DIY Tuff Tray (Sensory Trays)

If you have been like me, admiring tuff trays (aka builder’s trays) from across the pond, then maybe you’ve also been wondering how you could get your hands on one.

Check out this link to see what Tuff Trays or Builder’s Trays look like:

I’ve found some on but never any here in Canada. Have you found any in Canada? I started brainstorming what these tuff trays remind me of and the closest thing I could think of was a circular sled like in Chevy Chase’s movie, “National Lampoons Christmas Vacation”. I’ve wanted a Tuff Tray for our early learners for years and since our kinders have been so interested in making potions I was feeling motivated to search for something similar locally. I walked into Home Depot and showed a couple of employees a photo of a Tuff Tray and asked if they had anything remotely similar. They racked their brains but came up with nothing. I decided to walk up and down some of the aisles I thought might give me hope and low and behold in the plumbing section I found this gem…. a water heater tray. It was only $22 CA.


The water heater tray has a hole where a hose can connect so we taped that up and that was it… we had ourselves a DIY Tuff Tray.



The next day our early learners couldn’t get enough of the DIY Tuff Tray. They were and still are so enthralled by it.



This potion provocation is just so rich in mathematical exploration. There is lots of opportunity to measure, mix, explore more and less than in volume, test theories, collaborate, fine motor practice, and colour mix. Some of our learners were inspired by the little black books we made out of construction paper to write down some spell and potion recipes. The DIY Tuff Tray has brought out not only rich mathematical opportunities for learning, but literacy too, and in a short amount of time.



Using geometric measuring containers and test tubes is also an exciting way to infuse math into this provocation.



We also included eye droppers for fine motor practice and careful calculations of mixing.



We’ve put beans and peas in it too and even taken our DIY Tuff Tray outside. Sometimes we’ll add some numbers or letters in as well. Our early learners have created games with these simple materials. One learner said, “I’ve got the number 4. Can you think of a number greater than 4?” Another learner challenged others to guess her number. She would respond with greater or less than until her number was guessed. We love how our learners take their learning from explicit teaching times and implement it into their play.

We also look forward to creating small world play with our DIY Tuff Tray. We’ve heard our learners asking for contracting play as we have many families that who have careers in construction and contracting. Looks like we have our next provocation. I wonder what our learners will come up with to add to this exciting learning opportunity?


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