Writing Activity: DIY Salt Writing Tray
Ah, a nice and calm activity with your toddler. Isn’t that the dream? Well… too bad this activity is not going to help you achieve that enlightened state of peace. Creating a salt writing tray for your child to explore may look deceivingly like the ideal activity to do with your toddler because it reminds you of the Japanese sand garden; in fact, my kids love it because it is very soothing to use your finger to write in salt. However, if you think you are going to be able to keep all the salt in the container, think again.
That said, what a great way to start writing skills for your toddler. As part of the name activities, I had my 4-year-old write out his name on pieces of paper. However, since my 2-year-old does not have enough hand control yet to write with a pen or paper, she was very frustrated. Hence, I made a salt tray for her so that she could start practicing letters.
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It’s so simple – you just fill a tray with salt and your toddler can use his or her finger to write in the sand. Since they are using their fingers and not writing utensils, they will be able to feel the grains of the sand as they write, making this a wonderful sensory activity.
Now, the biggest question is, what tray should you use? There is a variety to choose from, and what you end up choosing will depend on your child. If your toddler has enough control to not spill salt all over the place while writing, you can use something with low sides like a serving tray. However, if you have a younger toddler who tends to go wild with his or her finger in the salt, then you may want to go with something with higher sides to prevent lots of spillages. You may also want to put a large baking pan underneath the tray to prevent salt from spilling onto the ground, but since we own a table with raised sides, I decided to exclude the baking pan.
I have seen people use the wooden tray that comes with the Melissa & Doug Lace and Trace Activity Set because it has a divider that allows you to put salt in the larger compartment and stand flashcards in the smaller one. Personally, I prefer a container that comes with a lid so I can just store the salt in the same container instead of dumping it out into a plastic bag for storage. I happen to have a bookstand anyhow that I can use for the flashcards.
I happen to have what apparently is a “sand smoothing push rake” in my kitchen drawers. Why in the kitchen drawers? It came with a crepe making set that my brother-in-law got me as a housewarming gift! Since my husband is an expert crepe maker, we only use the pan and never used the rake to make crepes. Never thought I would use it for smoothing salt as part of my toddler’s writing activity, but why not! Use what you got! And if you don’t have one at home, you can simply shake the tray to erase your work. However, if you are fastidious like me, you can purchase a sand smoothing push rake to make your salt extra smooth. Another idea is to get a Japanese Zen Garden that comes with sand and rake so you can draw in the sand instead of salt, but I figured I will use what I have around the house instead of spending extra money.
My daughter loves her salt writing tray. Currently, she plays with this salt tray more than any other toy she has at home. I will admit that her favorite part is using the rake to make the salt surface nice and flat after she finishes writing.
Let your toddler’s imagination go wild on the salt tray! My daughter loves drawing in the salt as well, and she loves to practice her shapes. For older toddlers, you can give them a cotton swab to write with instead of their fingers. Endless possibilities!