It’s easy to make a DIY salt tray to help your kids work on letter formation. You can increase their excitement and sensory input with these creative ideas.
Kids love using a salt tray to practice forming letters. A salt tray provides a wonderful sensory experience and gives kids a low-stress opportunity to practice writing the letters of the alphabet.
I’m going to show you how to easily put together a simple salt tray for your kids. If you are feeling creative, I have also included LOTS of ideas to add some excitement to this fun writing activity.
I added several links at the bottom of this post. Use the links and ideas to help you shop for props to add to your center. There will be no additional cost to you when you make a purchase from a link, but a small portion of your purchase will be used towards maintaining this website.
How to Make a Simple Salt Tray
To start, you will need some type of tray. Your tray doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive. Here are some things that you can use.
- baking sheet or pan
- pie plate
- serving tray
- collage tray
- wooden box (from a Melissa and Doug activity)
- styrofoam tray
- sturdy shoebox lid
Now that you have a tray, add a little bit of salt to just cover the bottom. Don’t use too much salt. You want to be able to see the bottom of the tray when you make a line in the sand with your finger.
Provide alphabet cards for reference. The finger tracing cards pictured in this post are available at my store, but you can also make your own.
Kids can use a stick or a paintbrush to form letters in the sand, but I really love the idea of using a pointer finger to get a sensory experience. They can form the letter and then shake the tray from side to side to erase it.
You may need to model this for kids until they get the hang of it.
Add More Interest with Cool Paper
It’s a good thing when the bottom of the tray and the salt contrast in color. This makes the letter more visible when it is formed. If you want to add extra contrast and interest, place different types of paper on the bottom of the tray.
You can use any plain colored paper or you can use some super fancy scrapbook paper.
This shiny blue paper is fun. You can also try textured paper. Can you find the snakeskin paper in the pictures below? Want to add a little bling? Try some glitter paper. I used that in a picture below also.
Add Materials to the Salt
You can add fun things to your salt to make a salt tray even more exciting or to coordinate with your current theme or lesson plan. Get creative with mix-ins, but try to stick to small materials. You don’t want to take the focus away from the important stuff – forming letters.
If you browse through the aisles of your craft store, you are bound to find some really cool confetti or sequins. You can add colors that reflect the season.
Or…you can add shapes that coordinate with a theme. I was amazed by how many different confetti and sequin shapes that I found at the craft store.
If you are brave, you can add glitter to the mix. I know, I know….glitter gets EVERYWHERE. But, I was really fascinated by how the glitter and the salt separated when I shook the tray.
Add an Additional Sensory Experience to Your Salt Tray
Pushing a finger through the gritty sand provides a great sensory experience. That sensory experience will help kids remember the shape of each letter they make. With a few additions, you can provide even more experiences for their senses.
Feel It – Add textured paper on the bottom of your salt tray. In the picture above, we used a snakeskin textured paper. In the salt tray with the flower-shaped sequins, we used a bright pink glitter-covered paper.
Hear It: I found the cutest, tiniest little jingle bells at the craft store. Mixing them in provided a little bit of sound.
Smell It: Pick up some inexpensive herbs from the dollar store and use them instead of salt in a tray. Oregano or basil work really well. You can also mix herbs and spices into your salt. Here are some great additions:
- cumin or taco seasoning (this will be perfect when you have a taco shop dramatic play area set up)
- snip fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, mint, etc.
You can also add some scent to your salt by mixing in a drop or two of essential oils.
You Don’t Have to Use Salt in The Salt Tray
In the example above, I suggested that you use herbs instead of salt in the tray. There are soooo many additional materials that you can use to create a fun salt tray for your kids.
Let me give you some creative inspiration.
In the winter, try adding some snowflakes to a tray.
Sequins are so much fun! You can use any color of sequins and kids will love the sparkle. I just returned from a trip to DC where I just had to see the ruby red slippers in the Smithsonian. These red sequins totally remind me of those iconic shoes.
Here’s another way to add sparkle to a tray. I used my bargain supply shopping techniques to score these gems at a super discount. My advice….the smaller gems work best, so I picked out the large ones. This makes me think of Valentine’s Day.
I was walking through the aisle of my craft store and spotted some tubes of seed beads in all kinds of beautiful colors. They were on sale so I picked some up. The black beads are so cool because they provide some really great contrast. The black beads on the yellow tray remind me of a road, a road sign, or a construction site.
But, the seed beads look very cool when they are multi-colored too.
Aquarium gravel works well too. I found this blue gravel at the dollar store and think this salt tray would be a great addition to an ocean theme unit. Check the aquarium supply aisle at your pet supply store and I bet you can find some really cool gravel.
Additional Ideas for Your Salt Tray
Here are some additional materials that you can use in place of salt in your salt tray:
- sand or colored sand
- Ice cream or cupcake sprinkles
- organic potting mix (don’t use the stuff with fertilizer!)
- melty beads
- pea gravel
- bird seed
Hopefully, these ideas get your creative juices flowing. I can’t wait to hear about the salt tray that you use with your kids.
You can also learn about more alphabet resources and get a sample of 9 different alphabet activities (including a few of the alphabet tracing cards) in this alphabet activities post.
You can probably get the best price for most of the materials described above in your craft store or dollar store. I added several links below for some items that you can use to create your salt tray. There will be no additional cost to you when you make a purchase from a link, but a small portion of your purchase will be used towards maintaining this website…and for that, I thank you.