Mark-Making in Coloured Salt

Here is the first in a series of Playful Literacy posts which are coming up on this blog (although this is also useful for maths, fine motor skills and sensory development too!) 
We experimented with mark-making and letter formation in a tray of coloured salt.
Firstly, I filled a zip-loc bag with fine table salt (you can get an economy bag for 44p in the supermarket.) Then I asked C what colour she would like it, and unsurprisingly she chose pink! I squeezed in 4-5 drops of pink liquid food colouring, zipped up the bag and shook up the salt until the colour was mixed through evenly. 

It coloured straight away and we played with it immediately. Some people suggest leaving it to dry overnight, but because we hadn’t used much colour it was ready to use.

Then I found a little wooden tray that had come with a play-set of wooden food and lined it with the shiny side of tin foil. This forms a bright, shiny base that can be seen through the salt- an extra sensory dimension!

Finally, I tipped in a thin layer of the salt to cover the whole tray. We found the less salt the better as if it was too deep, the letters and marks were harder to see and the shiny foil underneath didn’t show through clearly. In the end we used about 1cm depth.


She immediately wanted to try and write the letters from her name and loved the feeling of the soft salt running through her fingers and the shiny foil being revealed as she drew.

I wrote some of the letters, shook the tray to resettle the salt a little but so that she could still see them faintly, and then she was able to try and trace over the remaining marks to have her own try. She loved doing wiggly snakes for letter Sssss!

And she was very keen to write 3 too, as that’s her age. I love her result!

We practised more numbers, then tried pattern-making such as zig-zags, wavy lines, spots and spirals. All these marks are fantastic for pre-writing and emergent writing development as they are important for letter formation later on.

She also simply used it to draw her own pictures in, from self-portraits to beautiful flowers!

Her finished “flower with lots of petals and middle bits.”

This multi-sensory, tactile approach to pre-writing skills and letter formation is important as a playful, hands-on way to learn. It is age appropriate, open-ended, creative and fun, rather than being a closed activity with only one outcome or objective in mind, like a worksheet. It encourages thinking skills and investigative playful learning.

Store the salt in a zip-loc bag or a mason jar and re-use it for similar activities each week.

We have many multi-sensory literacy and maths activities coming up soon and I’m excited to share them!

Learning Links:

sensory: explore materials using a range of senses
fine motor skills: use hands and fingers to explore sensory materials, develop finger control and small hand muscle strength
literacy: experiment with mark-making, use letters and letter-like shapes to represent real sounds, attempt to form letter shapes correctly

Cakie: 3 years and 4 months

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