Play Dough Tray Horses
Theme-Based Learning

Play Dough Tray – Horses

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.

Play Dough Tray Play Play Dough Tray Play

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 .

Or this snow dough.

Learn more about the Montessori principles behind this learning tool. 

Printable Horse Activities

Horse Sensory Look & Find

Horse Learning Pack

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:

Western Cowgirl Part Wall Decal


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