Although my 5-year-old daughter has been into writing with pencil and paper, she still enjoys sensory writing with our Montessori-inspired salt writing tray! I am a big fan of Dr. Maria Montessori’s tactile writing method, because it’s fun, inexpensive, and saves paper! In addition, the crunch of the salt helps to reinforce each stroke of letters, numbers, or characters. Since December is Christmas month, I set up a Christmas salt writing tray for her to practice writing. This post includes a free printable template for Christmas bell writing prompts!
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Christmas salt writing tray
Since Chinese is the minority language that I am teaching my kids, our activities revolve around Chinese learning. Chinese characters are much more difficult to write compared to English, Korean, or other alphabet-based languages. Each character is unique and requires frequent practice to remember the correct way to write. Because my daughter doesn’t technically “need” to learn Chinese, I try to make it as fun as possible so that she is motivated to learn it. This Christmas-themed salt-writing tray was a big hit with my daughter!
What you need for the Christmas salt writing tray with bells
Christmas salt writing tray
- Square tray, box lid, tupperware, or baking dish
- I recommend a square shape so your child get used to visualizing Chinese characters within the standard writing grid
- A container with high sides will help keep the salt within the tray
- I don’t recommend buying a designated Montessori sand tray because they are overpriced ($15-$45!). We re-purposed a tray from this play dough set. However, this lacing activity tray would be a nice option because the small compartment could be used to hold the sandpaper flashcards. You could also use a box lid = yay for recycling and saving money!
- Red food coloring
- +/- Stick or chopstick
- Red and green paper
- Bells template (free download in simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese)
How to set up Christmas salt writing tray
- Print and cut bell template. Use blank template to type or write whatever words your child is learning.
- Dye salt:
- Put desired amount of salt in Ziplock bag.
- Add at least 10 drops of red food coloring. (If you put only a few drops, the salt will appear pink.)
- Shake, shake, shake!
- Let salt dry
- Spread thin amount on tray. Don’t put too much, otherwise it’s might be hard to see the character form.
- Demonstrate to your child how to draw or write in the salt writing tray, then let them take over!
- Store dyed salt in a sealed, labeled container. The red salt would be great to reuse for Chinese New Year activities!
Here is a video of my daughter writing 这 (zhè) in simplified Chinese. She said this was her favorite word to write because of the squiggly 辶 radical!
Our experience with the Christmas salt writing tray
Writing utensil for the salt writing tray
We used a chopstick to simulate writing with a pencil as I didn’t want her to write on the tray since we use it for other things! Although Dr. Montessori recommends using a finger for extra tactile input, my daughter has been into writing. Therefore, the chopstick was the perfect tool to work on her penmanship.
Choosing the right salt for the salt writing tray
Although we used sea salt, which has larger crystals than regular salt, I recommend using regular salt. Sea salt was not a problem over the summer when we were writing simple characters. However, since my daughter is learning to write words with multiple components, the characters don’t appear as clearly in coarse salt. Therefore, my daughter had to trace over each character twice in order for it to show up better! I also need to mention that you can simply use plain white salt, but sometimes a pop of color can make a big difference in sparking your child’s interest!
What types of words to practice writing in the salt writing tray
Lastly, I decided not to include Christmas words with this particular writing lesson. Instead, I included high-frequency words that my daughter has expressed interest in writing in her hobby of creating greeting cards for friends and family. I believe this will help her express herself better! However, you should teach Christmas vocabulary if that piques your child’s interest!
Video of my daughter having fun with salt writing!
Here is one more video of her writing 妈妈 (māmā / mom) in simplified Chinese. Later, she told me that this is her other favorite word to write 🙂 It amuses me that she writes 妈妈 so small, trying to squish the bigram together in the square tray!
Writing with white sand – Hong Kong Chinese calligraphy
I came across this amazing video where a woman writes beautiful calligraphy with white sand! I think you will be equally blown away by her artful talent!
Be sure to check out my review of the Montessori Chinese stroke order sandpaper cards in this link! The set would be perfect with this sensory writing lesson!
Check out these other fun sensory writing activities that may Chinese learning fun and memorable!
If this is your first time learning about hands-on educational activities, please read our How-To-Guide for Chinese activities!
If you’re struggling to get your child to learn and speak Chinese, bookmark this detailed post.
Happy learning, friends!