Sensory Sand Trays Great for Letter Practice

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by Tricia of Critters and Crayons
My husband and I first saw the Sensory Sand-Writing Tray at a Montessori school.

We watched as the school’s director filled a wooden tray with sand and then used two fingers to draw a large letter. He explained that young children may have difficulty with fine motor skills (like controlling a pencil,) but from a young age, they can write using their entire hand.

With a little shake, the sand was smooth again. And the slate was ready for a new letter!

This kind of hands-on learning and innovative thinking is what attracted us to the Montessori method.

Montessori Sand Tray At Home

We made our own fine motor sand-writing tray for the kids to use at home using a bottle of colored yellow sand from Hobby Lobby which we put into a dollar store rectangular baking tin. (*If you have pets, use a pan with a lid.)

Our daughter is old enough to practice writing Sight Words using Sight Word Cards as a guide.

For our 3 year old son, we set out cards with shapes so he can practice drawing shapes in the sand, too.

And, what kid doesn’t love to just touch sand?

For other Critters And Crayons posts on Montessori-inspired activities, materials and topics, please check out:

Bio: Trica is a blogger and mom of two at Critters and Crayons. Find her Collaborative Montessori-Inspired Activities And Ideas Pinterest Board for more great ideas!

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  1. That looks fun. I was also thinking it is great to use to practice Chinese Characters for kids learning Mandarin Chinese.

    I also saw this cool thing on pinterest: use large zip lock bag, fill with hair gel, glitter (optional) and dye with food coloring. Then use bag to trace letters with your finger. Or Chinese Characters.

    The person said to get hair gel at the dollar store. It’s portable too! And perfect for practicing the alphabet — squishy but not messy.

    1. Pragmatic Mom- I saw that, too! I sent that to my friend moving to China! Such a neat idea with the hair gel in the bag!

  2. Colored sand is a great idea. Love how easy it is to “clear the board” by shaking. Also thought your idea of putting the word card in the sand was a good one – the card stays in place and easy to see. Renee

  3. Michelle Breum- I hadn’t considered the style of writing we were teaching…But, our Montessori School Director knows we do these activities at home and suggested that we focus first on lower case letters since that is what they are emphasizing in school- I would say we use Basic Manuscript Handwriting techniques that match up with websites like this one:

    Thank you for such a thought-provoking question. We moved a lot as a child and I entered an elementary school that taught D’Nealian handwriting. It was completely new to me and I did NOT do well at it since we were only there for half a year. 🙁 I remember it was a very pretty form of writing, though!

  4. Thanks for the wonderful comments, guys! I have to tell you all- I took out the tray again today- since the post was running, it seemed appropriate. My son is refusing to draw his letters with his fingers. Instead, he is drawing numbers and doughnuts with his mini-monster trucks. haha! I think a Montessori Guide would say that we should channel that kind of play into the learning process…so I think we’re on the right track, still! haha! 🙂 Thanks, again, Melissa!

  5. What kid doesn’t like playing with sand, indeed! This is a great idea even for older kids as a sort of stress reliever, wouldn’t you say? Thanks for sharing this – as always, your ideas rock.