How We Play: Washing the muddy animals

This Christmas Violet received a Tuff Spot Tray, so this is the first post in a new series on the blog called ‘How we Play’ – all about messy and sensory play for little ones. I thought it would be a fun idea to document our journey and the activities we do using the tuff tray, which will hopefully motivate and inspire you to create similar activities for your little ones, plus I wanted to capture the chaos too!

Violet’s is at her happiest when she is doing messy play – it’s her absolute favourite activity, so sometimes I just have to embrace the mess and run with it. Babies and toddlers get so much out of play like this, it really is worth the clean up, plus having a tuff tray makes it so much more manageable!  So, today I’m sharing with you our most recent activity, washing the muddy animals!


Washing the animals is a lovely activity, especially if like Violet your little one loves animals! We accompanied this activity with naming the animals, making the sounds and singing farm songs, along with songs about washing and scrubbing too. This teaches them skills like caring, washing, cleaning, water pouring, blowing bubbles as well as animal sounds, names and size ordering. Plus there are lots of lovely textures to feel, especially if you make the ‘mud’ up with cornflower and water like I did – the texture is so odd but so fun to play with!


  • 2 x trays containers – I used oven dishes as they are heavy to stop Violet picking them up and pouring the water everywhere. You could literally use anything, or just put the ‘mud’ straight onto the tuff tray
  • Cornflower, Water and Cocoa Powder – this is how I made our ‘mud’, but you could use anything brown, next time I’ll try Angel Delight for a more edible option!
  • Water, Bubbles, Brushes, Sponges, Cups
  • Plastic Farm Animals
  • Cereals (think shredded wheat for bales of hay, Oats/Cocopops to add texture!)
  • Rosemary or other safe herbs/plants


Violet loves water and bubbles and was drawn to the clean water first, building up confidence to experiment and touch the mud. She was so sweet, taking each animal and delicately washing it down, holding it close to her like a baby and cooing over each one, before carefully lining the ‘clean’ animals up to dry.


She loved making the animal sounds as she picked each one up. Once all the animals were clean I sat back just let her explore the setup on her own. She then became much more enthusiastic about sticking her fingers into the mud, placing all the animals back into the mud, feeling the texture of the mud and running it through her fingers. She created a little game of putting the animals in and out of each tray, standing them all up perfectly in a line. She does this with lots of her toys, she loves lining things up, we are working on teaching her to do it in size order too!

By the end of it she was covered head to toe in water, with both sleeves totally soaked in muddy, bubbly water, but had so much fun!


The clean-up for this one was relatively easy as everything stayed contained within the tuff tray. I washed out the two oven dishes, animals and tools in the sink, then I put the tuff tray in our bath and showered it down. The only real mess was made as Violet decided to run away from me covered in ‘muddy’ water, leaving white chalky cornflower footprints everywhere. I tracked her down and threw the wet PJ’s into the washing machine, washed her hands and we were done! As clean-up’s go, it was simple. It’d still do this activity in the garden in the summer though!

Let me know if you give this one a try!  


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  • I found the post! I thought I’d imagined it… going to give this a try for Isaac he absolutely loves washing up and bubbles I don’t know if I have enough farm animals though haha. I’ve also decided to buy a tuff tray I just think Isaac would enjoy having one so much 🙂 x