13 Fun & Educational Insect Tuff Tray Ideas For Toddlers

Tuff tray play offers endless opportunities for toddlers and beyond. We love the imaginative ideas that can safely be housed in the trays, perfect for fine motor, communication, identifying skills and beyond!

If you have a little one that’s exploring creepy crawlies and is fascinated by all things to do with nature, upgrade their play time fun with these insect tuff tray ideas that are ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

13 Fun & Educational Insect Tuff Tray Ideas For Toddlers

1.Bugs and Snails

Theme your tuff tray with a specific book for the activity. Take note of this Bugs and Snails setup which is perfect for outdoor play if weather allows during Spring and beyond.

Build out the base of the tuff tray with soil, add real leaves, magnifying glasses so they can inspect closer, along with snail and bug figures so they can correctly match and identify which are bugs and which are snails.

Instagram image credit: @_little.thinkers_

2. Conker Exploration

Whilst this tuff tray idea doesn’t necessarily have to include insects, the two work together well in nature so you could easily incorporate them into the setup.

This tuff tray idea encourages counting, communication and fine motor skills with wooden tongues that can be used to pick up the conkers. Get them involved pre the setup by getting them to collect them too!

Instagram image credit: @eyfsreceptionteacher2022

3. Mini Beasts Tuff Tray

This mini beasts setup shares nature from the soil up! A great idea to teach little ones about their garden and the surrounding animals and creatures within it.

Create a section of soil for the ground, with the above section being the sky. Create the setup with plasticine creatures and grass. Make it as realistic as possible with leaves, foliage, clouds and pebbles for a rock bed. Don’t forget to leave a magnifying glass so you can get your toddler to identify a series of items.

Instagram image credit: @harrylouisadventures

4. Destination Jungle

Mix things up by creating a jungle retreat. This activity is ideal for toddlers who are also car obsessed! Add train tracks so they can play with cars and add leaves and flowers to the area to create that jungle theme.

Don’t forget to add a series of insects over the tuff tray and leave them with a magnifying glass to see what insects they can spot.

Instagram image credit: @_little.thinkers_

5. Insect Playdough Tray

If weather doesn’t allow it, take things indoors for a spot of playdough, insect themed. You’ll need the essentials like rolling pins, playdough, insect figurines, beads, buttons, small twigs and anything else nature inspired that you want to include.

Get your kids to roll out the playdough, and make patterns with insect figures of their choice which they can then decorate afterwards.

Instagram image credit: @twinsthinkandplay

6. Let’s Explore Nature & Bugs

What bugs are hiding in the grass to find? This tuff tray setup is great for exploration!

Use green scarves as a base to act as grass, as well as different nature items from the yard, add loose parts inspired by nature, then add bugs among grass. Add a magnifying glass and get your little ones to try and identify which bugs they can spot.

Instagram image credit: @scholarschoice

7. It’s A Bugs Life

Ditch the soil for this setup and instead use sand as a base, it’s great for sensory exploration too. Add a bowl of colored water for a different element, insect figurines, fizzing mud, tapioca pearls and dye with green food colouring for a really funky color and texture for little hands to explore.

Instagram image credit: @magicmakingmumma

8. Identifying Game

Which bugs can your little one identify? We love this nature inspired setup with insects and bigger creatures involved. Add foliage, pebbles and magnifying glasses.

Call out creatures that you want them to identify and get them to call it out when they spot it!

Instagram image credit: @ms.zunaira.dilawaiz

9. Mini Beast Tuff Tray

If little ones are fascinated by creepy crawlies at playtime, they will love this mini beast tuff tray setup.

Create a setup that looks as close to the wildlife that surrounds us as possible. Use soil, grass cutting, leaves and flower cuttings on the edge of the trays. Give them some gardening gloves so they can really get involved, and add a mix of figurines and real insects as safely as you can.

Instagram image credit: @eyfs_displays_and_tuff_trays

10. Insect Playdough

We all have a little one that is obsessed with playdough! If they love creepy crawlies but at a distance, this is a great alternative. A must try for little learners, set them up with plenty of different colored playdough and get them to create a series of insects.

Add a box of pipe cleaners, buttons and googly eyes so they can bring their insects to life!

Instagram image credit: @prekpages

11. Nature Inspired Tuff Tray

Instead of grass or soil, create a setup with wood chips. It creates the perfect woodland for insects to hide in!

A great sensory play idea that is great for learning animals, communication skills and problem solving. Add a series of insects to the setup (they can be fake figurines too), add words of the insects and get them to identify them with magnifying glasses.

Instagram image credit: @_playislearning_

12. How Do Butterflies Grow

When we think of bugs and insects, don’t forget butterflies! This deserves a different tuff tray play idea of its own.

Use a book as part of the playtime, and add different butterfly figurines along with the different types of butterflies there are. A great way to get your little one identifying and matching.

Instagram image credit: @katys_book_shelf

13. Scooping, Playing & Learning About Butterflies

And, in case you can’t get enough of butterflies, this is another fun alternative! Get your kids scooping, playing and learning about butterflies in this sensory packed way.

Show the lifecycle of a butterfly and get them to identify the process at each part. Fill the base of the tray with something like colored chickpeas or kernels for a really fun backdrop.

We hope you loved these insect inspired tuff tray ideas, if you have any other fab suggestions, we’d love to hear them in the comments below!

Instagram image credit: @playroom_on_the_hill
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Susan Sage
Susan Sage is a dedicated mother of two, whose journey through parenthood has fueled her passion for sharing knowledge and expertise with other parents. Her articles are a treasure trove of insights, offering practical advice, emotional support, and innovative ideas to help parents navigate the complexities of raising children in today's world.

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