In this post, you can find a peppermint sensory salt writing tray for preschoolers, an interactive Christmas activity to do this holiday!
Over the past few days in Lennox’s play-based preschool, he’s been playing with lines, shapes, and letters using writing trays.
He has been telling me all about it, so I decided to make one at home.
With Christmas right around the corner, I thought making a Christmas-themed tray using salt and peppermint extract would be super fun and sensory!
It was definitely a hit, so I thought I’d share our sensory salt writing tray with you today!
Keep reading to learn what a sensory salt writing tray is and how to make yours today!
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What is a Writing Tray?
A writing tray is a tray or bin filled with a material such as salt, sand, or rice that helps encourage prewriting skills in toddlers and preschoolers.
Sometimes as caretakers and instructors, we are so adamant about children learning to write that we place a pencil in their hand and think they will miraculously start forming letters.
However, this can be intimidating to children and have the opposite effect and discourage writing.
I know because I made this mistake with my son.
First, they need to develop the tiny muscles in their hand.
“Salt writing trays give kids a chance to practice some of these key handwriting skills WITHOUT the added pressure of a pencil grip.” – Susan from Busy Toddler
Salt writing trays are a non-threatening way to introduce writing to children.
With the writing tray, the child can practice drawing lines, shapes, pictures, and WHEN they are ready and interested, letters!
Susan from Busy Toddler states that the goal of sand trays is not letter formation, but rather to build hand strength and muscle memory.
Pencil grip will come later, friends!
Materials Needed for this Sensory Salt Writing Tray
I used salt in this activity, but you could very well use sand or rice as well.
You could also use a box or a storage container. I chose the baking tray because it was easy to move, and it also provided a black background that contrasts with the colorful salt.
To make this salt tray all the more sensory, I added peppermint extract to the salt. It made the room smell glorious! It’s also taste safe! You could also use peppermint essential oil, but make sure your littles don’t put their hands in their mouth!
I know my child enjoys tasting his fingers during experiments, so I always add ingredients that are taste safe.
I added the candy canes to go with the peppermint theme. Also, they make a great writing utensil in the colored salt if your child is bored using their fingers.
- Christmas sprinkles (optional)
I wanted this sensory salt tray to be as festive as possible, so naturally, I added baking sprinkles. Sprinkles are totally optional.
You can use any bowl to mix your salt and gel food coloring. I used my Kitchen Aid Mixing bowls because, boy, do I love them. The grip on the bottom is so helpful!
How to prepare the Sensory Salt Writing Tray
*This is an optional step, but I placed a laminated sheet of printer paper with Lennox’s name underneath the sand to allow him to uncover or trace his name if desired.
- First, in a mixing bowl, add a generous portion of the coarse Kosher Salt. Next, add a few drops of the Peppermint extract and two to three drops of red Gel Food Coloring.
- Then, mix away with the whisk. Whisk, whisk, whisk to get all the grains of salt colored by the food gel.
- Once your salt reaches the desired color, add your salt to your baking tray.
- If you want to, repeat steps 1-3 with green food coloring, or keep the salt red and white to resemble a peppermint!
- Next, add in your Christmas sprinkles (optional) and candy canes!
- Lastly, let your gets explore and work their hand muscles!
How to use this prewriting activity:
Remember, this can get super messy, so place your tray in an area you are not too concerned with dirtying.
I placed our tray on top of a green storage bin to collect salt grains that decided to jump ship.
We also did the activity on the floor. It was super easy to clean up the sand with a vacuum once Lennox lost interest.
Once you get set up, give the Peppermint sensory sand tray to your toddler or preschoolers and allow them to have some free play and exploration.
Next, parent or caretaker, sit back and watch your child’s creativity in action.
I enjoyed watching Lennox first marvel over the activity.
First, he tried to figure out what he was dealing with and put all of his sensory skills to use. Was it sand? Could he eat it? Yum, it’s salty. What is that smell?
Then, he was fascinated by the separation of colors. He wanted to play with it, but he didn’t want to mix the colors.
Then, he gave up on trying not to mix the colors and he started mixing the salt with the candy canes.
Once he started mixing the colors, he realized there were letters underneath, and he started identifying the letters in his name! Then he identified his name!
After that, he brought some Magnatiles into the mix and started tracing and carving out shapes in the salt.
Then, daddy got involved and they starting drawing drawing figures and animals!
Lennox enjoyed this activity so much that I placed the leftover salt grains into a ziplock baggy to use again another day!
Did you enjoy this activity?
I love to see your children in play!