Sensory Writing Trays and Tactile Letters

Sensory writing trays and tactile letters help children learn to write letters using a multi-sensory approach (or learning through the senses). Research shows that learning through the senses helps the brain process information. When using tactile letter activities, children can feel the letters as they trace them.

Sensory Writing Trays and Tactile Letter Activities

Some children learn better with sensory writing trays rather than with paper and pencil because they need to move and touch as they learn. If using a pencil or stylus with these activities, children can practice pencil control without the worry or stress of making mistakes.

These sensory writing trays and tactile writing activities help children with handwriting, letter formation, and pre-writing skills.

When using tactile activities, be sure to show children how to use correct stroke sequence, going top to bottom. To help with this, you can place letter cards with direction arrows beside the activity. Make sure children use correct tripod pencil grasp.

These sensory writing trays can be used to form letters, numbers, shapes, and pre-writing lines.

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Sand Tray: Sensory Writing Trays

Add a little colored sand to a tray and have children write letters with a wooden stylus, paintbrush, or their finger.

Put just enough sand in the tray to cover the bottom, but not too deep. I prefer to use colored sand rather than salt because salt hurts if children have a small cut on their finger.

There are lots of options for sand trays. You can use any plastic or wooden tray with a flat bottom for a sensory writing tray. You can use a sandwich box. This sand tray in the picture below is a Montessori Sand Tray from Amazon.

Sand Tray Sensory Writing Tray

You can use a small paintbrush to write the letter in the sand. (My short paintbrushes came from Hobby Lobby in a pack of 8.)

Sensory Writing Trays Sand Tray with brush

Children can use their finger to write in the sand.

Sensory Writing Trays Sand Tray

Rice Tray: Sensory Writing Trays

Pour some plain uncooked rice in a plastic tray for this sensory writing tray. You can color the rice if you choose, but white rice looks nice in a colorful tray. These colorful activity trays are from Amazon and they are perfect for so many projects.

Be sure to put just enough rice to cover the bottom, but no more. It works best if there’s not too much rice. Children can write the letter with their finger.

Rice Tray Letter Writing: Sensory Writing Trays

Children can also write the letter with a small paintbrush. I recommend using short paintbrushes since short pencils are recommended by occupational therapists for children learning to write.

Sensory Writing Trays: Rice Tray Letter Writing

Kinetic Sand: Sensory Writing Trays

For this sensory writing tray, put kinetic sand in a plastic tray and have children press alphabet cookie cutters in the sand. Children can then use their finger to trace the letter in the sand.

Kinetic Sand Letters

You can also have children use a pencil to trace the letters.

Sensory Writing Trays with Kinetic Sand

Another option is to have children draw the letter into the sand with a pencil and have them trace over it with their finger. Or, for beginners, and adult can draw the letter and the child can trace over it with their finger.

Sensory Writing Trays Kinetic Sand Letter Writing

A 2-pound bag of kinetic sand filled this tray perfectly.

Bubble Wrap Letters: Tactile Letters

Cut pieces of bubble wrap and write the letters on each piece using a permanent marker. Then go back over each letter, making sure the bubbles are colored well enough to see them. Just recycle some bubble wrap from packages you receive (ask parents to save it too!)

Children will trace over the bubble wrap letters with their finger.

Bubble Wrap Tactile Letters

DIY Sandpaper Letters: Tactile Letters

Sandpaper letters can be purchased, but they are usually expensive. Here’s a way to make your own. Print out letters on card stock paper (you can use colored or white paper). I used the alphabet printable letters on this page. Paint over the letters with school glue using a paintbrush. While the glue is still wet, sprinkle colored sand over the letter, then set it aside to dry.

Children can trace over the sand paper letter with their finger.

DIY Sandpaper Letters

Another option is to use a die cut machine and cut the letters out of sandpaper.

Glitter Glue Letters: Tactile Letters

Glitter glue letters are similar to sandpaper letters. Just print the letters on card stock and use glitter glue to trace the letters. I used the alphabet printable letters on this page. Children trace over the glitter letters with their finger.

Glitter Letters

Glitter Paper Letters: Tactile Letters

This is a very easy way to make glitter letters. Get glitter card stock paper from a craft store (they have it in lots of pretty colors). Then simply write the letters on the glitter paper using a thick bold permanent marker. Children trace over the glitter paper letters with their finger.

Glitter Scrapbook Paper Letter

Pop Its Alphabet

I found these Pop It Alphabet letters on Amazon and thought they would make perfect (and fun!) tactile letters. These are small and just perfect for little fingers.

Popit Alphabet for Tactile Letter

Children can first pop all of the bubbles on the pop-it letter, then trace over the letter with their finger.

Popit Letters for Tactile Alphabet

These are also just the right size to use a Q-tip to punch the popit letters. Grasping the Q-tip is great for fine motor practice.

Popit Letters with a Qtip

Plastic Canvas Letters: Tactile Letters

Plastic canvas letters are easy and quick to prep! Just print out some letters, lay a piece of plastic canvas over the paper and have children trace over it with their finger.

Plastic canvas is inexpensive (less than $1) and found in craft stores. I recommend using the white or clear plastic canvas to lay on top of the letters and using letters that are bold black, printed on white paper. This way the letters are more visible through the canvas. I used the alphabet printable letters on this page.

Plastic Canvas Tactile Letters

Here’s a variation of the same activity, using larger letters. Children trace the inside of the letters with their finger. I used the alphabet printable letters on this page.

Plastic Canvas Tactile Letters

For a neat tactile writing experience, place a sheet of paper on top of a piece of plastic canvas and clip the paper with binder clips. Have children trace the letter with a crayon. You can use a fun color of plastic canvas for this!

Plastic Canvas Tactile Writing

Paint Bag Letters

To make the paint bags, just squirt a little tempera paint in a gallon size freezer ziplock bag. You really don’t need a lot of paint. I recommend the freezer bags because they’re more durable.

Smooth all of the air out of the bag, zip it, and spread the paint around the bag. Also, be sure to seal the top of the bag with duct tape. (The duct tape is not shown in my picture, but it’s a good idea to use it so the paint won’t leak out.)

Paint in a bag for tactile writing

Children can write letters on the paint bag with their finger or a Q-tip.

Paint Bag Sensory Writing
Paint Bag Sensory Writing Trays

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