At long last Summer is starting to appear! It is my absolute favorite season, and I just love getting the kids outside, playing in the sunshine, as much as possible. One of the best ways to do this is by setting up fun activities. These Summer Tuff Tray Ideas are perfect for that. They are super quick and easy to create.
Messy play activities like these keep both my kids, aged 5 and 7 years old, happy and engaged for ages. They are also really popular with the toddlers that I childmind.
I just love that they spark off their imaginations and they are soon inventing games or running off around the garden looking for new things to add to their play.
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*If you haven’t yet got a Tuff Tray, then you can grab the Tuff Tray we use here, from Amazon UK. If you’re outside the UK and can’t get it to ship to you, a big tray with strong edges, like this one on Amazon, is a good alternative.
There are so many great advantages that I have found to these Summer Tuff Tray Ideas.
They are super quick and easy to set up. Most of the items I use are in my house or garden anyway so I don’t have to plan ahead or spend any extra money. Winner!
These activities are also really great for my kids and childminded toddlers, development, and learning. They are fun and engaging and encourage independent and imaginative play. This is so good for our kids. So it’s guilt-free sun-lounger supervision for us. What’s not to love?
Ice painting is super easy to do, and just requires you to remember to freeze some ice the day before. If you’re like me and have a memory like a sieve, then just keep a constant supply of ice in the freezer during the summer months.
Here we used a mixture of ice cubes and bigger blocks of ice in different shapes. This makes it more interesting and helps your toddler learn to recognize different shapes, as well as colors and the scientific concept of ice melting back down to water.
We used water-based kids’ paint, like this one from Amazon, and a mixture of different brushes and had great fun creating! Once all the ice had melted, we were left with multi-colored water which my daughter had fun playing with.
If you’re interested in more painting tuff tray ideas check out, Painting Tuff Tray Ideas for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Fun and Easy Activities.
Mud Kitchen Station
This is a favorite amongst both my kids (5 and 7 years) and the toddlers I childmind.
Simply fill your Tuff Tray with a pile of soil or mud from your garden, and add in some old pots, pans, and spoons.
I also added some cupcake cases, a little tub filled with tiny shells (used by my daughter as cupcake decorations), grass, sticks and an old tub of salt!
You could also add a jug of water and some flowers, pebbles, glitter, pompoms, feathers, and pine cones. The options are limitedless!
This activity can be used alongside a mud kitchen or as a stand alone summer activity.
For more ideas to spice up this activity, take a look at, The Best Mud Kitchen Budget Accessories. It’s full of frugal ideas for making your mud kitchen more exciting, and many of the suggestions are completely free.
This Potion Station activity was so popular with my kids! They absolutely love it!
I set it up for them before school one morning and they played with it for almost an hour. They have been requesting it again ever since!
It’s great because there are so many ways you can alter it slightly, and add to it, to make it different each time. For more ideas check out, How to Make a Potion Station on your Tuff Tray.
Create a Bug Hotel
Making a bug hotel is such a fun summer activity to use your Tuff Tray for. This took me about 5 minutes to set up for my daughter and she absolutely loved it.
We used an old milk bottle as the base and then put soil and stones in at the bottom to weigh it down. She added flowers, old leaves, pieces of driftwood, sticks, stones and some cardboard to make different environments to suit different bugs in her hotel.
A fun activity and educational too as we discussed the different kinds of bugs that might visit it and the habitats they like. We even found two snails to help us!
Shaving Foam Messy Play
Shaving Foam is such a fun thing to play with and squish between your fingers!
Have you ever tried it? I enjoyed this one almost as much as my kids!
We used some paint so they could experiment with mixing colors, and put some plastic toys in it too.
A good fun, simple activity.
This is also a great activity for developing early writing skills. Take a look at, Teach Your Kid to Write Their Name: 15+ Fun and Easy Activities, for more inspiration.
Messy Farm Play
Messy Farm Play Activities are such FUN!
These ideas really keep my little ones entertained for ages as they use their imaginations to really get into their play.
Small-world play is so great for our little people to learn about the world around them.
These are such versatile activities, and there are multiple sensory farm play set-ups you can try. If you want some more ideas check out, Messy Farm Play on the Tuff Tray: Toddler Sensory Ideas for 5 fun set up ideas!
Ice Rescue is one of my kids (7 and 5 years) favorite activities just now.
I tried it the other day with the toddlers I childmind and they enjoyed it just as much.
It was a great activity for my tuff tray, as all 4 kids could fit around it and play together.
The ice has a variety of items frozen in it, to keep it interesting for them. There are little plastic toys, flowers, leaves, glitter, feathers, and pom poms frozen in the ice. We used syringes, paintbrushes and spoons with some warm water to help melt the ice.
Baby Bathing Station
This Baby Bath activity kept my little toddlers entertained for ages!
I was surprised how long they enjoyed it for, considering it takes minutes to set up.
I had meant to also include a few bars of soap, and I might use a spot of shaving foam for hair washing next time as the bubbles didn’t have quite the same effect.
However, even like this, it was a popular activity!
For more Water Play inspiration head to, Water Play Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Fun, Easy and Low-Prep.
Jelly Messy Play
Jelly play is a brilliant taste-safe toddler sensory activity.
My kids loved experimenting with squishing the jelly, mashing it, mixing it, rolling it, and of course, tasting it!
We used a couple of different flavors and I set a few of their toys in the jelly for them to ‘rescue’.
A nice easy, treat, activity for a warm summer’s day.
We could hardly have a list of summer activities for kids without including a spot of gardening!
The tuff tray helps to contain some of the mess and keeps everything easily in reach for the kids.
The toddlers I childmind, and my own older kids, all loved plating their sunflowers themselves.
This Dinosaur Tuff Tray set up is such fun, and super easy to create.
I simply grabbed some of my son’s dinosaur toys, and then got my kids to help me search the garden for materials for a dinosaur’s habitat!
We used grass, sticks, pebbles, water, weeds, leaves, and flowers to create it. You could also add a muddy patch, or use some slime to create a swamp area. It can be as easy or as complicated as you choose.
This was a great one for encouraging their imaginations, and helping them learn to play nicely together around the tuff tray, taking turns with the dinosaurs, and deciding the games they would play.
Muddy Animals Bath Day (With Taste-Safe Mud)
This is one of my absolute favorite sensory play activities for toddlers, as it’s all taste-safe.
We used edible mud, cereal, farm animals, and trucks, and then I added some bubbly warm water for washing the animals and trucks.
My toddlers also enjoyed mixing the water and mud and experimenting with the changes in consistency. A nice added bit of STEM for any parents interested in encouraging Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics skills in their little ones.
If you’re looking for more messy farm play ideas, or want the recipe for this taste-safe mud, then check out, Messy Farm Play on the Tuff Tray: Toddler Sensory Ideas.
The Best Summer Ideas for your Tuff Tray
I hope this list of Fun Summer Ideas for a Tuff Tray has given you loads of inspiration to get out in your garden for some easy sensory play.
These activities are all purposefully simple to set up and use cheap items that many of us already own. My hope is that this makes them really easy for you to whip out as soon as the sun appears!