Create a Christmas tree sensory writing tray to encourage mark making, early letter formation and sight word learning! A perfect sensory, early literacy experience for different stages of learning with a Christmas activity theme.
Creating sensory writing trays is one of my favourite early learning activities to make for the kids, and we’ve been doing this Montessori inspired activity for 3 or 4 years now, in various different formats!
Here’s a post that explains how we made a very simple, coloured salt writing tray to encourage basic mark-making and early letter copying and it explains how to dye salt very easily.
For this Christmas themed tray I was lucky enough to spot these gorgeous, Christmas tree shaped food platters in the local supermarket (UK readers- I found these in Sainsburys in the party ware aisle.)
I dyed about half a cup of fine salt using green Wilton Gel Colouring (we use these for ALL play recipes as they are the only ones that make the lovely, vibrant colours we are looking for.)
I cut some green Christmas tree shapes from card and onto some of them I drew basic handwriting shapes and patterns for Miss 2 to have a go at copying, as she is still at the pre-writing and mark-making stage.
She loved using these and feeling special that she had her own set to use. Some she copied quite accurately and for others she just experimented and did her own thing, narrating as she made marks and squiggles in the sparkly tray.
For Miss 4 I wrote out some basic sight words that she has been starting to read independently, as well as a few that are newer to her or more tricky to sound out phonetically. She read these and copied them into the salt, then did her own phonetic writing and practised her name too.
When my older daughter had a go she wanted to practise getting her letters all the correct way around and forming her numbers correctly, as this has been something she is working on in handwriting. She also can use this tray to practise more unusual sight words and to start decoding and copying longer words.
The contents of the tray can be tipped into a zip-loc bag and stored indefinitely, which makes this a very economical early literacy activity that can be pulled out and reused in different ways over the coming year! (My favourite type of playful learning activities!)
I would encourage younger children to use the tray with their fingers before introducing a tool, to further develop the kinaesthetic learning nature of the activity.
What they are learning as they play:
literacy: letter recognition, phoneme-grapheme correspondences, sight word recognition, letter formation, mark-making, that marks carry meaning
physical: pincer grasp, hand-eye coordination, sensory exploration, kinaesthetic learning
See our other SENSORY SALT TRAYS here!
And all of our PLAYFUL LITERACY posts here (you won’t find a single worksheet or printable here!)
Follow my LITERACY PLAY board on Pinterest too for many more ideas collected from around the web