How to: Create a Play Tray
Play Trays are a fabulous idea for children of any ages, you can cater to their different interests, ages and abilities and keep them occupied for hours! Well, maybe extended minutes!
They are so easy to set up, and you can literally add ANYTHING, that is safe and isn't a hazard to your child of course. Of course, you must also supervise and ensure that materials are age appropriate, we don't want your littles' choking! What we are trying to create is a simple play tray using just household objects and natural materials, children do not need a fancy setup to play or learn with, they just want to have fun and explore with anything that is on hand!
So how to create the perfect Play tray for every day of the week? Lets go!
First, start with a base. You can use rice, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, beans, cereal, so many of our dry pantry food items are perfect for those sensory textures and of course, you can dye them a myriad of colours! All super easy to dye, but I love dying rice as the colours dry out so vibrant! Just pop a cup of rice in a ziploc bag, add a teaspoon of white vinegar and a few drops of food dye (to your desired choice) and spread out rice in a thing layer on baking paper to dry for at least 12 hours. Of course, we are plastic conscious so keep the ziploc bag for your next rice dye.
You've got your colourful/ neatral base. What now? I always like to incorporate nature int all our play activities, so go for a walk with your little one and see what nature sparks their interest. Autumn leaves on the ground? Blooming flowers? Sticks and leaves? Totally your choice but I love to stick to a colour palette to encourage colour recognition with a different colour each day, so I look for similar colours and tones to the chosen rice colour.
This is the fun part, now you can literally pop anything small (be careful of choking hazards - not for under 3) textured, educational, fun into the tray to add some texture and keep their interest. So any animals (I love Wild Republic & CollectA), Wooden Beads, Felt balls, Wooden Alphabet, Corks, Puzzle pieces, blocks, really anything! try not to add them all together, stick to one or two additions, you want to be able to rotate the toys over the week.
Lastly, pop in some scoops, bowls, spoons, magnifying glass, tongs, whether this be from your playroom or even your kitchen, anything will do and watch your child get busy scooping, pouring, exploring, sorting, stacking, watch as their imaginations run wild.
Now sit back and enjoy that hot coffee, in the knowledge that playing is the best type of learning.
And if you're keen, set 5 minutes aside that night to recreate a new play try to keep them occupied, a little hack to save you some stress in the morn, when it all gets a little hectic...because aren't most mornings!