The mini deep tuff spot tray was designed because you told us that you wanted a smaller, deeper tray. This tray fits through doors easily so can be moved indoors and outdoors without much trouble. It is also deeper to hold more water or sand.

The circular tray is ideal for all the usual tray play from messy tray play, maths, art and Science experiments to small world tray play and much, much more!

tray play ideas

It has a space saving collapsible wooden stand, cover and many accessories such as felt scenery mats, grass mats, mirror insert and Crate storage shelves. Also NEW FOR 2021 is a set of tray platforms to enable you to create a water cascade.

tray play water cascade platform
Tray play water cascade platforms
tray play ideas

The tray also comes in 5 colours to choose from: Black, Green, Blue, White and the NEW FOR 2021; Grey. There is even a mini spot light panel for children to explore and investigate light, colours and reflections. Adding a real sensory experience to the tray. Also NEW is our metal stand - adjusting to 3 heights, giving you the choice of wooden stand or metal stand, or of course a cable drum!

Below we show a wide variety of Mini Deep Spot Tray Play ideas to inspire you.

Small World Play with peg animals

Create small worlds with lots of natural loose parts. We included our felt scenery mat in this one as a base.

tray play - small world play

Recycled Cardboard small world – natural and painted

Provide a crate of cardboard and egg boxes to recycle and make a small world in a tray. We thought that the unpainted one looked lovely but once painted, we loved how vibrant it was!

Creative Mama Che uses cardboard in the tray really well too - see below for 9 of her ideas in our white tray.

tray play ideas - mama Che
Tray Play Ideas by Creative Mama Che in the White Mini Deep Tray

Wild animal worlds

Create small world with animals and natural loose parts. Add height to the tray by adding our crate tents and a felt scenery mat base.

tray play - small worlds with animals
Tray Play - watery worlds


Bury pirate treasure in the sand, add water and little boats. Include a treasure chest for collecting all your treasure in, add a fort, an island and some pirates too for small world play.

book play - treasures and loose parts

Pooh Sticks small world

Create small worlds for bookish play like this super cute Winnie the Pooh - A Perfect Day for Poohsticks book. Use natural treasures, Trog Towers, Real Wood Trees, Bamboo pots and a felt scenery mat as a base.

tray play - small world - winnie the pooh, poohsticks story play


Children love Dinosaur worlds and creating a messy muddy, sandy, watery swamp for play.

tray play - ark Group - dinosaur world
Image credit above: Sally Wright, Ark Groups

Sand Tray Play

Sand, like water, is perfect for tray play. Bury treasure, add dinosaurs, use it as a base for play and small world set ups, bury dinosaur bones and skeletons, add diggers and tractors or simply add buckets and spades!

tray play ideas - sand

Make air dry clay or salt dough skeleton pieces and fossils. Add a brush, a magnifying glass and bury the pieces in a base of sand to explore and uncover.

tray play - dinosaurs

Water Tray Play

One of the best kinds of tray play! The Mini Deep Tray is deeper to keep it in better - add bubbles, foam, food colouring, sand, wash cars and toys! Discuss capacity, tip, pour and measure. Add flowers and petals, sea creatures.

Making Freshly Squeezed Orange

Why not encourage children to squeeze their own orange juice - what a wonderful idea to create a little healthy snack or lemonade stall!


Explore flowers in more detail and parts of plants. Draw them, cut them, make pretty pictures and natural confetti.

Make Perfumes and explore their scents. Lilac, Lavender and Roses are perfect for this. Trays are also great for planting in too - so get your seeds out! Add an Array Tray to help count and sort.

Tray Play - Sunflowers

Exploring Poppies

Use the tray to discuss Remembrance Day. Set up trays to explore the subject, make tissue paper poppies, use loose parts such as coloured rice and coloured chickpeas to create loose part Poppy Art. Poppy petals look lovely floating in water too.

Bugs and Minibeast Investigations

Explore minibeasts, count, sort, learn about the variety of bugs to discover in nature, in your playground or garden. Ladybirds are great for counting with their spots!

Ice Painting

Let a tray freeze outdoors during the winter months with a little water in the bottom. Hopefully by morning it will have frozen over - just provide the paints, droppers and brushes. What magical ice paintings can be created?

Outdoor Play in Winter

Rainbow worlds and exploring colours

Create bright vibrant worlds with every colour of the rainbow. Such an attractive and appealing way to learn about colours.

tray play ideas - colour
Explore colour in the tray, displaying and collecting lots of items from around your setting or home. Allow children to do this and then discuss the colours.

Add brightly coloured loose parts and let children use their imaginations to create and construct their own worlds or mandalas.

Sorting and discovering natural found items

Natural treasures look wonderful displayed in a tray. Sort them and try to identify what has been found. Add clipboards, pens and paper. Count and sort conkers, leaves, acorns, pinecones, berries and flowers. Add sorting trays and array trays.

Train Play and Transport

Did you know that you can draw directly onto the trays with chalk or chalk board markers? Why not draw train tracks and roadways for children to create their own worlds? Add wooden alphabet lozenges to help identify items. Add ramps for cars and vehicles to drive down - which textured ramp is fastest? These are great for small worlds too for animals.

tray play - transport - train

Art and Messy Play

Leaf painting and printing is a great natural creative project. Children can explore the veins and patterns printed from the leaves.

tray play ideas - leaf painting
Thanks to Claire Wilson Childminding

Printing with bubble wrap is also a great way of using up some of that packaging. What effects can children make?

tray play ideas - painting
Thanks to Claire Wilson Childminding

Mark Making and transferring of paint and shaving foam onto paper. Children love getting messy – let them pour paint onto the surface of the tray, swirl it around with sticks and print onto paper to reveal a surprise work of art. Children also love getting their hands dirty too – drawing into the surface of the paint with their fingers!

Painting and experimenting with spices is also a lovely idea from Sam Goldsworthy Childminding.

Foam Play

Crazy Soap is a fabulous sensory ingredient for a the tray!

Counting and sorting dinosaurs

Use our Counting Box and some dinosaur counters to help to learn to count - learning through play. Create a little small world to play in too.

Tip: Use egg shells for dinosaurs in a nest (Check for allergies!).

tray play - dinosaurs

Valentines Days Tray Play Ideas

Create beautiful Valentines Day activities in the tray. Perfect for allsorts of sensory activities, exploring flowers and petals, making Valentines potions, Loose Parts, counting and sorting. So many beautiful ideas below from our fantastic Cosy Club Members.

tray play ideas - valentines day play ideas

Autumn to Winter Tray Play Ideas

Autumn is one of the best times of year with the falling leaves, conkers, acorns and all the beautiful colours. Halloween is also a great theme for tray play, exploring pumpkins and making spooky potions. Add a cauldron and get to work making a witches brew!

tray play ideas

Winter Tray Play Ideas

Create Snowy wintry small world play in the tray. Add real snow, instant/fake snow and ice cubes. Freeze natural treasures or even penguins into ice cubes for children to discover and marvel at in an icy world. Mini Deep Trays also make amazing sledges...have you tried this yet? Use recycled polystyrene for ice bergs, make small worlds indoors with our felt scenery mat or try ice painting. Discover and learn about Polar Regions and animals.

Either use real snow and ice if you get the weather, or use our hand felted tray insert. Add Ice cubes, pebbles, Instant snow, bio-glitter, snowflakes and our White caves with Schleich penguins, polar bears and seals. A wonderful small world invitation to play. The Blue Circular mini deep tray is perfect for this too!

Lots more Mini Deep Spot Tray Play Ideas to inspire you:

Tray play for Bonfire Night using loose parts to create fireworks, Funny Bones, discussing and exploring feelings, talking about trees, We're Going on a Bear Hunt story tray play, Fruit Smashes and fruit painting, Construction and imaginatively constructed Train tracks.

tray play ideas

Water Play with powder paint, counting, messy play mark making, talking about birds, Winter wonderlands, 'what do they do with all that Poo?' Bookish play, sensory Gelli Baff fun, Chinese New Year exploration, water play with lemons.

tray play ideas

Sand play and loose parts counting and sorting in egg boxes (what a fab idea), rainbow worlds and colour exploration, luscious Lemons, Pirates treasure, flowers and petals, watery flower sensory swirls and digging for pirate treasure in the sand.

tray play ideas

Creating your own Recycled cardboard world and painting it, parts of a plant, remembrance day, minibeasts, counting spots, water cascades, autumn play and baby water tray play.

tray play ideas

Woodlands and trees, polar bear bookish tray play, farms, roses, discovering a tray full of ice, counting pom poms using wooden ten frames, Magical fairytale Phonics and jigsaws in the tray, Dragon Small world play, wintry snowy worlds.

tray play ideas

Conkers, herbs and spices, food to create worlds, dinosaur investigations, Dinosaur skeleton bone digs, garden creatures to explore, lemon soup, Cars and tracks.

tray play ideas

Fallen Autumn leaves, sunflowers, space, conkers, messy art play, autumn treasures.

tray play ideas

Wintry bear small world play, dinosaurs, icy small worlds, sledging, polar regions, Nursery Rhymes in the tray - 5 little speckled frogs, Space and aliens, Lest we Forget - Remembrance Day, Dinosaur fossil investigation.

tray play ideas

Messy mark making, snowy worlds, multiple tray set ups, blackberry picking and investigation, sand play, natural wooden loose parts, sandy mandalas and natural treasures.

tray play ideas

Wintry small world tray play, autumn treasures, dinosaur bones and digging in the sand, Diwali Tray play.

tray play ideas

Not forgetting our Tray Play Wooden platform to add height to your small world set ups!

And our Heuristic Wicker Tray, Magnetic Metallic Mirror Tray - both of which fit on the same wooden stand as the mini deep tray. Get the TRIO here. Plus our smaller, Wicker mirror circle and sensory spot trays.

Trio of trays

Well, if you have got this far, we have shared a great deal of our favourite tray play ideas and inspiration. Let us know what you think. Share these ideas with your friends and colleagues by sharing the blog post using the buttons below and don't forget to tag us in your tray play on #CosyTuffSpot Tuesday (and everyday!) over on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Use the hashtag and tag us @CosyDirect so that we can see and share.

Join our Cosy Tray Play Group over on Facebook and mingle with like-minded tray play lovers sharing their tray play with each other:




With thanks to The Cosy Creatives for compiling this super huge and inspiring blog post with all the wonderful tray play ideas that we have created and been tagged in by our Cosy Club Members and Friends.