5 creative tuff tray ideas to keep kids busy this weekend

Looking for tuff tray ideas? Get the creative juices flowing with these fab finds, from board games to sensory spreads

tuff tray ideas
(Image credit: @littlewildolive)

Want to try a tuff tray but no idea where to start? These tuff tray ideas are for you. The simple plastic trays have gone viral recently thanks to their multiple uses and – most importantly – their ability to contain the inevitable mess made by young 'uns when they're playing/painting/potion-making.

But just how do you use them? We've rounded up our favourite tuff tray ideas below, from educational (but fun!) board games to pretty autumnal displays. 

Looking for more garden ideas? Head to our garden design gallery for inspiration.

1. Mix up some potions/soup/tea – and prepared to get messy!

We love this idea from Sam at @littlewildolive, who created a setup for curious kids made up of leaves, grasses, pine cones and more. Don't mind a bit of mess? Try making mud pies, or incorporate lots of jugs of water coloured with food colouring for a potions masterclass.

2. Create a beach scene with sand

Autumn might be upon us, but that doesn't mean we're over summer – and we're still dreaming of balmy beach days. That's why we're loving this idea from Michelle at @tufftrayaday, whose feed is jam packed with tuff tray ideas. She's used blue food colouring for the sea and added cornflour to deepen the effect, and the result is a tuff tray we wouldn't mind getting stuck into either…

3. Create a board game that's educational too

This ingenious idea from @katiesclassroom_ is a great way to get kids learning while they play – and who doesn't love a good old fashioned board game? Use a white pen to create your own, or try covering your tuff tray with paper painted with blackboard paint for an easy, fuss-free way to play more games – snakes and ladders, anyone?

4. Create a nature-based sensory experience

Engaging in their senses is a brilliant way to get kids learning about the world, so create a sensory experience using your tuff tray to teach them about nature. This one from @ks1_team includes vegetables so kids can feel the different textures, herbs for smell, and wooden and metal spoons for sound – earplugs at the ready!

5. Create a beautiful autumn tray display

If your kid is artistically-minded, work with them to create a tray that's a homage to the season, like this beautiful design from @littlebellescreations. You could exclusively use materials related to autumn – think conkers, crunchy leaves and pine cones – or create a seasonal scene with household items. Set a theme and let their imaginations run wild.

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Ellen Finch
Ellen Finch

Joining as features editor in 2017, Ellen now looks after the day-to-day running of Real Homes magazine. She also commissions and writes many of the real case studies you'll see on the site, and loves speaking to homeowners to get their top tips on all things interiors. She's currently gearing up to buy a home of her own in 2023 – hopefully with a lovely big garden to plant veg and wildflowers – and has a special interest in sustainable living.