Sensory Writing Tray

Visual Memory Game with a sensory bin

Last week, I posted a picture of a sensory writing tray on our Instagram channel. You might have seen it. It was a sensory tray designed to teach handwriting, letter formation, and early literacy skills (letter identification) with a sensory bin. That sensory writing activity has been on the “to-do” list to share with you for some time. Today, I’ve got it all lined up and ready to go for you! Read on for a writing tray that teaches handwriting AND so many other essential skills!

Play a sensory memory game using a sensory tray to work on letter identification and handwriting skills with kids.
Working on letters can be very fun with a sensory memory game.

Sensory Writing Tray Activity

Before I go any further, I wanted to touch base on a sensory writing activity. This sensory activity is designed to teach certain skills such as letter formation and letter identification needed for handwriting through the tactile sense. Using the senses and movement in handwriting is an aspect of kinesthetic learning which can be quite beneficial to so many students.

This particular handwriting activity helps kids with various underlying skills that play a part in handwriting as well. By manipulating the sensory medium in the writing tray, kids get to experience and build skills needed for handwriting. These include: bilateral coordination, use of the dominant and assisting hands, visual discrimination, form constancy, visual scanning, visual memory, visual closure, eye-hand coordination, visual motor integration, and fine motor skills (finger isolation, separation of the sides of the hand, in-hand manipulation, arch development, and others).

Writing Tray to Teach Handwriting

Using a writing trays for handwriting are such a hands-on approach to teaching writing. Kids really love to get their hands in a sensory medium and play…while working on the skills they need to learn letters. Manipulating sensory materials to write letters can be used in teaching letter formation in a way that gets the kids engaged and excited about handwriting.

We’ve shared quite a few writing trays here on The OT Toolbox:

Making a quick Writing tray with dyed rice is so easy with a pack of rice, some food coloring, and a plastic baggie. The best thing is that you can use that dyed rice over and over again for sensory play.

Here’s another easy writing tray using dyed rice. So easy, all you need is the rice and a low bin.

I don’t know about you, but I go through A LOT of coffee grounds. Use those old coffee grounds to practice writing with a writing tray with coffee grounds. This is another biodegradable sensory activity. When you’re finished with writing practice, use the grounds in a sensory garden.

Dyed salt is a great medium for using in writing trays. It’s easy to manipulate and is so versatile. Use caution with young children that may put things or materials in their mouths. Always use caution and best judgement with each individual child. This writing tray with dyed salt was a great way to work on bilateral coordination and symmetrical movements with a visual motor component.

We actually used grass seed to work on letter formation by gluing the seeds down, but part of the fun was making a writing tray with grass seed. It’s a really inexpensive way to work on letter formation and others skills. Then, use the seed to plant a patch of grass in the yard.

It’s kind of slowed down around here, but there was a time when the slime craze hit our house full-force. We used some of that slime to make a slime writing tray. So fun…and totally worth the clean-up!

Some writing trays can have the letters and words actually in the bin, like our sight word writing tray. It was another easy writing tray to throw together. In fact, that writing tray inspired the sensory writing activity that we are sharing today…

Use a sensory tray to work on letter formation and letter identification.

WRITing Tray to Teach Letters

We used just a few items to create this sensory writing tray:

  • Plastic casserole dish (glass would work to!
  • Marker, paper, tape
  • Dyed salt (We recycled the dried salt from this sensory activity.)

To set-up the sensory bin, use the marker to write letters in random order on the paper. You can write them in alphabetical order, but we wanted to work on a few visual perceptual skills such as visual scanning and visual memory by placing the letters in random order.

Tape the paper to the bottom of the tray (outside). You want the letters to show through the bottom of the dish from the inside. Another option would be to place the paper right into the bottom on the dish, but we wanted the salt and base of the dish to provide a contrast in temperature with this tactile sensory activity.

Kids can use a writing tray with salt to work on handwriting and letters.

You can make each letter of the alphabet, or make several of the same letter to work on letter matching, memory skills, and form constancy. Use upper case or lower case, or even numbers. This sensory bin is so versatile and the sky is the limit!

Pour in dyed salt or your sensory writing tray medium.

Use dyed salt to work on letter formation in a sensory writing tray.
Dyed salt is a great material for sensory writing trays!

Ask the child to start looking for letters. When they find the letter, they can trace the lines to “write
the letter with their index finger. We even played a memory game by searching for matching letters hiding under the salt.

Visual Skills in Handwriting

For this sensory writing tray, we made this handwriting tray in a style that actually worked on a wider variety of skill areas beyond simply copying letters from a form. In fact, there are so many skill areas being addressed with a single writing tray idea:

  • Visual discrimination
  • Form constancy
  • Visual Closure
  • Eye-Hand coordination
  • Visual Memory
  • Visual Motor Skills

FIne Motor Skills in Handwritng

When writing, kids need a lot of fine motor skills. In this writing tray activity, we work on several of those skills:

  • In-hand manipulation
  • Arch development
  • Separation of the sides of the hand
  • Finger isolation

Sensory Memory Game

Turn the sensory tray into a sensory memory game by writing sets of letters. Kids can take turns uncovering letters to “find each letter of a set. Match two upper case letters or two lower case letters. Or, match upper and lower case letters in a letter memory game that kids will love!

Kids will love working on letter identification with a sensory memory game using a salt sensory writing tray.

Bat Halloween Craft

Fall is here and that means it’s time to pull out the halloween crafts! This bat Halloween craft is a favorite in our house, and it’s actually a fun way to celebrate Halloween with kids without spooky decorations. We made another bat craft based on a Halloween book here on The OT Toolbox, and this Halloween craft for kids is one that they will get batty over! 

Bat Halloween Craft

This craft idea is one that doesn’t need a lot of materials. In fact, it’s a simple craft idea that is big on the fine motor buck! When kids make this bat craft, they will be boosting skills such as fine motor strength and dexterity in a big way.
For more Halloween craft ideas, check out some of the ideas at the bottom of this post…it’s the perfect addition if you’re looking for Halloween crafts for toddlers or Halloween crafts for preschool parties.
Make this bat craft at a Halloween party for kids for a fun Halloween craft idea that isn't spooky!

Bat Craft

We made this bat craft with a fun sensory twist.  And, since we have a certain second grader that is cursive handwriting obsessed, we decided to add a cursive handwriting twist to this activity.  This activity could work to help kids with letter formation of upper case letters, lowercase letters, or numbers too. The possibilities are endless. 
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Halloween bat craft and creative letter formation activity in this sensory Halloween craft that is a Scissor Skill power house.  Appropriate and fun for creative kids from preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school aged.

How to Make a Bat Craft

To make your bat craft, you’ll need just a few materials:
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black cardstock 
black yarn 
Scissors (THIS is my favorite brand and the ones that I always recommended as an Occupational Therapist!)

Halloween craft for preschool

This is a great halloween craft for preschoolers because it’s a fantastic way to work on scissor skills with a halloween activity.

First draw and cut a bat-ish shape on the cardstock.  Kids can cut out the shape using their Scissors for great scissor skill work.  The bat shape is a complex cutting shape and can be done by Elementary aged students.  Cutting the angled wings and curves can be difficult, but by using the cardstock, kids will get a bit fore proprioceptive feedback from the thicker resistance of the paper material.  To make the task easier, cut wings without the jagged lines or use thicker cutting lines when you draw the bat shape.  

Once you have the bat, you’ll need to cut pieces of the black yarn.  Have your child cut long or short pieces, it doesn’t really matter what length they wish to cut for their bat’s texture.  Cutting the yarn is a great material to practice appropriate scissor positioning and bilateral hand coordination.  

If a child is holding the scissors on an angle, cutting the yarn will be more difficult.  (You may see them trying to “saw” at the yarn!) Encourage them to hold the scissors straight up and down and the blades of the scissors at a 90 degree angle to the yarn.  You can find more of our Scissor Skills activities.

Kids will love to make this Halloween bat craft while working on fine motor skills and scissor skills...great halloween craft for kids!

Next, pour some glue into a shallow dish or plate.  Show your child how to drag the yarn through the glue and get it nice and saturated with the glue.  Use both hands to pinch and “scrape” off excess glue from the piece of yarn.  Next, drape the black yarn on the bat shape.  You can let your child get as creative as they wish with this part.  Some might like to outline the bat shape and others, just pile it up on the bat.  Let the glue and yarn harden and you’ll have a textured bat craft to use in Halloween decor this Fall.  You will have to wait for the glue to dry, probably overnight.

Handwriting Practice with a bat craft!

Halloween textured bat craft and creative letter formation activity in this sensory Halloween craft that is a Scissor Skill power house.  Appropriate and fun for creative kids from preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school aged.

Work on letter formation with this fun Halloween bat craft!
We used those saturated yarn pieces to build cursive letters.  This would be an excellent way to practice cursive letter formation in our Creative Cursive handwriting journal activity.
Use this Bat Craft for kids to work on letter formation of any kind. It’s a creative writing activity that they will be sure to remember. Work on forming individual letters, spelling sight words, or making Halloween words.

Halloween party idea for kids

This would work as a very fun…and very sensory…Halloween party idea for classroom parties or Halloween with kids in general.
  1. Split kids up into teams. Give each team a collection of cut black yarn and a bowl of glue.
  2. Write a Halloween word on the board or hold up a sign with a Halloween word.
  3. Each team has to work together to use the cut yarn and glue to spell the Halloween word on a piece of paper or cardboard.
  4. Once a team has completed the word, they have to hold up their paper or cardboard. The first team to spell the word with the letters sticking wins! (Too much glue or not enough glue will make this a fun race for Halloween parties for kids of all ages.)
Halloween textured bat craft and creative letter formation activity in this sensory Halloween craft that is a Scissor Skill power house.  Appropriate and fun for creative kids from preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school aged.
Build printed letters with the glue yarn, too.  We had a lot of fun with this Halloween craft and it was a hit with all of my kids…from preschool on up to grade school.

Halloween Craft Ideas

Check out some of these other Halloween activities and crafts:
  • Make a Spider Craft using potato stamps. Fun for parties or just Halloween fun with the kids!
  • Use cookie cutters and chalk to make Halloween Chalk Art. It’s a messy and sensory Halloween activity that the whole family can get involved in.