Nature printing Tuff Tray

After the success of our previous nature themed tuff tray I decided to set this one up again.

Last time I covered the whole tray in brown paper but we didn’t end up using it to full effect, but I’m glad I provided some sheets of craft paper alongside paints squeezed in to paper plates and some bamboo sticks, pine cones and straw.

As you can imagine, on a warm and sunny day Arlo didn’t take too long to get stuck in – feet first! We sat around this tray exploring all the different materials – using the bamboo straws as stamps on the craft paper actually worked out even better than expected, we have some lovely prints on our craft paper which I have saved for a rainy day.

The paint on the bamboo sticks also became a happy accident and we decided to give our bug hotel the rainbow treatment!

So I set to work painting the cones, we all enjoyed painting in rainbow colours too. This is actually quite a good activity for little ones, Arlo had to concentrate and really work the brush and paint in between the spaces for full coverage.

Check out our finished bug hotel here

Nature painting tuff tray

A really simple painting invitation to play.

You will need:

  • Paper plates
  • Brushes
  • Paint
  • Collected materials – pinecones and leaves etc.

We have been collecting all sorts of random bits and bobs on our nature walks, from pebbles, to pinecones and leaves because Arlo takes his scavenger hunting very seriously.

So finally putting all of the bits and bobs to good use I covered Arlo’s tuff tray in brown paper (it’s bright blue and I wanted a neutral canvas) and I then gave him a box with all the materials he needed.

I helped him squeeze out all the colours on to paper plates

Mum tip: I always split the paint colours up like this to help avoid the almost inevitable brown splodge effect when complimentary colours get mixed up.

Then Arlo dived right in with a brush and a pinecone. Painting pine cones is actually really hard work as you have to get the brush in to all the little books and crannies. So this kept him busy for quite some time.

We also moved on to painting other found materials – these giant leaves made a beautiful canvas and we all got involved, sitting around the tray and painting with all of our colours.

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon in the garden!

Messy Play – spaghetti

I often use spaghetti for messy play. It’s great to add texture. I always felt safer using edible foodstuffs when Arlo was tiny because everything would always end up in his mouth.

You will need:

  • Spaghetti
  • Food colouring
  • Vinegar
  • Olive oil

I’ve tried various different methods and this is the one which works best for me. Boil and drain off the pasta as normal, before adding it to a big bowl.

Add in a splash of olive oil to prevent the pasta sticking.

Add in a splash of vinegar – I’m not 100% on the science but my colours always seem brighter when I use it.

Add in your food colouring and mix well. Start with a small amount as you can always add more…. it’s surprising how well it takes.

Then voila – it’s done and you can use this for all sorts of different things…. so for example the green makes amazing seaweed. Arlo recently discovered for himself that spaghetti is also fun to snip and so I left him to practice his fine motor skills with his safety scissors for a good twenty minutes.

Mum tip: if you plan ahead you can store this overnight in air tight containers.

FireMan Tuff Tray

This is the most simple idea which I have seen doing the rounds lately….. and requires minimal set up compared to our recent tuff tray set ups like our car wash, construction and dinosaur swamp so worth trying out:

You will need:

  • Water based paint
  • Paint brush
  • Tuff tray
  • Hose pipe
  • Water spray
  • Fire characters

So here’s a time lapse of me creating the set up – I literally squeezed paint straight from the bottles on to the tray and then spread it around with a brush – it didn’t take too much artistic ability to get a flame.

Then I propped the tray up vertically and also balanced some little characters on the top of the tray for target practice.

Then that’s it…. I let Arlo loose with the hose pipe and he knew immediately what to do.

It didn’t take long for him to put out the fire once he figured out how to control the hose pipe, he also reached for his squidgy bottle to complete the job – great for his dexterity and building muscles in the hands.

He then used the stream of water from the hose pipe to blast the characters off the top – it took him a while to get his aim but once he figured it out this was highly amusing for him.

Mom Tip: wait for the paint to dry before starting to make this last a little while longer

If you don’t have a tuff tray then try this out by using chalk, water based paints or anything that you can think of that will wash off on a fence, wall or pavement.

Tuff Tray – Car Wash

This article features a product I was given free of charge in exchange for social media content. All views and opinions expressed are my own.

I put all Arlo’s favourite toys in to slime last week and we ended up having to set up a washing activity because he wasn’t too impressed with all of his dinosaurs getting the Tuff Tray experience.

I decided to combine the need to clean his favourite paw patrol cars with a play activity and this was the result.

You will need:

  • Silly string
  • Washing up bowl
  • Fairy liquid
  • Sponge
  • Flannel
  • Nail brush
  • Scrubbing brush
  • Foaming Play soap
  • (The purple foaming play soap pictured was given to us by Kids Stuff Crazy).
  • Along side the tuff tray I set up one of Arlo’s toot toot sets and so the task I set him was to clean all the toys so that they could go to play in the garage….. and he had great fun dunking all the toys in water.

    He quickly discovered the spray bottle. These are available in most supermarkets and places like Wilko in the gardening section, and we often use these in play activities. Pressing the nozzle helps develop finger strength and requires some co-ordination.

    This was a particularly successful activity and kept Arlo occupied in the garden for a long time. Using his paw patrol toys sparked some imaginary play as he was essentially on a little mission of his own and quite happy to play independently.

    The best bit is that after all of this is that we had a sparkly clean set of paw patrol toys and the clean up was super swift – We rinsed all of the materials in the washing up bowl and then Arlo put the hosepipe on the Tray before we stashed it away for the next play activity.

    Mum tip: check all the cars you’re using and make sure they aren’t battery powered because they all ended up submerged in water!

    Washing up

    It seems crazy to add this in as an activity but trust me on this one….. add bubbles to a plastic bowl in the garden and children seem to suddenly want to complete chores.

    You will need:

    • Washing up bowl
    • Washing up liquid
    • Sponge
    • Cloths
    • Brushes

    After my messy dinosaur themed tuff tray Arlo was very disappointed that his dinosaurs were covered in slime and so I filled a plastic storage container with warm bubbly water and laid a towel out for them to be left to dry.

    It’s as simple as that.

    Add in a few accessories and a small world set up such as a Toy garage and cars and suddenly you have a car wash!

    If you’re feeling up to it then you can let the kids loose on your actual car too – Arlo still sees this as a really cool activity and not a chore so we’re going to take advantage of this…. it’s just a shame we aren’t going anywhere in it!

    Cool chicks

    You will need:

    • Ice cube tray
    • Water spray bottle
    • Salt
    • Toy hammer
    • Mini chicks (or small toys)
    • Small oven tray

    Ice excavation activities have always been a firm favourite in this household, but we have very limited freezer space at the moment and so I had to find something small enough to fit inside the ice cube trays.

    I provided Arlo with a a spray bottle which had a salt solution – salt melts the ice. He sat and carefully tried to see what he could manage but was feeling particularly energetic at this stage so he went and found his hammer from the toy box.

    He spent a long time trying to get the chicks free – it was a sunny afternoon and he loved that the ice cubes were so cold and then splashing around with the water which was melting too.

    I’m afraid our chicks didn’t fare too well out of this activity, and Arlo tried to use “magic” cake sprinkles to fix them but alas this didn’t work….. next time we will use something more robust to freeze!

    In the past we have had fun with flowers, dinosaurs and other small brightly coloured objects, freezing them in balloons and tubs.

    It’s good fun and another hour of time passed by without us realising

    Tuff Tray – Construction

    Here’s another really simple set up using bits from around the garden and more of our favourite toys.

    Items I used:

    • Sand from the sand box
    • Compost
    • Gravel
    • Stones
    • Toy diggers

    A really simple and quick activity to set up and another one which keeps a busy little toddler occupied for quite a while. Just add in random textures which match their favourite toys (like my previous dinosaur tray set up) He was happy to sit and mix up the materials on this tray set up, and we talked about the difference between the little and big stones and how heavy they are. He enjoyed making paths and using his different toys to move the materials around. This was an activity where Arlo wanted me to join in and play, and I didn’t mind joining in with this one…. it’s the first time he had used real materials with his diggers.

    I think next time I will go more elaborate and add in some building blocks to see if we can construct rather than just destroy.

    Nature printing Tuff Tray

    After the success of our previous nature themed tuff tray I decided to set this one up again. Last time I covered the whole tray in brown paper but we didn’t end up using it to full effect, but I’m glad I provided some sheets of craft paper alongside paints squeezed in to paper plates […]

    Nature painting tuff tray

    A really simple painting invitation to play. You will need: Paper plates Brushes Paint Collected materials – pinecones and leaves etc. We have been collecting all sorts of random bits and bobs on our nature walks, from pebbles, to pinecones and leaves because Arlo takes his scavenger hunting very seriously. So finally putting all of […]

    Messy Play – spaghetti

    I often use spaghetti for messy play. It’s great to add texture. I always felt safer using edible foodstuffs when Arlo was tiny because everything would always end up in his mouth. You will need: Spaghetti Food colouring Vinegar Olive oil I’ve tried various different methods and this is the one which works best for […]

    Tuff Tray Dinosaur Swamp

    Here’s a really simple set up for you to try out…. creating a Jurassic Park Tuff Tray set up. Item’s I used:
    • compost
    • twigs
    • leaves
    • slime (amazon prime purchase)
    • Dinosaur toys
    • Tuff tray

    I set this one up first thing in the morning so that when Arlo came downstairs and couldn’t find his favourite dinosaurs he knew something was up.

    He tentatively approached the tray and wasn’t quite sure what to do because some of his favourite dinosaurs were sticky.

    He did eventually get his hands dirty and started doing some role play with dinosaurs, this kept Arlo occupied for over an hour in the garden – and then because I had accidentally included some of his favourites we also set up another “washing” activity immediately afterwards.

    FireMan Tuff Tray

    This is the most simple idea which I have seen doing the rounds lately….. and requires minimal set up compared to our recent tuff tray set ups like our car wash, construction and dinosaur swamp so worth trying out: You will need: Water based paint Paint brush Tuff tray Hose pipe Water spray Fire characters […]

    Tuff Tray – Car Wash

    This article features a product I was given free of charge in exchange for social media content. All views and opinions expressed are my own. I put all Arlo’s favourite toys in to slime last week and we ended up having to set up a washing activity because he wasn’t too impressed with all of […]

    Washing up

    It seems crazy to add this in as an activity but trust me on this one….. add bubbles to a plastic bowl in the garden and children seem to suddenly want to complete chores. You will need: Washing up bowl Washing up liquid Sponge Cloths Brushes After my messy dinosaur themed tuff tray Arlo was […]