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Tuff Tray:  The very hungry caterpillar small world scene

Tuff Tray: The very hungry caterpillar small world scene

This small world scene is kindly sponsored by Small Eco Steps, an independent retailer who prides themselves in providing fun, educational, inspirational and ethically sourced toys. Items can be posted throughout the UK.


Although we have used some items kindly donated to us from Small Eco Steps, these items are optional and we have given alternative suggestions if you don’t wish to buy specialist equipment. However, if you do like any of the items we have used, feel free to follow the hyperlink to be taken to the relevant pages on the Small Eco Steps website.


*Character print outs glued to lollipop sticks. We used a free downloadable resource from Twinkle.

*Caterpillar toy teddy.

*Butterfly toy (Lanka Kade)

*Play food, real food or image print outs of one apple, two pears, three plums, four strawberries, five oranges, one ice cream, one piece of cake,  one pickle, cheese, salami, lollipop, cherry pie, sausage, watermelon, cupcake, large leaf.

* A range of materials to form the base e.g. porridge oats, cereals, green dyed rice or green dyed pasta.

*Add river or lake from blue glitter card, decorative beads or blue dyed rice.

*Sticks, twigs, wooden rainbows or something similar to make bridges.

*Garden stones

*Kitchen and toilet roll holders painted green and brown.

*Shoe box painted green and brown.

*To decorate, twigs, acorns, decorative leaves, flowers, log circles of various sizes.

*Hungry Caterpillar book.

Optional equipment

*Large play tree stump from Small Eco Steps

*Natural Shape viewers, available from Small Eco Steps  – See our product review below.

*Wooden Tree Set from Small Eco Steps – See our product review below.

*Woodland animals. We used Tender Leaf woodland animals.

*Decorative log circles with numbers burnt into them.

* Information on life cycle of a butterfly.


Feel free to click on the name of the item to be taken to the correct page of the online store. 


  1. Take up one corner for your river. We used blue dyed rice (dye dry rice the night before and leave to re-dry overnight), and secure this in place using garden stones. We then added decorative beads to add another dimension to play.
  2. We added dry porridge oats as a base to approx. a third of the area, keeping this in place using garden stones.
  3. We then added large items like the recycled shoe box tree and large play tree stump, and decorated the rest of the area with any left over green resources we had from previous tuff trays. For instance, we re-used the green dyed rice, cardboard, pasta shapes and any wooden resources we had to hand.
  4. We added our fresh foods and decorated using recycled ‘tunnels’ from kitchen roll holders and our Grimms wooden rainbow made some excellent bridges.
  5. We added the finishing touches by adding some wooden trees, the character print outs from the online educational website twinkle and added a few twigs, acorns, log plaques etc for effect.
  6. Finally add your book.

Activities to further enhance play

  1. Match up the number of food items to the story and choose the correct number written on the log to support this.
  2. Print outs on 7 plates with the name of the day of the week. Child will add the food to the relevant plates with the relevant number of items.
  3. Make a butterfly feeding table.
  4. Divide the foods up into nutritious and those that should be eaten occasionally.
  5. Write your own food diary.
  6. Hide the foods in the spaghetti and tick off items on a scavenger hunt.
  7. Grow your own butteflies from caterpillars and release to the wild.
  8. Make a caterpillar from egg containers and pipe cleaners or simply from cardboard.
  9. Make a Duplo or lego caterpillar
  10. Feed the hungry caterpillar – pom pom drop into a box painted like the caterpillar with numbers/holes to throw the pom poms into.

Product reviews

  1. Wooden Tree Set from Small Eco Steps for £25.20

Our play scene shows a selection of the ten wooden trees that make up this bright and colourful wooden tree set. The set includes a range of different trees and hedges in a range of colours so you can adapt your scene to suit Spring, Summer or Autumn. The attention to detail is very high from the brickwork down to the hidden characters like squirrels amongst the trees. We love that two of the toys are suitable for a Halloween tuff as there’s a set of ‘creepy’ eyes and a spiders web too. This versatile tree set is ideal for a number of different play scenes. The trees were easily washed in soap and water and are stored away in a handy little bag that is provided with your order. The heights vary from 38 to 130mm.

Please visit here if you wish to purchase this item

  1. Natural Shape viewers, available from Small Eco Steps for £30

The shape viewers come as a set of five and are made from sustainably-sourced FSC approved beech wood. Although magnifiers are traditionally used for mini beast style play scenes, these are a nice alternative. There is no magnifying glass…. instead, our children are encouraged to select the appropriate viewer and ‘frame’ a particular item or area on either a small world play scene or within their natural world, and take the time to fully explore the item or area. Depending on the types of questions you ask, the set can really help with language development e.g. in what direction is the grain of the wood, how many insects can you see in this small area? How many different shaped leaves? The ideas go on and on. The set includes circle, square, rectangle, triangle, and hexagon and are approx. 16cm tall.

Please visit here if you wish to purchase this item

Additional information and terms and conditions:

*Please note that some items pose a choking risk for babies so if your child does have younger siblings, you may wish to substitute some items.

*We have used other items from a number of different retailers and we are always at the end of an email if you wish to ask us where we purchased the other items from.

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