Cheap & Easy DIY Salt Trays for Beginning Writers

Recently I wrote a post titled 25 Ideas to Get Your Child Ready to Write.  

#2 on that list was to make a sand or salt box:

Make a sand or salt box.  “Write” or make designs in it using a finger or some sort of utensil (a chopstick, a cotton swab, an unsharpened pencil).  This is also a good way to begin letter formation practice.  Gently shake the container from side to side to erase.  I made some using salt and $1 tins from Michael’s.  You could also do sand or salt on a tray or cookie sheet.  Here’s one at Totally Tots.

 We got our salt boxes out to use just yesterday, so I managed to get a few photos to show you how easy they are to make and how much fun they can be!  (No kidding…I like to have a turn drawing in these, too!!!!)

I found the tins at Michael’s — I think they were $1/each, but maybe as much as $2.50…I just can’t remember.  If you have any of those Danish cookies that come in a tin, that’d work, too, or really any other shallow container, preferably with a lid for easy storage.  

(If you don’t mind “making” it each time, you can just bottle up your salt/sand and use a cookie sheet or other pan.  I’ve also made smaller salt boxes using metal gift card tins…I’m saving those for alphabet formation practice since I think the rectangular shape will help us with limiting size and remembering to start letters at the top!)

The only other step to this DIY project is to add some salt.  It gets a little clumpy now and then, but you can just press the clumps with your fingers and they go away.  You could use sand, or a thin layer of rice instead.

Before I got the tins out yesterday, I printed these cards from the Testy Yet Trying blog so L&L could practice copying the shapes/symbols.  I just printed on plain paper and cut them out.  We stacked them between L&L and they would try to draw the shape, shake their tin gently to erase, and then repeat a few times before going to the next card.  

This was the first time I let L&L use the salt in the lid of the containers.  Normally I keep the salt in the bottom of the tin (the deeper part), but I talked to them about being careful and I knew it’d be easier to write if we used the lid since the sides aren’t as high.  They did great, but definitely use the deeper part of the container until you can trust your child is going to be gentle when shaking-to-erase!

This was one I modeled for Lilah. 😉

After they had enough of copying the cards, I told them they could just draw their own designs.  They seemed reluctant, so I drew a picture for Lilah, saying, “Look, I’m drawing Lilah!”

She said, “That’s a monkey, Mommy!”

That was enough to get Luke interested though and he started drawing swirls. 

Here is another printable you could use with your salt box (scroll about 3/4 of the way down the page to the “Writing Skill Cards”).  You could also use your salt box to model and have your child practice how to write the letters of the alphabet…or numbers.

Have you made a salt box?  What are your child’s favorite things to do with it?

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Genny Upton

A former teacher turned stay at home mom to two preschool aged children. Creator (and writer) at In Lieu of Preschool and Parent Teach Play. Currently publishing my first children's picture book!

  • Diana M Bedoya says:

    I love it , what a great idea, thanks

  • Absolutely love the idea of the kids copying the outline in the salt! Heading to the kitchen now to make up some coloured salt for my son. FANTASTIC!!

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