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Julia Donaldson Inspired Sensory Trays

We just love Julia Donaldson books! Elijah’s favourites are Zog, Room on the Broom, The Snail and the Whale, and Superworm. Because we love them so much, we love to incorporate the stories into our sensory and messy play. So, here are just a few of our Julia Donaldson play trays with descriptions of how I put them together.


The Superworm tray is super fun and filled with taste safe mud! The mud is made of a mixture of flour, cocoa powder, vegetable oil, and water. Be sure to bake the flour for 5 minutes on 180 degrees to kill bacteria before combining the ingredients. In all honesty, the mixture was a trial and error procedure to get the right soil consistency. I then created Superworm characters out of card, added some bugs from Insect Lore (which I purchased through Amazon), some pebbles from the garden, and some other bits from the toy box.

Elijah’s mission was to save Superworm from mean Wizard Lizard and his servant crow. Wizard Lizard uses his magic to trap superworm and force him to tunnel in the soil to find lots of treasure. Thankfully, Elijah scooped superworm to safety and he now has a new home in his mud kitchen.

The Snail and the Whale

This bookish play inspired by The Snail and the Whale is super simple! The tray is filled with Kinetic Sand and foam soap dyed with blue food colouring. I added some shells we collected from our recent holiday and a few of Elijah’s toy sea animals, of course, a whale! Elijah loved using the shells to make imprints in the sand and scooping up the foam ocean.

If you would like to create taste safe foam instead, follow this recipe:

To make the taste safe foam:⁣

  1. Drain the juice from a 400g can of chickpeas into a bowl. ⁣

  2. Add 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar.⁣

  3. Beat for 3-4 minutes until a foam is formed (I recommend using an electric hand whisk). ⁣

  4. To make different coloured foam add a few drops of blue food colouring and mix.

  5. I recommend prepping this just before you play as the foam does turn back into a water consistency within 20-30 minutes.⁣

Stick Man

This tray follows Stick Man on his journey back to his family tree.⁣ The tray is filled with green and blue coloured rice, Coco Pops, Kinetic Sand, cotton wool balls, and blue water beads. I paired the tray with handmade Stick Man inspired story slices! Elijah loved scooping the water beads with his Learning Resourges handy scooper and chatting away to the story slices.

What I love most about this tray and the Gruffalo tray a bit further down is that you can use absolutely anything in them - anything you have in the kitchen cupboards or have a forage in the garden. That’s the best thing about sensory and messy play - there are no rules!


Tiddler is a small fish who is always late for school. Every day he has another tall tale for his teacher. One day, one of his tales comes true but would any of his friends believe him? ⁣

This tray was super simple to set up. All I used was Kinetic Sand, flat glass marbles, sea creatures and coral from Elijah’s toy box, and Tiddler which was drawn on card. Elijah loved picking out the marbles one by one. He can now say one to three, so I used this play to reinforce his learning. It was also a great play idea to start teaching Elijah what fish do and what noise they make.⁣

If your little one has a tendency to put things in their mouth then please do not use flat glass marbles! Substitute them for coloured rice, pasta, or some taste safe foam.⁣

The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo tray is very similar to the Stick Man tray in that different materials were used to recreate different scenes in the book. The set up is filled with coloured rice, lentilles vertes, cocoa powder, pebbles, and handmade story slices.

With this tray, I read the book as we played. Elijah pointed and laughed at all the characters in the book and was astonished when he discovered that the characters matched the wooden slices. He enjoyed picking out all of the pebbles and logs then digging and raking the rice and lentils!

So here are a few of our Julia Donaldson themed sensory trays! We will definitely be adding to the blog as we create some more - I‘m dying to do a Zog and Room on the Broom inspired play tray. If you do recreate any of these trays, please do take me @brummymummydiaries, I would love to see!

⭐️ Please do supervise your children at all times while playing and if you’re child is under the age of 3 or has a tendency to put objects in their mouths then do substitute any small parts (like pebbles, shells, for instance) with alternative materials due to the choking hazard.

Remember you know your little one better than anyone else.

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