Play tray inspiration
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Play tray inspiration

18 November 2020 By Cosy

play tray

The trusty play tray is versatile and easy-to-clean, making it the ideal resource for a wide range of activities, both indoor and out. Our friends at Cosy are always creating interesting and inspiring play tray ideas – here are some of their favourites.

YPO Play Tray products:

801659 – YPO Play Tray, Black
801663 – YPO Adjustable Height Play Tray Stand
801662 – YPO Play Tray Cover
804310 – YPO Mini Play tray
804311 – YPO Adjustable Height Mini Play Tray Stand
828824 – YPO Mini Play Tray Cover

Sand and water

We love this seaside set up, which is ideal during warmer months. Add shells, natural materials, sea creatures, little boats, and beach huts or even treasure chests to create a pirate cove. You could even create a desert oasis by using small succulents or cacti and adding small world animals such as elephants.


What you’ll need:

803022 – YPO Play Sand
329463 – Large Sea Shells
804309 – Shell Cross Sections
305055 – Pine  Cones
D49432 – Maths Boats and People

TOP TIP: Try freezing items such as slices of orange and lemon in water and allow children to experiment trying to melt or break the ice to rescue the contents.

Small world play

Play trays are perfect for small world play! Allow children to use their own imagination and can self-select items from around the setting, including any natural treasures they can find to create their own small world set ups. Themed small world play works well so you could create a dinosaur, pirates, fairies, forests, or transport themed tray – the possibilities are endless.


What you’ll need:

801844 Dinosaur Bones Discovery Kit
821074 Bamboo Collecting Pots
803994 Jumbo Dinosaurs
803902 Flat Pebbles


What you’ll need:

820807 Trog Towers
427726 Natural Architect Panels (these are new – just setting them up)
427727 Wooden Community Figures (these are new – just setting them up)
806910 Rainbow Architect Set
747335 Coloured Sand Assorted Colours


What you’ll need:

806911 Metallic Buttons
801750 Wooden Sports Cars
804337 Shape Drive Arounds

Messy play

Confined to the tray, messy play can be fun. Add water beads, cooked spaghetti with hidden items to find, Jelly or other taste safe foods (make sure to check for allergies). Crazy foam and cellulose paste also make great messy play ingredients, but our favourite element for messy play has got to be glorious mud!


What you’ll need:

851205 Cellulose Paste
801114 White Crazy Foam
876063 Colour Crazy Foam
851353 Soap Flakes
852279 Jelly Crystals

Mark Making

Paints at the ready – add paper and brushes and off they go! You could provide mirrors and encourage children to create self-portraits. Did you know, trays are great for painting directly onto? Or use chalk to draw outlines for children to paint and colour in. 

What you’ll need:

750024 Chalk Markers
304586 Panting Tools
806441 Expressions Mirrors
749818 YPO Ready Mixed Paint
712221 YPO Assorted Chalk
759031 Flower Mixing Palette


Add letters and books, story props and loose parts to encourage children to understand a book or story in more depth. Can children retell the story in their own words or act it out with small world items in the tray?

 PTI 8

What you’ll need:

520723 Three Little Pigs Story Set
821081 Large Wooden Alphabet

 PTI 7

What you’ll need:

D49400 Large Wooden Oval Discs
821080 Handcrafted Wooden letters and Numbers

Topic Trays

Double, double, toil and trouble! Get mixing potions and cauldrons of magic delights in the tray. Add pumpkins, leaves, spiders, and cobwebs to discover. Add battery operated tea lights, potion bottles, sticks for stirring and let children make a spooky mess!

Get your chopsticks out for Chinese New Year and encourage children to work on their fine motor skills as they attempt to pick up objects like rice and pennies.

Christmas, Harvest and Easter Trays are also great and help children to have a more hands on approach while they discover and play with items from that theme.

PTI 6 

These activities have been taken from Little Learners, a FREE magazine full of early years resources and activities. Click here to read our latest issue and enter our exclusive 

Categories: Early Years , Education , YPO

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