Play dough trays (often called invitations) are trays you set up for focused play. I honestly recently found out about this kind of play and while I see tons of beautifully curated trays of all kinds, I do not have the time, money, or focus to set them up to look as nice. I know that they are from the Montessori style of learning – however I haven’t researched enough to delve into all of that. The concept is still there and I love them because:
- My kid usually takes play dough – mushes all of it together – into a gray- brown blob (look I know my kid isn’t the only one) – forces me to make stuff for her and then gets bored quickly. Even though we have little dough toys, molds, and cutters. We still play with them, but I keep them where we can do that as a bedtime activity and I have time to spend with her. However, when I am working or running around the house doing stuff – this type of tray comes in handy.
- As mentioned above – fosters independent play
- Screen-free – unplugged is always a win for me
- Inexpensive as you choose to make it
- Can be changed out and re-used for other crafts or play later on
- Can be taken out and put away quickly
- Can be made in many different ways
- Engages in fine motor skills
- Engages in pretend play
My toddler has been suddenly very into horses lately and I recently decided to make one of these trays. I was in the dollar store and found craft sticks, a small bin/tray, play dough, and a small package of horses. We had also been to a library book sale that week and she had picked out a book about horses for 10 cents. I chose some rocks from her collection on our porch and viola! Play dough horse tray! Total cost: $4.10
She loved it and plays for at least 20-30 minutes. It is also an excellent thing to take out when she is overexcited or needs some quiet time right after a nap or bedtime.
The great thing about this is you can replicate it with anything.
- Any sticks will work, even branches from outside (it is snow covered by us so I chose the craft sticks).
- Kids into dinosaurs or sea animals or horses – you can change them out.
- I use play dough but some people prefer homemade dough. I haven’t personally made any but there are tutorials here and here.
- I used a plastic dollar store bin, however many people use wooden trays.
- Rocks work, but so do pine cones, acorns, whole nuts – whatever your choose – however it is nice to add a natural element to the tray.
Need more ideas for play dough trays? Try this simple winter tray .
Printable Horse Activities
Books and Toys About Horses for Toddlers and Preschoolers
If your kid is really into horses, here is some cute decor for the bedroom or playroom: