Here’s the story of how I found a perfect tuff tray alternative: As a parent, I follow a few ‘kids play’ accounts on Instagram which help to give me ideas and inspiration about ways to play with the children. Through these accounts, I have become aware of the ‘tuff spot, also known as a tuff tray. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s what they look like:
They have a bit of a cult following, and for good reason. Here’s a description I found of what exactly they are used for:
The tuff tray has so many uses! Will you set up a jungle with real plant cuttings and animals or will you create some super outdoor art using messy materials? They store easily, you can carry them easily, attach canopies easily to the top holes, and they are extremely durable. Why not fill it up with sand and hunt for squidgy sparkle letters, fill it with water and sail a boat you made yourself, or use it as a giant inspection tray for minibeasts? The possibilities are endless! Eight sided to encourage group play.
As soon as I saw how much fun they could be, I wanted one. We love sensory/messy and imaginative play in our household, but I don’t like dealing with all the tidying up afterwards! I was just about to buy one, when it struck me that although the price of them isn’t too ridiculous for something that I knew I would use a lot, I would have to find somewhere to store it. It’s big and awkward. I would probably have to store it outside – it would get dirty and covered in cobwebs and as such I would probably stop using it because ew, spiders. Also, because of the size, it is hard to clean them out unless you have easy access to a garden and a hosepipe.
These problems got me thinking… how can I get the tuff tray experience without the storage and cleaning difficulties (… and with a lower price tag, if possible)?
After a lot of research, looking for a tuff tray alternative, I hit the jackpot… here’s the answer – an inflatable play tray!
As it is inflatable, it folds down to a tiny size for easy storage and I love how the mess is contained so well.
It took less than minute to inflate with my mouth, and so far we have filled it with fake snow (as above), sand and water and it is still going strong (May 2020 update: 2 years after buying it: it’s still going strong!)
Where to buy an inflatable play tray
You can buy it on eBay: click here. I bought mine in July 2018 from a UK seller but I have struggled recently to find a reasonably-priced inflatable play tray stockist in the UK, they are all in China which I am reluctant to recommend as you will have to wait well over a month for your order. As such, I have decided to solve the problem myself so I am now selling them on eBay for only slightly more than my costs.
I have posted a blog about accessories that work well with this inflatable tray or with a tuff tray: check it out!