This sight word sensory tray is a multisensory sight word activity designed to help young children learn common words. There are some words that kids learn by heart. These “heart words” are what we used to call “sight words”. In this sight word activity, we are using some sight words from an old list as we did this activity many years ago. You could replace the words in the sensory word activity with any words, and even letters when learning letter formation, numbers, or a child’s name to make it a fun name activity. Let’s explore this sensory word activity…
Sensory Sight Word Activity for Learning Words
Some children are tactile learners. These are the children that learn through movement of their hands. We talk about this a bit in our post with a word scavenger hunt activity.
They NEED to move, fidget, tap, and wiggle those fingers and learning happens best when they are doing these movements. These kids focus on and recall information better when they are manipulating items in learning.
This sight word sensory tray is PERFECT for tactile learners (or kinesthetic learners).
There is a reason–Sight words are just that-words that are learned by sight. They are words that have no “rule” and are learned just through plain old memory.
But for the child who learns best through small motor actions, how are they supposed to learn those sight words just by looking at them and remembering them? A sight word sensory tray is the way to go for tactile learners and kids that are just bored with sight word memorization!
We’ve got a TON of sight word activities on the site that use tactile sensory play and movement if you are looking for more ways to help kinesthetic learners learn those sight words.
Sight Word Sensory Tray
You’ll need just a couple of materials for this activity. (Affiliate links are included in this post.)
Paper with sight words written on them (Cut a sheet of printer paper in half, length-wise.)
First, write out the sight words on the half sheets of paper. Write one word per sheet and write with large letters.
Place the sight word sheet in the tray and cover it with the foam eggs.
Then, start moving those eggs!
Kids can uncover just part of the eggs in the tray to reveal part of the sight word and then the whole word. They can identify the sight word by seeing part of the word or the whole thing.
There are several other ways to use this sight word sensory tray to help tactile learners with that sight word list.
Ask kids to trace the sight word by starting with one uncovered letter. Then, ask they to trace the remaining letters as they uncover each letter. Use a finger, the eraser end of a pencil, or a writing utensil.
Try to guess the sight word by uncovering just one or a few of the beginning letters.
Add a movement action for each letter as it’s uncovered. One example would be to “form” the letter with outstretched hands and legs.
Other Ideas for Sensory Trays
Having a variety of sensory ideas available to support letter and word learning is powerful because the sensory medium is simply a tool to reinforce learning.
When learning words like sight words, or commonly used words, the visual processing skill of visual discrimination is supported.
Visual discrimination skills are needed to discriminate between common letters and words like “with” and “which”.
Noticing the differences is a skill where we classify differences between the whole word by the difference letters (aka symbols) in the words. These differences in form are observed through the eyes as they receive visual input and the brain as it analyzes that information.
Visual discrimination occurs by the eyes and brain detecting differences in objects, utilizing working memory and stored memory to determine distinct differences or matched features.
Here are some ideas for things you could include on a sensory tray in order to teach sight words, letters, or numbers:
- Sand or salt: Pour some sand or salt into the tray and bury small toys or objects with sight words written on them. Encourage children to dig through the sand or salt to find the hidden words and read them out loud.
- Shaving cream: Spray shaving cream onto the tray and encourage children to write sight words in the cream with their fingers.
- Rice or pasta: Pour rice or pasta into the tray and hide small objects with sight words written on them. Encourage children to sift through the rice or pasta to find the hidden words and read them out loud.
- Play dough: Provide play dough and sight word cards, and encourage children to make the words out of the dough.
- Water and food coloring: Fill the tray with water and add a few drops of food coloring. Write sight words on small pieces of paper and encourage children to identify and scoop out the words from the tray.
- Feathers, pom-poms or pipe cleaners: Add colorful materials such as feathers, pom-poms or pipe cleaners to the tray and ask children to create sight words by forming letters with the materials.
Rainbow Handwriting Kit– This resource pack includes handwriting sheets, write the room cards, color worksheets, visual motor activities, and so much more. The handwriting kit includes:
- Write the Room, Color Names: Lowercase Letters
- Write the Room, Color Names: Uppercase Letters
- Write the Room, Color Names: Cursive Writing
- Copy/Draw/Color/Cut Color Worksheets
- Colors Roll & Write Page
- Color Names Letter Size Puzzle Pages
- Flip and Fill A-Z Letter Pages
- Colors Pre-Writing Lines Pencil Control Mazes
- This handwriting kit now includes a bonus pack of pencil control worksheets, 1-10 fine motor clip cards, visual discrimination maze for directionality, handwriting sheets, and working memory/direction following sheet! Valued at $5, this bonus kit triples the goal areas you can work on in each therapy session or home program.
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.