Make a star dust sensory writing tray to create a magical and exciting early writing experience for young children! Much easier than using a pencil, it also enhances fine motor development and is a great sensory-rich experience to add to the playful literacy repertoire!
Writing and mark-making in salt trays is a common Montessori activity which encourages young children to use their fingers to literally feel the shape of the letters as they form them. It is wonderfully tactile and appeals to all sensory seekers and kinaesthetic learners, which most children are by nature.
We have written about our Salt Trays here, our Fairy Dust writing tray here and our Moon Dust writing tray activity here. All of these have been fun and exciting spin offs from the original salt tray idea, and can be tied in nicely with favourite themed picture books or to upport a topic plan.
For our latest sensory writing tray we made Star Dust! This was particularly magical and sparkly and appealed to all of the children.
To make the Star Dust I simply added a tiny amount of yellow food colouring to about 1/2 a cup of fine salt, and stirred it through until it was combined. Then we sprinkled lots of old glitter liberally and stirred it in until it was well dispersed. The final ingredient was a large handful of tiny silver star sequins, which really made it special!
I lined one of our little wooden trays with tin foil to give a shiny underlay which would show through when the salt was moved. Then we sprinkled the Star Dust on top, tied some gold ribbon around a star wand and set it up as an Invitation to Play and write.
Miss 2 made lots of lines, circles and squiggle marks in the dust and started to narrate what she was writing as she did so. She has been watching her big sisters sounding out words and reading books, and is now copying them often by saying “a, a, a, a” and “ssssssssss” etc while looking at books and mark making on her own!
Miss 4 used the tray to practise writing her own name and forming the letters correctly. It’s ways to lightly shake the tray after finishing a word and start again, a bit like using an old fashioned Etch-a-Sketch. She then had a go at more letters and tried to sound out some words independently such as “Mum”, “Dad” and her sisters’ names.
Miss 6 used the tray to write some familiar and less familiar sight words, writing them down after hearing me call them out.
This activity can easily be adapted for different age groups and stages of early literacy development and is lots of fun!
Once finished, the Star Dust can be stored in a container indefinitely and used again repeatedly unless it gets dirty.
See all our other Playful Literacy ideas here.
What they are learning as they play:
Literacy: using shapes and marks to represent letters and meaning, forming letters (graphemes), recognising phonemes and matching them to the corresponding graphemes, sounding out small words independently, recognising and spelling sight words
physical: sensory play, fine motor skills