perfect for little paleontologists!
Plus, I’ll share 7 more tuff tray activities to incorporate this special sensory tray into your little one’s routine.
What is a tuff tray?
You may be wondering what on earth a tuff tray is first of all. The only reason I ever discovered them was due to my background in early years teaching but they are easy to find and are just great.
Essentially, it is a giant plastic tray with a solid rim around the outside to prevent spills. They’re perfect for water play and playing with messy materials. Tuff trays are really sturdy and can also come with adjustable stands so you can have the tray at waist height for your little one.
Tuff Trays come in lots of different colours – we had a lovely yellow one until my husband decided to use it as a cement mixing tray and split it down the middle. Now, we have classic black and it is still very well loved.
Benefits of play
Over the last few years, it has become more and more accepted that learning through play has multiple benefits for young children. Long-gone are the days when little ones start school and are thrown straight into using exercise books.
Thankfully schools will encourage learning through play until they reach 5 or 6 years old. But play begins at home and so giving your child learning opportunities is a wonderful way to help them develop key skills.
Role play activities like pretending to go to the shops or a cafe is a great way to practice talking to other people and how to behave in different scenarios.
Independence and positive self-esteem
Once they have played with you, they will have the confidence to try the same activity on their own, which will then lead to independence and self-confidence to play that same game around others.
Problem solving skills
A simple set of wooden blocks can help them work out how best to build a wall or a tower – nothing has to be elaborate or complicated to help a child learn and develop.
Cooperative play, sharing and conflict resolution
Playing with siblings, friends or even with you is a great way to help them to learn how to take turns
Fine motor and gross motor skills. A simple activity such playing with coloured water beads can help with fine motor skills if they are picking out individual beads. This later goes on to strengthen muscles for handwriting. Large motor skills involve helping children to work on balance and coordination so any game or activity that gets them up and about will help with that!
Creativity and imagination
Setting up small world scenes within the tray are a wonderful way to get children using their imaginations and building their creativity to make up their own games.
Frozen Dinosaur Egg Tuff Tray Activity
I am all about easy in our house, so anything that takes minimal effort is always fine by me. This is one of my children’s all-time favourite activities and is so much fun.
It is a simple idea – take some balloons (normal party balloons rather than long ones although they would be fun!) and some little dinosaurs.
- Plastic dinosaurs
- Food coloring (optional)
- Dinosaur-themed props
- Salt (optional)
How to Make Frozen Dinosaur Eggs for Tuff Tray
- Place the dinosaur inside the balloon and then carefully place the mouth of the balloon over the end of your tap. If you want you could add a drop of food colouring into the balloon to have different coloured eggs.
- Slowly turn the tap on so as to allow the balloon to increase in size as it fills the water.
- Once the balloon is about the size of an adult fist, turn off the tap and tie the balloon with a knot.
- Place the water-filled balloons in the freezer and leave for approximately one day to freeze solid.
- Once they are frozen, snip the balloon near the knot and pull away the balloon to reveal a frozen dinosaur egg!
- Place these in the tuff tray along with some other plastic dinosaurs, different tools to help them cut into the eggs and any other props that add to the effect. You could have ice cubes to enhance the sensory experience of being in an icy environment.
Tip – Have some salt ready to pour onto an egg to show how it quickly dissolves the ice. This is great even for older kids to see how the melting point changes.
It’s a great activity for a hot day as the ice melts easily and then the water left in the tray can be used to splash in! There’s lots of fun to be had even once the ice has all gone.
More Tuff Tray Ideas
There are so many ways to use a tuff tray to encourage your child to have fun while learning. Most of the time they won’t even realise they are doing any learning – which is the whole point. It should always be fun!
One of my favourite things to set up was a giant pile of spaghetti. I’d give them household items, like kitchen utensils and pots and pans, to play with and they would spend ages exploring it. Great for sensory play but also for roleplay if they set up a kitchen. Another great one is porridge oats – give them spoons and cups and watch them spend ages scooping them up!
Add some toy cars, trucks, diggers of even trains with some brio thrown in for good measure. It’s a nice flat surface to be able to zoom around on. You can also buy some tuff tray scenery mats to transform it into roads and other landscapes.
A great sensory activity for little ones – take lots of different materials and allow them to feel them against their skin and listen to how they sound when scrunched up. Of course, you don’t have to use fabric – natural materials make for great fun too with pine cones, bark, stones and leaves being fun to explore.
All children love sand, don’t they? Use the tray as a mini beach with buckets and spades to build sandcastles. You could turn it into a treasure island and bury some gold coins for them to find! Give them some water and watch their faces when it turns from soft sand to wet sand!
This is a firm favourite for all ages – can they write their name in the foam? What does it feel like?
Children don’t get dirty enough these days. So, give them a dedicated space with some mud, plates and cutlery etc to see what they can make. Or maybe they could use the mud to make a hill and drive their diggers around it!
A classically messy activity that people tend to avoid like the plague. Put it in the tuff tray and let them make as much mess as they like!
I hope you’ve found some new activity ideas to use with your own tuff tray! If you have any other ideas of activities to try, I’d love to hear them!
We have a lot of great activities on the site for you to do with your kids, so take a look.
If you like dinosaur activities, take a look at more dinosaur activities on the site.
Dinosaur ideas on KiddyCharts
We love all things dinosaur on our site, so why not take a look at our dinosaur ideas and activities.
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