Sugar Aunts: Writing Trays for Handwriting

Writing Trays for Handwriting

Writing trays are a fantastic way to help kids work on handwriting, letter formation, and pre-writing skills.  You can find them used in schools, clinics, preschools, early learning centers, and homeschool dinging rooms.  There is a reason that writing trays are a popular way to encourage fine motor skills and an introduction to handwriting; They use a tactile sensory strategy to encourage movement in learning in a multi-sensory way.  Writing Trays make letter formation fun and meaningful in a play-based manner.


Use writing trays for handwriting and letter formation


What is a Writing Tray?

Writing Trays are a creative way to help kids learn to write letters, numbers, shapes, and pre-writing strokes.  There are a ton of different ways that writing trays can be set up and used in letter formation. Essentially, a writing tray uses a low container (or TRAY) and a medium that can be moved and shifted for writing.

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What is in a Writing Tray? (Writing Tray Fillers)

Writing Trays are filled with a filler that us manipulated and shifted so that letters or writing lines are visible.  Some ideas for filling a writing tray include:

Sand
Colored Sand
Rice
Dyed Rice
Salt
Dyed Rice
Play Dough
Other Doughs
Sugar
Flour
Cormmeal
Slime (Check out the fun we had with slime in a writing tray!)
Spices
Crushed Chalk

While sometimes, a child can use their finger to form the lines in their writing tray, a writing tool is typically recommended. (More on that below.)


Use Writing Trays to Work on Handwriting and Letter Formation:

Kids can use writing trays to practice letter formation, or pencil control and stroke sequence in writing letters.  Typically, they will be provided with a visual cue or cue card for copying the letters/numbers/shapes.  Other times, kids can form the letter/number/shape independently when prompted to make a specific letter. This is a great way to work on visual memory and independent letter formation.

Be sure to verbally prompt children to form letters or build letters with correct stroke sequence.  This is essential for carryover of accuracy with letter formation in handwriting.  Otherwise, the child is simply playing in the sensory tray and not effectively using the writing tray as a tool for improved handwriting.  Encouraging the child who is learning pre-writing strokes and beginning letter formation can use a writing tray as a base for forming letters independently. Try using visual and verbal cues to promote correct letter construction.

A few more must-dos when using a writing tray for addressing letter formation:
  • Make sure letters are not formed in parts.  In other words, don't allow kids to make a circle and then a line to form an "a". 
  • Make sure letters are formed from top to bottom. 
  • Realize that the motor plan to form letters with your finger is different than the motor plan to form letters with a pencil or other pencil-like writing tool.
Writing trays for handwriting, letter formation, and fine motor skills.

Fine Motor Skills and Writing Trays

A writing tray can be an effective tool in boosting fine motor skills.  Kids can use their finger to form lines and letters while strengthening finger isolation and separation of the two sides of the hand, including an opportunity for the ulnar side fingers to tuck into the palm for a more effective pencil grasp when writing.

Children can also use a tool to form letters in a writing tray.  This can be an opportunity to develop pencil grasp.  However.  There are a few items that should be mentioned about using a writing tray to address pencil grasp and appropriate motor plan for letter formation.

Writing Trays are a common tool.  But if you just place a writing tray in front of a child, you will likely see an inefficient writing activity.  You will probably see most kids forming letters with an awkward grasp on the writing tool, a flexed and deviated wrist, an abducted shoulder, and generally ineffective positioning.  

Positioning absolutely carries over to letter formation and handwriting.

A writing tray can be used to address pencil grasp and handwriting needs.  However, it is essential to use the tray in a proper manner.  There are a few ways to do this:
  • Place the writing tray on a slight slant. Try using a DIY slant board.
  • Use a low edged tray.
  • Use verbal, physical, and visual cues for appropriate positioning. 
  • Position the writing tool in your child's hand with an appropriate tripod or modified tripod grasp.
  • Show the child how to hold the tool at the end of the tool as if they were holding a pencil.
Once you've got your writing tray set up and positioning taken care of, it's on to the fun stuff:

Try using writing trays to help with handwriting and letter formation with kids.


A few MORE creative fillers to add to your writing tray:


Slime Writing Tray from Sugar Aunts

Dishsoap Writing Tray from Sugar Aunts

Coffee Grounds Writing Tray from Sugar Aunts

Sugar Cookie Writing Tray from Mom Inspired Life

Madeline Book Writing Tray from Growing Book By Book

Rainbow Rice Writing Tray from Crafty Kids at Home

Kinetic Sand Writing Tray from Stir The Wonder

Peppermint Writing Tray from Kids Play Box


Chalk Dust and Feather Writing Tray from Preschool Toolbox

Chocolate Cocoa Writing Tray from Still Playing School

Lavender Pre-Writing Tray from And Next Comes L

Pokemon Writing Tray from And Next Comes L

Lentils Writing Tray from Play and Learn Everyday

Citrus Writing Tray from B-Inspired Mama

use writing trays to help with letter formation and handwriting.















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