Toddler Pre-Writing Salt Tray Activity

Bam! Do you like my nerdy little guy?! I think he’s too cute for words. He got glasses about two weeks ago, but that’s another story…

Anywho, Matthew has been really interested in numbers and letters lately, and more specifically in making lists and writing notes.

He did these at the library a few months ago–he sat at the table all by himself for a good 20 minutes “writing”.  Whenever he’d run out of paper, he’d jump up yelling “More paper, please!” to which the librarians happily obliged. Apparently everything he’s getting at the grocery starts with “m” and ends in scribble, but it was the deliberate writing that melted my heart–each line and scribble was painstakingly placed and named (oh, I need more bananas :writes M scribble scribble:: :)

So I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to do more deliberate literacy activities with him (in between train play, of course–OMG TRAINS! Must play trains All.Day.Long.)  I think his favorite so far was the salt tray.

Montessori activity toddler writing salt tray

Use a baking sheet (I found this one at Wal Mart for $.92 and picked up a stack so I could stage various activities), cover it with regular table salt (sugar would work too, you know, if you don’t mind your kiddo eating their activity), and voila–instant writing surface.

montessori writing activity toddler salt tray

To encourage more deliberate writing, I made a stack of cards with various shapes, numbers, and letters using regular index cards.  Matthew actually liked this part, too, and made his own cards after playing in the salt for awhile.  I think we ended up adding handprint, D, and zig zag to the pile. Matthew is just shy of 2 1/2, so basic, easy shapes were our target just to strengthen fine motor skills, but older toddlers and kiddos could go full on letters, numbers, or words.

montessori toddler activity writing salt tray

The best part is with just a little shake, the surface is clear and they can start again.

montessori activity toddler writing salt tray

And I realize he looks very serious and mellow in these pics, which is only partially true.

There was some sweeping (which apparently involved tossing the glasses aside)…

Some “crunching”…

And some “here Mommy have some too”…

P.S. This was not as messy as I anticipated, and I even left it out for a few days before an unfortunate “I made-a footprint and spilled a mess, Mom!” thing happened.


  1. Haha! As I was reading this I was thinking about the mess that ensued! Glad to hear it wasn’t that bad. Looks fun and something I definitely need to work at!
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    • arniehaus says:

      Yep, I was cringing at first, but not too bad. Though I think the shopvac has become a permanent staple in the playroom!

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