Posted by Casey

There’s no denying that Tuff Trays are becoming increasingly popular in homes and early childhood settings across the world. Sometimes they can be hard to source so I was so incredibly excited to be approached by our sponsor, Mess It Up, to bring you this post today!

We have had our Tuff Tray for many years now and I’m often asked how we use it and where to purchase one from. So settle in and let’s chat more about why I think Tuff Trays are a great addition to your sensory play toolkit and I’ll share some great ideas from our community too. 

You can order a Tuff Tray and many other wonderful sensory play supplies from our sponsors Mess It Up. You’ll find an exclusive coupon code at the end of this blog too 😉

Why Tuff Trays?

Our little learners make sense of the world around them through their senses of taste, touch, sight, sound and smell. For this reason, sensory play is an incredible way for us to support our little learners in exploring and learning about how things work.

However, I often hear from parents who feel a little overwhelmed about the messy aspect of sensory play. They worry about how to contain the mess without having sensory bases spread through their entire home. And THIS is why the Tuff Tray is a wonderful investment! 

Below is a Construction Small World that we set up in our play room for our digger-loving toddler. Would you believe that NONE of those little stones made their way through the house? He stood and played there quite happily.

The Tuff tray is a large, shallow tray that allows parents and educators to prepare exciting invitations while creating a visual boundary for the play. The shallow edges of the tray allow multiple children to reach in and start playing. This is especially true if you have a baby or young toddler!

When Elliot was a baby, we used to attend a sensory play group and the host would often set up invitations safe for babies by popping them in a Tuff Tray on the floor. Below you’ll see Lilly and Elliot exploring a Tuff Tray filled with white rice and some bowls! The edges of the tray provided a barrier to keep those little bits of rice *mostly* in the tray.

This is one of the reasons I love our Tuff Tray for messy play outside – it’s large enough for our three children to gather around and play together without getting in one anothers space.

Below is a potion exploration that we set up for the kids to enjoy this weekend using bits and pieces from our sensory stash and some beautiful flowers and scented herbs from the garden. You can see how all three kids fit around the Tuff Tray!

By adding a stand to your Tuff Tray order at Mess It Up (they ship Tuff Trays across Australia and their stands are available if you’re a local to Smeaton Grange, Sydney, Australia), your little learners can stand and play. This is so beneficial for early walkers as they can scoot around the table as they explore. When Audrey was a toddler, we’d often fill the tray with water and just throw in a few Ocean Animals for her to explore. It was so simple but she LOVED it!

We got our metal stand from a local toy outlet and having their play elevated makes play so much more accessible so I highly recommend a stand if you can get one!

Our Tuff Tray actually lives outside permanently now because our home is quite small. We just stand it up against the side of the house or leave it set up on our deck near their mud kitchen and cubby house. Sometimes we set up a simple invitation on the Tuff Tray, and other times the kids create their own fun!

Below is a simple small world invitation we prepared for the kids over the weekend to try and rest some crazy afternoon moods. We cut a piece of artificial grass to sit inside the tray to use for small worlds.

Some other items you might like to grab with your Tuff Tray include Slime Play, Earth Fizz, Aquatic Figurines, Cotton Sand or Water Beads. If you grab some goodies, I’d love for you to take a photo of your sensory play stash and tag us on Instagram at @littlelifelonglearners and @mess_it_up_aus so we can see what you get up to! 

Tuff Tray Ideas from our Community

When we asked our Little Play Club members to share some of the fun invitations they’ve enjoyed with their little learners using their Tuff Trays, the response was incredible! Below you’ll find some examples of the variety of ways our community use their Tuff Tray for all kinds of sensory play!

Ranie uses her Tuff Tray to help contain some of her messier sensory play experiences. Below you’ll see how she used a smaller container placed inside the Tuff Tray and then had her twins and their little friend sit inside the Tuff Tray to contain the mess!

Erin has two little ones and she says she uses their Tuff Tray almost everyday and she finds it especially helpful for kids that don’t like to sit at a table. I love how Erin turned her Tuff Tray into an incredible fine motor exercise with some painter’s tape, tongs and some animal figurines.

Below you’ll see how Erin also uses her Tuff Tray to catch the messes from sensory play explorations just like Ranie does. See how two children of different developmental stages can jump right into play side by side? This is my favourite thing about the Tuff Tray – how it opens up play to be accessible for more than one child! And once they’re done, Erin can just hose the Tuff Tray off ready for their next invitation.

Christine is another of our creative parents in the Little Play Club and she shared some great simple ideas for using her Tuff Tray. I loved this one which took only a minute to set up but encouraged her little learners to get creative! She simply popped some shaving cream and paint onto her tray and let her little learners at it. How fun!

When we first got our Tuff Tray, my husband set up a beautiful ocean small world for our toddler to explore. He used sand from our sandpit and then lots of coral and shells from our own collection. It turned out so beautifully and our toddler loved playing with all the ocean animals!

Where to Order

Our good friends at Mess It Up stock Tuff Trays as well as a variety of other incredible sensory play supplies that your little learners will adore! If you have a friend or two, you could order your Tuff Trays together to save on shipping! Mess It Up have also graciously given us a 15% off coupon for you to use whether you’re ordering a Tuff Tray or some other sensory play goodies! Simply pop the code ‘CASEY15’ in at the checkout!

I am so incredibly excited to be working with Mess It Up to bring you this sponsored blog post. Monetary compensation was received, though all opinions are my own. Head on over to Mess it Up to grab your own Tuff Tray and sensory play materials!

About the author

Casey is an early years teacher who passionate about supporting parents and educators that want to use play as way to connect with their little learners and create magical memories of childhood! You can follow Casey on Instagram right here.

Casey is an early years teacher who passionate about supporting parents and educators that want to use play as way to connect with their little learners and create magical memories of childhood! You can follow Casey on Instagram right here.

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