Teacher's Pet is loading, hang tight!

week 4 - available this sunday...
Meet Cyber Sense!

Tuff Tray Treasures

February 15th 2021| Hannah Johnson

Tuff Tray Treasures

Tuff trays are a very current and popular way to set up learning opportunities in classroom provisions. They are everywhere you look and can be seen in many indoor and outdoor classrooms.

What is a tuff tray?

A tuff tray is an octagonal shaped tray made from plastic that is washable and hard wearing. Tuff trays usually come in different sizes and can be laid flat on the floor or on tabletops. There are stands of different heights that the trays can rest upon and there are even covers that can keep them safe. There are a variety of colours for you to choose from. Because they are easily cleaned all sorts of materials can be put into the trays.

Why are they good to use?

Tuff trays can be used inside and outside. They fare well in all-weather conditions and you can literally put anything in them, from mud and foam to flour and paint. On stands, children can access them at a good height. They provide a flat surface as well for anything you may want to stand up or balance.

Looking for ideas and inspiration?

Check out ‘Tuffy Tuesdays‘ by the team right here at Teacher’s Pet – Celebrating AMAZING Tuff Tray Ideas! Every week on Instagram we feature YOUR brilliant Tuff Tray ideas.

Our Tuffy Tuesdays ‘HUB’ also showcases the latest and most popular tuff tray ideas from our hashtags #tuffytuesdays and #sharemytufftray – if you would like to see your tuff tray featured in Tuffy Tuesday and for a chance to win a membership (plus other goodies) head over to the Tuffy Tuesdays hub now and start tagging your tuff tray photos on instagram (use hashtags #tuffytuesdays and #sharemytufftray) to get involved!

Visit Tuffy Tuesdays Hub!

How can they be set up for learning?

Whenever I set up a tuff tray in my provision I thought about the purpose of the tray – What am I going to put in the tray? What might the children do with resources? What is the intended learning? Will the tray provide challenge for the children? Will the tray excite or stimulate the children?

Every object, display, learning opportunity and challenge in your provision should have an explainable reason to be there. I was always able to explain why I had a specific tuff tray set up and the intended learning outcome for the children. Ofsted could ask you about why you have set up a tuff tray and explaining the purpose, linking it to the curriculum or specific needs or next steps of the children, would be great evidence of how you are addressing the children’s needs.

Tuff trays can be linked to your topic/theme or be set up to address a specific skill or need for your class or children. When I was setting up a tray I always asked, “If I was a child would I want to come and learn at this tray?” There has to be a hook, something that will want the children to come and learn at the tray.

Think of the intended learning outcomes and how children might use the resources when you pick what you want to put in your tray. There are so many different ideas for tuff trays.


One thing to make sure when setting up a tray is that there is enough room in the tray for children to use the resources on the tray. I have seen many beautiful tough trays that have been created; however, they can look overcrowded and the learning gains can be lower because there is simple too much going on. Less can be more so choose your resources wisely.

Think about what you want the children to learn. Choose resources that will then support the learning intention. Try out the activity to see if it matches the intention, thinking of what children will ‘typically’ do. Adding a challenge card outlining the learning will help any adult to know what to do at the tray and adding specific vocabulary on cards is always a good idea as well.

When setting up your tray, get down to a child’s level to see what it would look like for them. Does it look exciting? Can all resources be seen? Is everything in reach? Is there enough room to move around the tray?

If you want to write on the tray, chalk pens are a great thing to use. They allow you to write smoothly on the tray and can be easily cleaned off.

When you have had something particularly messy in the tray give it a good clean out before putting anything else in. I found that washing up liquid and a scrubber will do the job well. It may take some elbow-grease but it’s worth it. I often set it up as a challenge outside for the children to complete. They would get water from the tap and use bubbly buckets and scrubbing brushes. They loved it!

We have created some specific resources to use in tuff trays which including some tuff tray idea cards which set out the purpose of the tray, an example tray set up, lists what you will need, key vocabulary, makes links to the early learning goals, has example observation and assessment questions to consider and teacher prompts and questions to develop thinking and learning. These would be great to slot into your planning folder as evidence of why you are setting up trays in your provision. Check out our Chinese New Year Tuff Tray Activity Pack, which has many useful things you might need to set up your tray.

You can purchase tuff trays, stands and resources from Eduzone. They are very cost effective and will last for a long time.

Enjoy creating amazing learning opportunities in your tuff trays and watch as the magic happens.


View all posts by: Hannah Johnson
Categories: Classroom Environment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Meet CAPTAIN CALM! - Mental Health Heroes!

Week 3 of our brand new term of WELLBEING WEDNESDAY is available NOW - exclusively to ULTIMATE members!

Come and meet CAPTAIN CALM! Learn how he will use his wellbeing SUPERPOWER to defeat... THE NEGATRON!

Find Out More!

We are HIRING!

Come and join the team?

Find out more

Copyright checklist:

Thanks for downloading!


Meet Professor Pinwheel! - Mental Health Heroes!

Week 1 of our brand new term of WELLBEING WEDNESDAY is available NOW - completely FREE!

Find Out More!

(Pre-download ads are only shown to members on our 'Starter' membership package, upgrade today to remove these ads and gain access to thousands more resources!)


Or, simply close this popup window to start your download.
(Close button will appear in the top right after 5 seconds)