Paint Your Play Trays

Paint your Play Trays

Ever wished the colour of your play tray was more appealing? I am going to show you how to paint your play trays!

I find these trays the perfect size for our toddlers to explore,  but always wished the colour of the tray was more interesting.  One day while at Bunnings I was drooling over the beautiful 
Porters Paints sample pots  and thought how nice it would be to have trays in those delicious shades.   

After a fair bit of trial and error and talking with the paint reps, I found a long lasting process to keep the trays surviving the wear and tear of excited little people.

So read on as I share how to paint your play trays!

But first, what is a play tray?

Play trays are a staple resource in many Early Childhood Centres and also in plenty of homes.   

A play tray (also known as a small worlds’ tray), is any shallow container that can hold a variety of play resources, sensory ingredients and small equipment.  There are a few great products available,  but I’m using the very popular Kmart play tray.  They retail for about $8-$10 each and only come in black. 


Paint Your Play Trays K-Mart Play Tray


  • Make sure you buff your tray first with the scourer as your paint will adhere much better.
  • Some of the paints are thicker than others, so water them down slightly if you’re finding the paint isn’t spreading easily. 
  • Allow time for your paint to cure between coats.  The whole process takes approximately 24 hours.

Materials Needed

  • 1 x Kmart play tray
  • 1x 100ml sample pot of Porters Paints in your chosen colour (good luck choosing)
  • 1 x medium paint brush
  • 1 small paint roller
  • 1 x container for paint tray (I use clean vegie trays from the recycling)
  • 1 x kitchen scourer
  • 1 x tin of Cabots Matt Cabothane Clear water based varnish
  • Masking tape to cover handles
  • Damp cloth 



  1. Set up your painting space in a well ventilated area.  Cover your table with newspaper or a plastic tablecloth.  Gather all of your materials.
  2. Using masking tape, cover your wooden handles to ensure they stay free from paint.
  3. Use your kitchen scourer to gently buff all of the surfaces of your tray.  Make sure you scrub the top edge of the tray.  The slight texture you create will help the paint adhere to the tray.  (it might not seem like you’re doing anything, but you are!) Wipe clean with a damp cloth to remove any debris.
Paint Your Play Trays Kmart Play Trays
Paint Your Play Trays Kmart Play Trays

4. Shake up your sample pot of paint, then using your brush, mix the paint ensuring you’re loosening the sediment on the bottom.

5. Start painting your tray, covering all surfaces, except the underneath base.  Your first coat will seem quite messy & streaky don’t worry your second coat will look much cleaner.

Paint Your Play Trays Kmart Play Trays

7. Leave to dry. Depending on your climate it might take 1-2 hours.  Repeat the process twice more, this time also concentrating on really covering the top edge of your tray.  This is the spot that paint is most likely to chip from wear and tear, so really coat it well.  I often use the roller for the third coat as it really gives a lovely smooth effect.

8. Wash brushes and rollers out in running water completely and leave to dry overnight, along with your tray.  This allows the paint to cure overnight.  

9. The next day,  shake your tin of varnish before opening.  Use your brush to mix thoroughly, ensuring to mix the sediment off the bottom of the tin.

Paint Your Play Trays Kmart Play Trays

10.  Apply varnish evenly over your painted tray. Ensure you really cover the base & the top rim of the tray as they are the areas that most likely to get scratched.    I apply two coats of varnish to ensure the tray paint is really sealed.

11. Allow to dry again overnight so your varnish cures.

12. Hooray! You now have a beautiful play tray to fill with your children’s favourite play things!

Now if this all seems fun but you just don’t have the time or inclination, I have done all the hard work for you and painted some play trays all ready to go! You can purchase them here


How play trays can be incorporated into your room.

  • Set up a permanent play tray area, preferably with a mirror in front of it.
  • Have a good selection of sensory bases on hand for experiences.
  • Be led by what your children are enjoying at the time eg scooping, water pouring, playdough with  bamboo knives.

Now I’d love to know your thoughts on using play trays! Do you use them with your children and what are they loving at the moment?


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