Mini Sensory Tray Play Ideas
Do you live in a small space?
Do you want some compact play?
Are you looking for simple tray play activities that will keep your little ones attention?
There are some brilliant larger Tuff Tray set ups and sensory play activities, but sometimes you need something a bit smaller and compact with less set up and clear up!
Often the simple activities are the most engaging for little ones – by focusing on a single task children can be fully engaged and are likely to be less distracted. These mini tray play ideas are perfect for focusing your child’s attention.
The following trays contain some small parts and things that should not be eaten – be sure to supervise children at all times
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Beach Time Mini Play Tray
This play tray is a beautiful invitation to play with golden sand and a gorgeous blue sea – a fantastic sensory tray with a variety of textures and play opportunities.
Practice fine motor skills by burying things in the sand and using the tongs to get them out – or simply have fun feeling the sand and sea between your fingers 🙂
Golden Sand – The sand is made from plain flour and vegetable oil mixed together until a crumbly sand consistency is achieved – add a touch of cocoa powder to colour and some orange food colouring to give it a golden touch
Clear Blue Sea – The sea is made with rice that I dyed blue (put rice in a freezer bag with a teaspoon of vinegar and a few drops of food colouring and shake – when fully covered lay out on a baking tray to dry)
Frothy Waves – I used salt to make some froth for the waves which makes a nice divide (not that this will last it just looks pretty to begin with!) and adds another sensory element
Wooden Letters – I added small wooden letters to our tray but you could use anything that you are able to dig out or pick up with tongs (we also added two plain wooden dolls to have fun on our beach!)
We recently made this slight variation on our original mini play tray and created this Small World Beach Tray using a bigger tray and adding a deck chair that we made out of coffee stirrers!
Go Fish Mini Play Tray
This mini fishing play tray is so much fun to play with little ones and it smells great too! With a fishing net and boat to set the scene, your little ones will be fishing away the day 🙂
Water – This is another great use for the blue rice we made earlier and is great for using as water as it flows nicely when you’re playing in it
Fish – We had fun making these fish out of orange peel after we’d enjoyed the oranges! I just drew a pencil outline on the peel and cut out – they smell amazing!
Fishing Net – I used a mini sieve that we normally use for sprinkling icing sugar – you could scoop up the fish and then collect them in the boat – or use something as a net instead
Boat & Fisherman – This sets the scene and gives you somewhere to collect the fish – we used a Duplo character and boat but any toy will work
Road Sign Mini Tray Play
This was such a simple tray to put together and great fun for car lovers! With an ‘island’ in the middle to explore, and some signs for direction it makes for a fun road trip 🙂
Road – This road was made with black duct tape which I stuck back-to-back and then added white masking tape for the road markings – so simple and can be sued for so many play activities
Grass ‘Island‘ – Another dyed rice, this time green for grass (I recommend making a few different colours at once as it keeps well and can be used again and again – it’s also fun to mix some colours together!) I used a green lunch box lid to hold the rice – you could also use a round lid if you wanted to create a round-a-bout
Scenery – The trees, the road signs and the car are all just toys we had already – a car would be enough though and you could add some greenery from your garden if you wanted to create more of an ‘island’ in the centre
Insect Mini Tray Play
This tray is a great set up for a sorting activity and also practising those fine motor skills using wooden sticks to grasp the wooden insects and flowers 🙂
Grass – This was some shredded paper we had left over form Easter – if you don’t have any you could use screwed up balls of paper or the good old coloured rice again!
Sorting Logs – These wood slices are great for having a ‘base’ to sort your shapes on to – you can purchase these exact same wood slices here
Insects & Flowers – I used some wooden cut out shapes we had for this sorting activity but any toy insects, shapes, or even different coloured objects would work just as well – set the activity to whatever level you feel is appropriate for your child
Pick up Stick – That’s the best name I could think of for them! They are lollipop sticks which we used to try and pick up the shapes which is quite an advanced fine motor skill that you might want to practice with older children – you could also use pegs in the same way
Sandcastle Mini Tray Play
Sometimes you just want to play in the sand and get building a sandcastle – so this tray is great for the days you can’t get to a beach! With buckets and spades it’s almost like the real thing 😛
Kinetic Sand – As we wanted to build sandcastles we decided to get out our Kinetic Sand, which we absolutely love! The texture of the sand is just mesmerising and it builds so well when compacted – you can even get a Folding Sandcastle set here
Buckets – These are usually used to hold our boiled eggs, but they also make for a great sand castle bucket! Cups and small plastic plant pots would also work great
Spades – We went searching in the Duplo box again and found a spade and a shovel! A small spoon or wooden stick would do the job just the same – and it’s just as fun to get your hands stuck in
Button Mini Play Tray
This final play tray is the easiest to put together but is a firm favourite in our house! As a child the button jar was so inviting and I would tip them all out and sort them over and over!
Buttons – And that’s it! If you don’t currently have a button collection then maybe start one now – buttons can be used for so many play activities and crafts or just simply on their own like this! You could find different colours, shapes or designs – or just have fun running your hands through them
(as with all the above trays be sure to supervise little ones with small parts)
Mini Play Tray Recap
Tray play does not have to complicated or fancy – these mini tray play ideas have mostly been put together using homemade items or toys we already had at home – here’s a quick recap:
Beach Time Mini Play Tray using rice and homemade golden sand
Go Fish Mini Play Tray using blue rice and orange peel fish
Road Mini Play Tray using some black duct tape and green rice grass
Sandcastle Mini Play Tray using Kinetic Sand and some egg buckets
Insect Mini Play Tray using shredded paper and wooden shapes
Buttons Mini Play Tray using buttons, buttons and more buttons!
Have fun with your mini tray play!
Louisa | Mum’s Creative Cupboard
If you want some more fun ideas for play that your child will enjoy – then check out the ‘Book of Play’, custom play ideas created just for you and your little one in the form of an ebook so you can get straight to the play!