Put a Christmas spin on a traditional salt tray with this CHRISTMAS SPRINKLES WRITING TRAY. It’s a fun way for preschoolers to practice pre-writing and spelling skills with candy sprinkles leftover from Christmas baking.
A simple way to provide kids with some fun learning activities this December is to make a sensory writing tray with colourful Christmas sprinkles and a candy cane.
We made our Christmas sprinkles writing tray recently with the sprinkles we had leftover after decorating our Christmas cookies. We provided the kids with a candy cane “pen”, and invited them to write, draw and doodle in the tray of sprinkles.
My youngest loved writing in the sprinkles with her candy cane so much that her older brother jumped in and gave it a try with his spelling words.
This proves how powerful the novelty of a sensory writing tray is. My son never wants to practice his spelling words, but our Christmas sprinkles writing tray got him spelling his words without a fight.
Maybe it was the sugar. Maybe it was the Christmas cheer. Maybe it was simply because I wasn’t asking him to write with paper and pencil, but with green sprinkles and a candy cane “pen” instead.
Whatever the reason, writing practice has never been sweeter than with sprinkles and a candy cane.
The Importance of Sensory Writing Trays
Before our kids ever pick up a pencil and write their name or their ABCs, they need to develop their pre-writing skills.
Strengthening their fine motor skills and finger grasp is important, but there are only so many times you can hand a young child a pencil or a crayon before they want to try something new and different.
A sensory writing tray offers them that. It’s a new and different way to make marks, to practice forming letters and numbers, and to copy simple sight words.
Cause and Effect
A sensory writing tray also teaches children about cause and effect.
When a child moves their finger or writing tool through the sprinkles, they learn that their actions cause something else to happen. The sprinkles are pushed out of the way, and a line appears on the tray, and they’ll want to experiment making their lines bigger or smaller, longer or wider.
When we make learning fun and even silly, kids don’t have to be cajoled into learning and practicing new skills. They learn without even realizing they’re learning.
And often they’ll beg for more.
How to make a Christmas Sprinkles Writing Tray
- clean and very dry styrofoam produce tray or cookie sheet (if it’s not dry, the sprinkles will stick to the tray and the dye in the sprinkles will bleed
- candy sprinkles, red or green for Christmas time
- large candy cane for a writing utensil, still in the plastic wrapping
- dishtowel or tablecloth for easy cleanup
- sight words or spelling words for older students
Setting Up the Christmas Writing Tray
Turn writing into a hands-on Christmas activity with green sprinkles and a candy cane!
1. Lay down a dish towel or tablecloth before you begin, to contain spills.
2. Put the clean styrofoam produce tray or cookie sheet on top of the dishtowel and pour in the sprinkles.
3. Kids can use their fingers to write in the sprinkles, or for a less sticky activity, offer them a wrapped candy cane as a writing tool. The sharp contrast between the green sprinkles and the writing tray made it easy for my kids to see what they were writing.
5. Show them how to “erase” their letters or words by holding each side of the tray to gently shake the sprinkles until they have a clean slate.
Ideas for Using the Sprinkles Writing Tray
There are limitless ways for kids to learn using their Christmas sensory writing tray.
Depending on their age and academic level, you can let them guide you as they write or draw, or you can challenge them to try something new.
Even reluctant learners may embrace a difficult challenge because writing in sprinkles seems less threatening than a pencil and paper challenge.
Pre-writers can explore by doodling, drawing and making marks in the sprinkles.
For older children, you can provide a doodle for them to re-create in the sprinkles tray. They can practice curved lines, straight lines and zigzags, and all the parts that make up the letters in the alphabet.
Preschoolers can draw shapes in the sprinkles.
When my daughter was practicing her triangle she dropped her candy cane. When she picked it up, instead of holding it the way I handed it to her, she started to write with the curved-end of the candy cane. She discovered that it made a thicker line in the sprinkles. She loved that she could manipulate the sugar differently by simply holding the candy cane a different way.
Kids learning the alphabet can practice writing uppercase and lowercase letters in the sprinkles.
Or for an added challenge, you can speak the sound a letter makes, and they can write the corresponding letter in the sprinkles.
Children learning how to write their name can practice copying the letters of their name into the sprinkles.
Kindergarten and first-grade kids can write simple sight words in the sprinkles.
For math, kids can practice writing their numbers in sequential order, or you can dictate numbers for them to write. My daughter wanted to show us that she could write the number 100, and could write an addition sentence in the sprinkles.
My older son practiced his spelling words in the Christmas sprinkles when his little sister was done, because writing with a candy cane was way cooler than writing his words five times each on a white piece of paper. He even snuck in a little cursive practice too.
When you’re finished with the Christmas sprinkles writing tray, you can easily dump the sprinkles into a large ziploc bag and save them for the next time you are ready to pull out a sweet writing activity for your kids.
More Early Writing Activities for Kids
Nicole Black is a recovering elementary school teacher, a mom to three super busy kids, and mostly survives on strong coffee. She shares her best parenting tips and tricks for intentionally raising kind kids, creating a stronger family connection, and bullying prevention at Coffee and Carpool. Follow her at www.coffeeandcarpool.com or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/coffeeandcarpool