The Very Hungry Caterpillar Counting Sensory Tray Play for Toddler and Preschoolers

We tried out a new tray today. I got it from Michaels, and it turns out to be precisely 12 x12, so scrapbook paper is PERFECT to fit inside as a background.

Since spring is sprouting, I thought a garden-themed tray today would be perfect to use while rereading The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I added painted chickpeas and glass gems to complete the background. Then I included ten green buttons and ten green/blue bunnies. It made for a great counting, sorting, and adding activity as well.

Bugzy and Buddy loved using the magnifying glass to closely see the bin and find the hidden objects and study them up close for better observations. The tray was a success overall! I thought it might be too small, but honestly, it was just right for this kind of discovery play activity. 

Set Up for this Sensory Tray 

I used scrapbook paper as my the filler material for this new square tray which was perfectly 12×12. Since the paper looked like grass, it was ideal as the background and allowed me to use less materials, which made clean up and play less messy but just as fun!

Next, I added a handful of green glass gems and green-painted chickpeas. 

I hid ten blue/green buddies and ten green buttons around the tray to add to the camouflaging effect. 

Lastly, I added butterfly and caterpillar figurines to the tray. 

For the tool bin, I used a charming new set from Michaels that was only $5, including tweezers, brush, mini shovel, and mini rack. I added silicone cupcake molds for sorting the various hidden objects. Then we also used magnifying glass, sifters, and scoops. 

Play Ideas for this Tray Play

  • Read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and talk about the life cycle of a butterfly
  • Use the tray materials to retell the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Counting 1-10, then 1-20
  • Making patterns with sensory materials
  • Talk about camouflage and how animals use it for survival.
  • Use a magnifying glass and talk about observations; let your child talk about what they observe using as many senses as they can for their descriptions.
  • Have your child record their findings in their journal by drawing what they found and counted.

Additional Eric Carle Book Ideas

If you enjoyed this simple tray activity, please enjoy my other articles that include book ideas, especially using Eric Carle’s books. 

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