A Tuff Tray or a Tuff Spot is a large, durable plastic tray which makes a great gift, especially for creative and messy toddlers.  I’ll be reviewing the different types of tuff trays, discussing where to buy a tuff tray and sharing the best tuff tray ideas for creative play and toddler learning.

Types of Tuff Tray

Colour Tuff Trays

Essentially all tuff trays are the same: a simple, single piece of moulded plastic there is not much to go wrong and no difference in quality between the cheapest and more expensive ones. The main visual difference is that the tuff trays made especially for children are available in bright rainbow colours, making them much more appealing than the standard black variety. If you are buying as a gift, then picking out a tuff tray in the favourite colour of your toddler give a special personalised touch.


Wooden Stand Tuff TrayAnother thing to look out for is the dimensions of your tuff tray. If you are intending to use it with either a stand or a cover, you will need to make sure the dimensions are matched. They tend to come in either 100cm x 100cm or 94cm x 94cm. I would definitely recommend getting a tuff stand as it does elevate (pun intended!) the experience. Toddlers will play for longer and take more of an interest in activities set up on a tuff tray if they are at eye and hand level. There is much more to do if they can easily move around the tuff tray.  With very messy activities it’s essential to keep the mess in the tray, so having the tuff tray elevated means they can’t walk or crawl through the mess. It’s also a lot easier to set up any activities rather than having to get down on your hand and knees, and similarly, it is a lot kinder on your back to not have to bend down as much to interact and play for adults too!

It’s also a lot easier to set up any activities if the tuff tray is raised off the floor, rather than having to get down on your hand and knees, and similarly, it is a lot kinder on your back with less bending over for adults to interact and play too!

I would always recommend a cover or tarpaulin if you are keeping your tuff tray outside to protect it from the elements.


Where to buy Tuff Trays

Tuff Tray from Builders Merchant

It is definitely recommended to buy a tuff tray online for convenient delivery to your home, the main reason being as they are quite large and a little unwieldy.  They may not fit into some smaller-sized cars, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend bringing one home on foot or on the bus! The large online stores generally have the best selection of different colours and you can find them competitively priced online.

An alternative money-saving idea is to look in your local hardware store or builders merchants. Tuff Trays originally started off, before they became popular for children’s play, as a builders’ tool for mixing concrete, mortar or screed. Obviously, tuff trays intended for this use they are just as tough and durable enough to withstand toddler play!

Tuff Tray Ideas

There are thousands of ideas for tuff tray play, I would recommend browsing through Pinterest for ideas of creative and messy play.  Here are a few of my favourite ideas which would work well if you are giving a tuff-tray as a gift a great idea would be to package together a few additional toys or materials with a tuff tray to make a fun, unique or personalised gift for a toddler.

Pirate Island;  

A small bag of play sand, a set of pirate figures (or even a pirate-boat set) and some ‘treasures’ to hide can make for a fabulous pirate island scene. Your toddler can have fun digging through the sand to find the treasures. You could even add some water and shaving foam to recreate a desert island beach.

Construction Truck Painting;

You’ll need some plastic construction vehicles, preferably with different kinds of tracks and treads on their wheels, some poster paint and enough paper to line your tuff tray.  Put some blobs, wiggles, and lines of paint around the paper and let your toddler drive the trucks through the paint creating artwork with the tyre marks.

Edible Farm Scene;

This would be great for a birthday party activity. Crumble up some Chocolate Sponge Cake to make soil, and create crops out of fondant icing. Add in a pack of farmyard animals and your messy-play farm station is activity is ready!

Giant Bubbles;Tuff Tray Giant Bubbles

I have never met a toddler that doesn’t love bubbles, so this would be an amazing gift! All that is needed is a tuff tray, some bubble solution and a hoola hoop. Cover the base of the tuff tray with some bubble solution, lie the hoola hoop in it then pick it up carefully as the giant bubble starts to form. You can even have a toddler (or toddlers) stand in the middle of the tuff tray and have the bubble form around them.



A tuff tray doesn’t mean you have to spend hours to create elaborate activities, it can be enjoyed. Itcan simply be a useful place to do some regular painting, a jigsaw tray or even just an outdoor table to play with their regular toys.


Do you know a toddler that has their own tuff tray? What fun activities have you tried or would like to try?

Let me know in the comments below!