Learning through Play with a Tuff Tray | Guest Blog


Hi I’m Helen, probably more well known as Mother Tuffa! I am from North Wales and have 2 children, Lili aged 2 and Harri aged 6. I am a massive Harry Potter fan, hence their names but with a Welsh twist! I often look after my sisters children too who are 9 and 13. I am a full time Primary School Teacher, and I currently teach Year 6, which I love! 

Before Lockdown, I had never heard of a tuff tray! I set up a play activity on the first day of lockdown in an under bed storage box for my 2 year old in the hope of entertaining her whilst I tried to homeschool and teach online. It was successful thankfully! It was a super simple set up of moon sand – flour and baby oil, recycling bits, some painting stamps and rollers and some spoons and scoops. Here it is before and during! Lili absolutely loved it! She got very messy! 

I ordered a tuff tray after this and once it came I started setting up lots of different activities! As a novice, I did a little research and used what we had at home as much as I could. I got more confident and started to upload them to my personal Instagram account. 

Once I got more confident, whilst doing PE with Joe, which I am very proud to say I did everyone, I thought I would maybe change my name on Instagram. I text my best friend and it was her who suggested a started a new account. You can probably tell from my name, I am a little mischievous, and that is how @mother_tuffa was started. 

I can honestly say one of the best things I have done! I am so proud of the account I have created and the positive messages I get daily! I have made lots of virtual insta friends, and have found some amazing play accounts. I also love the opportunities it has given me! 

I aim to create purposeful play activities that my children enjoy but learn from! I genuinely think every play activity has a benefit and learning can be achieved. I now love setting myself new challenges and trying new things with my children. 

I though I would share a range of tuff tray learning ideas that I have done! Some activities are for my 2 children and some include my niece and nephew too! I think you can add different aspects to tuff trays to make it accessible for all! 

Circles and sand

My 2 year old is learning shape names currently and this was a super simple set up. I used coloured sand and sprinkled it on the tray. I then added some different circles, I used large buttons and the bottom of some coloured play pots. I added some different paint brushes, with textures tips and we were good to go!  Super speedy set up for maximum effect. 

Banana sushi

This is a fun and very messy version of tuff tray learning ideas! I set up the tuff tray with 4 plates each with a wrap on and a knife by the side. I added 2 pots of chocolate spread with a spoon in, 1 between 2, and a banana for everyone. The children had to spoon chocolate spread onto the wrap and spread it with the knife. Then they had to peel the banana and place it in the wrap. Once they had done this, they had to roll the wrap up at tightly as they could. I helped my 2 year old do this but the others managed fine! They then had to cut the wrapped up banana into slices. I just admit, I had to let go of the lovely neat banana sushi I created as a test run, and let them have a good go! They were definitely not the prettiest but they loved it and they were delicious! It covers so many skills, and as always the discussion of a balanced diet to accompany a healthy lifestyle!

Nature Tray Collage 

This was a lovely activity from start to finish! The children collected the pine cones and leaves on a walk, the sticks and stones from the garden and I added the rose petals from birthday flowers that were heading for the bin! Both children explored the items and then my 6 year old made the lovely collage you can see, and then progressed to making it look even better I think! He was going for a tree, and I think he did quite well independently! I did this with my 2 year old, and we tried to make a rainbow and then she just played with the different items we had, but enjoyed it just as much! 

Recycled house construction 

This was a little problem solving activity! Peppa Pig and her family needed a new house. The children needed to use the recycling to make them a new house! The recycling I used was cardboard saved from the packaging of our new shed a few weeks ago, egg boxes, empty cake trays, empty cream containers, an empty beer box, toilet and kitchen roll tubes and a few other little bits. I helped a little bit the children loved doing this, then they played with what they had created too!! I love using recycling for play! I always feel like I’m doing my bit by reusing it for play purposes! 


Well potion making is a favourite in our house! We have done it so many times, slightly altering it each time. I tend to use coloured water for this making it using water mixed with a little paint. They love using recycled glass jars, and I usually add pipettes, spoons, funnels and measuring cylinders. I have done this many different ways as you can see from the pictures, each time changing it slightly, but it is always at least 45 minutes of play if not more! 

They are a little snippet of just a few of the  activities I have done so far! I do however do a weekly grown up tuff tray too- with the #tufftipple – I think that being a mum is wonderful! I love entertaining and educating my children, but like most people, I also like it when they go to bed! This started as a bit of a giggle, and then it has turned into a weekly event, usually on a Saturday! 

I’d love you to check out my account, and I’m hopefully find some new ideas! I am always rambling on in my insta stories, and if inspire or entertain one person, my job is done! I look forward to seeing you over @mother_tuffa 

Thank You mother_tuffa from Little Learners for your inspiring tuff tray learning ideas – we’re looking forward to seeing more ideas over on your instagram!

3 responses to “Learning through Play with a Tuff Tray | Guest Blog”

  1. […] by me- Mother Tuffa! I am very pleased to say I am going to become a regular feature! Check out my last Tuff Tray blog to find out a bit more about […]

  2. […] to another blog by me- Mother Tuffa! Now a regular with Little Learners UK! Check out my first blog to find out a bit more about […]

  3. […] to another blog by me- Mother Tuffa! Now a regular with Little Learners UK! Check out my first blog to find out a bit more about […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *