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Round v Rectangular Water Trays - Which is Best?

Both round and rectangular water trays have their benefits for learning and development, but the decision can be made easier by asking a few questions first.

Written by: Jo Harris Educational Advisor  

Water play activities are often presented in water trays for children to accommodate their popularity, as opposed to tabletop experiences. Trays, whether round or rectangular, are deep enough to hold a large volume of liquid that stays inside as exploration begins. 

When planning a learning environment, it is important to consider the size and space available. A curated mix of furniture and resources is needed to create both permanent and portable play spaces. 

Depending on the size of your early learning service will most likely determine the size and shape of the tray selected, and where it will be located. Both styles have their benefits for learning and development. 

Round Trays

This design is ideal for groups of children to encourage face-to-face conversation and interaction, due to shape and form. Unlike the rectangle design, children seem to have equal access to the experience for up to six children at a time with easy reach and visibility. 

Activity Ponds are strong and sturdy, and their height is ideal for standing or sitting around the activity.  They can be purchased and used with or without the stand making it a great option to transport and set up easily.

The multipurpose round Sand and Water Tray was designed with multiple interior levels and slopes to allow children to explore many different activities. Constructed with strong durable plastic and heavy-duty steel tubular frame it is easy to set up and begin play!   



Rectangle Trays 

The difference in design with the rectangular tray is not just the shape, but the form. Rectangle trays are longer which can change the dynamic of play from potentially larger group sizes of children. With two same-sized edges, it makes for a comfortable cooperative or parallel play opportunity with fewer children.

Premium Water Trays comprise one tray and two lids that allow for many combinations of open-ended play and easy pack-up. Educators may choose to set the tray up on the folding metal stand or directly onto the floor/ground. With two castors it makes it easy and comfortable to transport the tray, with no heavy lifting required. The additional feature of the two lids is that they can be placed over the water tray to seal and close off the tray to the liquid inside, or used as a play space with or without water.  Available in two different stand heights it is safe and comfortable for the ages and stages of children using it, with no need to stand on tippy toes!

The Sand and Water Play Tray is an ideal multi-purpose tray that can be used for a variety of sand and water play activities. Ultra strong and moulded, it has a lightweight tubular steel frame. With safety and convenience in mind, it has lockable castors, a drainage hole, and a plug.

Whichever tray you require for activities and experiences here are a few questions to support your decision-making process: 

How many children will be at the activity?

Deciding between smaller or larger play spaces for the activity is a good first step in helping choose the size, dimension, and shape you want to use in the activity.

Where will set up your tray/trays?

Indoor and outdoor spaces can offer different opportunities and each has its own set of benefits. Consider the time of day and protection from the elements if you are outdoors. 

Which resources do you want to add to the tray?

Choose resources that match your learning objectives - both indoors and out of the tray of choice. This can include people for safety and supervision.

Would you prefer a transparent or opaque tray?

If you want to hide the contents of the tray from view, a coloured tray is ideal. To attract a crowd, go for a clear option. 

Are there other resources you could use to add to the play to extend learning?

Think outside the box, are there resources that could encourage further exploration for children such as sound, light, or textured materials.

For more ideas visit 


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