23 Gorgeous Summer Tuff Tray Ideas For Summer Fun

There’s something about summer play which can be so much fun for little ones. Outdoor exploration, better weather to setup bigger play areas and there’s so many fun summer ideas you can create for open ended play.

If you’re looking for some ideas to keep the kids occupied this summer, we’re sharing our round up of some of the best tuff tray ideas for the summer that will encourage play, promote fine motor skills and so much more! Screenshot your favorite ideas for a summer play date!

23 Gorgeous Summer Tuff Tray Ideas For Summer Fun

1.Carrot Patch Play

This one is so much fun for little ones and is great for harvesting season too. Grab your tuff tray and add a deeper bucket or tray like this, you’ll need some depth so they can plant the carrots.

You’ll need soil, chantenay carrots, mini plant pots and a children’s trowel and rake set. This is a great sensory play idea for digging, planting and pulling up!

Instagram image credit: @ourplaydaze

2. Lemon Water Play

This play idea guarantees some real citrussy fun play!

Use real lemons and cut into pieces, add poster paint to the water for the vivid yellow color. Add teapots and saucers for little ones to explore and have some water fun.

But what deserves a real moment here is the solar powered water fountain, how cute?! The perfect tuff tray idea for a hot summers day in the garden.

Instagram image credit: @miss_e_early_years

3. We All Scream For Ice-cream!

This ice-cream themed tuff tray idea is perfect for helping little ones to develop and practise their fine motor skills. Using sensory materials that are edible is always a great shout as those little hands inevitably explore!

You’ll need ice-cream cones, cheerios, flour, sprinkles, spaghetti in pieces, and any other cereals you want to include to create the waffle cone base and spoons.

Instagram image credit: @missdaniel_eyfs

4. Beachside Play

Get your little ones ready for a day at the seaside with this beachside play tuff tray setup.

We love the innovative section split up with shaving foam! Add some blue material to one side to mimic the sea, topped with plenty of sea life, shells and details to explore. Add some sand to the other section, along with your little one’s favorite figures.

Instagram image credit: @misslucas.eyfs

5. Bubble Making

Who doesn’t love bubbles? Well, why not get them to make their very own bubble wands with this clever idea. Use sticks as the base, getting them to add pipe cleaners around it for the wand.

Use a washing up liquid and water solution for them to dip their handcrafted bubble wands into.

Instagram image credit: @earlyyearsoutdoor

6. Washing Up

Be it sand or water, these sensory play ideas are always welcomed. One of the easiest summer tuff tray ideas to setup, and you’ll already have everything readily available at home.

Fill up a few bowls with soapy water, add jugs, plastic mugs, (dirty toys!), and some cleaning sponges and get them to work! We always advise watching your child during water based activities.

Instagram image credit: @earlyyearsoutdoor

7. Shell Maths

This is a great one for a rainy day. Fill a tuff tray with sand and add shells and little spades. Get your little one to put the shells into side order, get them to count as many as they can, get them to listen to the sea and accompany this play activity with a sea themed book.

Instagram image credit: @jodiewilliamschildminding

8. Sand Fun

Get your buckets and spades ready for a day at the beach! Add some sand and moon sand for the sea, colored blue rice works perfectly for this.

Add plenty of sea creatures, shells and buckets and spades. Turn it into an educational play idea with weather cards too.

Instagram image credit: @mini_wonders_play_sessions

9. Ice Cream Parlour

Open up an ice cream parlour and prepare for a lot of fun! Create your own menu (do it free on places like Canva), add the names of each of the items, and add little samples of each food item and get them to create their own unique ice-cream.

This promises to be a lot of fun, an amazing role play activity that they will love.

Instagram image credit: @teachwithfi

10. Sand Patterns

Sand remains one of the best sensory activities for little hands to feel, and we love this sand patterns tuff tray idea.

Fill the tuff tray with plenty of stand and add sticks and nature items such as pebbles, leaves, shells and pine cones. Get your little one to make patterns in the sand with the twigs, or get them to spell out letters or numbers for an educational twist.

Instagram image credit: @teachingsenwithkel

11. Lighthouse

This lighthouse inspired setup is perfect for boat and sea loving enthusiasts.

Packed full of sensory goodness, you will need bubble wrap for the base, colored spaghetti, shells, pebbles, a lighthouse and boats. This is an open ended play idea which is ideal for encouraging role play.

Instagram image credit: @messyfundublin

12. Farm Wash

Welcome to the farm wash! There’s something about washing items from a young age that gives a deep satisfaction for the process, and also a bit of graft!

For this play idea, add mud to the tray, put a washing up bowl inside, then add some farm animals and letters to clean. A great way to get your little ones play toys cleaned at the same time too!

Instagram image credit: @ourdreamplayroom

13. Busy Bee

Not only is this tuff tray setup adorable, but it’s beautifully aesthetic too!

Create a similar setup with rice grains and chickpeas. We love these bee counters, making it a perfect way to boost those numerical skills too.

Instagram image credit: @the_new_forest_nest

14. Open Ended Beach Play

Sometimes, nothing beats open ended play. There’s no set agenda, but just plenty of things for your little one to get involved in, and create their own games.

Using sand as a base is perfect for this activity, Add shells, rollers, spades and anything else you think would make a great addition to this play idea.

Instagram image credit: @mylittlegirltribe

15. Leaf Cutting

Develop those fine motor skills with a leaf cutting setup. A thrifty activity that doesn’t require anything additional to be bought. Just add a huge selection of outdoor leaves (even get your little one to collect them first!), and some scissors.

Make sure an adult is nearby to model correct hand position and offer support when needed.

Instagram image credit: @little_kingfishers

16. Frozen Sea Creatures

Nothing beats simple water play. Prior to the play, create some ice cubes with some sea life figurines frozen inside.

Fill up a small bowl in a tuff tray and add the ice cubes, a fun activity to watch the ice slowly melt, as well as opening up plenty of role play opportunities for them.

Instagram image credit: @tufftray_adventures

17. Put Petals On The Flowers

Using paperclips can be a little tricky for those little hands which is what makes this activity so good for working on those fine motor skills, and the resilience to keep trying.

Good for numerical recognition too, get your little ones to clip the right amount of paperclips onto each circle.

Instagram image credit: @miss_lvt_eyfs

18. Bookmark Designing

It’s always a good idea to have a few rainy day activities lined up for the little ones. Get a bookmark designing station setup with cut to size bookmarks, pom pops, sparkles, feathers, pens and ribbons and get them to create their own unique bookmark.

A fun idea that will get those creative juices flowing.

Instagram image credit: @ms_v_classroom

19. Jungle Play

Another open ended play idea that’s great for everyday play. This jungle setup features train tracks, and plenty of cute foliage. Add some cars and other figures to the setup for your little one to create their own games.

Instagram image credit: @_little.thinkers_

20. Bugs & Insects Exploration

Insect tuff trays are up there with being the most popular for toddlers. Those inquisitive minds can get to work with exploration, magnifying glasses and identifying.

Take this one outdoors if you want to add real life insects into the mix though!

Instagram image credit: @peques_detania

21. Colored Bubbles

If your little one loves water sensory play, this is another one to add to the list! Create colored bubbles for a super pretty look. Add flower petals, jugs and plastic mugs so they can play with the water.

This is a great shady afternoon activity for outside play.

Instagram image credit: @the_play_adventures_

22. Bird Watch

Setup a bird watching station for toddlers and beyond. This setup encourages you to observe wildlife, discuss what birds like to eat and drink and see if they can identify different types of birds.

You could tie this into building a bird feeder together too.

Instagram image credit: @tufftray_adventures

23. Make An Alien

Lastly, just because space and alien tuff tray ideas are an all year round thing… Get your little ones to make an alien! Add buttons, pom poms, pipe cleaners and googly eyes. You could use playdough, jelly or even plasticine for them to make the base of the alien from.

Which of these ideas will you be giving a try this summer? If you have any other ideas, please share them with the community in the comments below, we’d love to hear them!

Instagram image credit: @kcsearlyyears
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Bjarni Baby

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