Summer Tuff Tray Ideas that are Easy and Frugal

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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A Tuff Tray being used by a toddler in the garden for a summer activity.
Our Tuff Tray being used for some fun Summer Ideas by my daughter.

*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.

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The text on this pin reads, Summer Tuff Tray Ideas, ridiculously quick and easy to set up! Image of a girl painting blocks of ice.
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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?

An image of a Tuff Tray Ice Painting Activity in the garden in summer.
Ice Painting in the Garden is a great Summer Activity to do in your Tuff Tray.

Painting Ice

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.

A Mud Kitchen set up in the Tuff Tray as a Summer Activity. Includes pots, pans, grass, sticks, leaves, cupcake cases, and some little shells to use as decoration.
A Mud Kitchen Tuff Tray set up makes a great Kids Summer Activity.

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.

An image of a Tuff Tray in the garden in summer set up with a potion activity. There are containers with different coloured water, tubes of glitter, flower petals, spoons, cups, medicine cups and syringes.
This Potion Station Activity was such a hit with my kids this Summer!

Potion Station

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.

A Summer Tuff Tray Activity set up in the garden. It has a piece of card in the middle with text reading, Make a Bug Hotel, and then there is an old milk bottle with the front cut out, grass, soil, stones, sticks, shells, flowers and dry leaves to put inside.
Making a Bug Hotel is such a fun Summer Activity to do in 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 with paint mixed in and some toys on a Tuff tray for easy summer sensory play.
This Shaving foam and Paint makes a super fun and easy Tuff Tray Toddler Activity.

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.

Pin text reads, 5 super easy messy play activities about farms. There are 4 images of messy farm play ideas on the pin too.
Messy Farm Play makes a great Summer Tuff Tray Activity.

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!

A tuff tray set up in the garden with compost, little shovels, watering cans, sunflower seeds and planting pots and two pairs of little hands ready for gardening.
This Ice Rescue is such a versatile activity as you can mix and match what you freeze in the ice each time you play.

Ice Rescue

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.

A tuff tray set up in the garden in summer with a doll washing station. There are 3 dolls, bubbly water, an old shampoo bottle, some bath toys, a jug of water and some babies bottles.
This activity was so popular with the toddlers I childmind!

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.

A Tuff Tray set up in the garden in summer with a messy jelly play activity. It includes mashed jelly next to a potato masher, bowls, spoons, a rolling pin, and various shapes of jelly with toys moulded into them
This was a great treat activity for my kids who enjoyed eating it as well as playing with it!

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.

A tuff tray set up in the garden with compost, little shovels, watering cans, sunflower seeds and planting pots and two pairs of little hands ready for gardening.
This Gardening Activity is so easy to do using your Tuff Tray.

Gardening Activity

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.

Image of a Dinosaur Land set up on the Tuff Tray in the garden in Summer time. There is grass, leaves, a piece of drift wood, some stones and water and toy dinosaurs.
Dino Land Tuff Tray Set up.

Dinosaur Land

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.

A Tuff Tray set up in the garden in summer with an edible mud, cereal, bowl of soapy water and toy farm animals set up for a fun activity.
This Tuff Tray Set Up is a great Taste-Safe option for young children.

Muddy Animals Bath Day

This is one of my absolute favorite sensory play activities for toddlers.

We used homemade 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 homemade 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!

The pin text reads Summer Tuff Tray Preschooler ideas. Extremely easy to set up.
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