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  • Writer's pictureOur Playful Learning Journey

How To Create An Easy Sensory Play Tray

Updated: Feb 9, 2022

Simple Sibling Play Ideas + Sensory Play Tips

Here is a quick and easy sensory tray for kids that encourages lots of fun play. Read on to find out some different ways to play with the one tray ❤️

Easy sensory play tray for kids and children using lentils, kmart tray and Grapat nesting bowls
A fun and easy sensory play tray

Simple sensory play is something we do often in our house, because it is easy to set up, and both girls enjoy playing with these types of play invitations. Today I am sharing an easy to put together sensory tray and a few ways that my girls have used it to play.

Here is what we used:

  • Kmart black tray

  • Grapat coloured nesting bowls

  • Rudie Nudie mat underneath to the mess

  • Wooden scoops

  • Lentils

  • Kitchen measuring cup

⭐️ Please note all play was supervised by an adult.

Small parts are recommended for children ages 3+ as they are a choking hazard.

This tray was enjoyed by both girls. I set it up on the floor as an invitation to play. the girls decided how and if they would play with it. The both were excited to start playing and sat down straight away to begin.

They scooped and poured the lentils, filling and refilling the coloured Grapat nesting bowls. The lentils ended up all over the mat, but were easily gathered up and poured back into the tray at the end.

This tray was a great sibling play idea, as both girls aged 5 and 2 could play together (supervised).

Sensory play tray using Grapat nesting bowls
Fun scooping and filling using the Grapat nesting bowls

Hidden Puzzle Pieces

A very easy way to extend the play with this tray, was by adding in some puzzle pieces hidden beneath the lentils. We did this later in the day after nap time for Miss 2, when she was feeling rested.

Miss 2 enjoyed finding the pieces of her animal puzzle and putting them in the right place. She repeated this many times.

For Miss 5 we hid some of her alphabet puzzle pieces for her to find. She also enjoyed filling in the holes on her puzzle board with the lentils.

Kmart tray with lentils as an easy sensory tray for kids with hidden puzzle pieces
Hiding puzzle pieces makes a fun sensory tray.

Same Tray Another Way

Fruity Sensory Tray

This is a quick way to use the same tray to encourage more play on another day. A few days later we added in these fruit counters to the same sensory tray to encourage more play.

This is a simple way to invite your children to play with the same thing again. We don’t need to always set up different things all the time for them to be interesting. Something slightly different is often enough.

Easy Sensory play tray for kids. Black tray from Kmart filled with lentils and fruit counters for play
Adding fruit counters to the tray invited more play ❤️

This worked really well and both girls enjoyed playing with the sensory tray again in different ways.

Miss 5 enjoyed scooping the lentils into the bowls and adding matching coloured fruit to make fruit smoothie bowls. She also pretended to make fruit muesli.

Miss 2 enjoyed putting the fruit pieces into the bowls. She tried to colour sort some pieces and used the tongs to pick up a few pieces from the tray. She also enjoyed filling up the tea pot with the fruit.

Easy sensory play tray for kids with lentils and fruit counters
Lots of fun was had with this sensory play tray

Miss 5 began building towers with the bowls, hiding matching fruit counters underneath. The play ended up with both girls building towers with the Grapat nesting bowls.

Easy sensory play tray for kids using lentils and tower building using the Grapat nesting bowls
Tower building using the Grapat nesting bowls

What are the benefits of this type of play?

  • Exploring the senses e.g. touch, sight

  • Exploring capacity - How much can this bowl hold?

  • Developing hand and eye coordination

  • Developing fine motor skills by picking up small objects

  • Developing imagination - pretending to make fruit smoothies

  • Cooperation and collaboration - playing with others

  • Developing creativity - children can choose how to play in their own way

  • Developing concentration - carefully filling the bowls, completing the puzzle

  • Calming effect of sensory play

  • And so much more ....

How to manage the mess

Putting a large blanket, sheet or rug underneath is one of the best ways to manage the mess. At the end it can easily be gathered up and the lentils or other sensory base can be tipped back into the tray.

Other ideas:

  • Play outside so the mess doesn’t matter

  • Use separate trays for each child

  • Do messy play on cleaning days e.g. before you were going to vacuum the house anyway. I do this as it was going to be cleaned anyway.

  • Choose sensory bases carefully - some are easier to clean up than others. e.g. Rice seems to go everywhere, chickpeas are easier to pick up.

  • If your child is exploring the trajectory schema and throwing lots of things, this type of play is going to get messy and might not be the best option. Try again on another day or play outside.

  • Set clear boundaries for your children e.g. keep it in the tray or keep it on the mat. When both girls are playing we keep it on the mat, as it is too hard to keep it in the tray.

What if I don’t have all these things?

You definitely don’t need to have certain things to do this type of play. You can use what you already have at home. For example:

Try these substitutions:

  • Lentils - try another sensory base e.g. chickpeas

  • No tray - use a container from the kitchen

  • No coloured bowls - look in the kitchen for coloured bowls or clear containers that will work

  • No scoops - use spoons from the kitchen

  • No fruit counters - use pom poms

Think outside the box and you will be able to find things to use for your child's play.


I hope you have found some ideas or some of the suggestions helpful for your own play at home with your child/children. We love sensory play trays in our home. It doesn't need to be complicated to be lots of fun and to help your child learn in a playful way.

Until next time, have fun learning in a playful way xx

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