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A Fun Way to Learn Letters and Spelling

fun way to learn letters and practice spelling

My kids love using sand on trays to learn letters and spelling, and they recently discovered that chopsticks make excellent writing utensils! Eight-year-old Emma enjoys writing out her spelling words this way, while six-year-old Johnny and five-year-old Lily enjoy practicing their handwriting. Even two-year-old Anna enjoys practicing her fine motor skills with a chopstick in sand – and she draws some really neat pictures! The kids write and write, and then gently shake the tray back and forth on the table to “erase” their writing. If you don’t want sand in the house, try this same activity with corn starch and water – the words, letters, and pictures will vanish “magically” AS you write them! We also use these trays with corn meal and rice – see below for links.

fine motor pre writing activity

We get these trays from IKEA, and I have been using them ever since I started blogging six years ago, when I wrote about using them for sensory play with babies and toddlers! We also use our dyed rice (click through for a tutorial on making dyed rice at home) for sensory play, and my older kids love creating rice art on these same trays! Do you have an activity like this that you do over and over with little alterations?


What fun and learning is your family doing after school?

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

8 thoughts on “A Fun Way to Learn Letters and Spelling”

  1. I haven’t tried trays recently, as we made a big mess last time. But now that I’m thinking about it again, I realise we already have sand in the house, which we track in on our shoes… Maybe it’s time to give the trays another go!

  2. Natalie PlanetSmartyPants

    Funny – during our camping trip my 8 year old spent a lot of time practicing cursive in a sand pit near campfire and explaining to me how great it is to be able to immediately erase her writing. It’s such a sensory writing surface! Anna looks so serious in this picture :)

  3. Super cool, MaryAnne! I’m instantly reminded of those mini Japanese gardens people have in their homes. We don’t have one but we play this game out in the park with sticks and soil. One of the best ways my eldest learned to read.

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