What are some fun ways to build fine motor skills? Try a salt tray fine motor activity! It is a great pre-writing activity for preschoolers!

Not only does a salt tray help you build fine motor skills, but you can also work on pre-writing skills like drawing shapes that will help your child with their writing readiness!

What is a salt tray?

Salt trays are simple to set up activities for kids! Salt trays allow kids to work on pre-writing skills using a few things you already have in your kitchen! Grab some salt and a tray or baking pan and you’re ready to play!

You can also add in some fine motor tools or sensory play toys like these CAT 6 mini trucks we love!

Why is a salt tray good for building fine motor skills?

A salt tray helps kids using their senses as they explore and make marks in the salt. Salt is easy to manipulate and quick to set up in a tray, which makes it a great choice for sensory play and fine motor skills activities. Salt also encourages kids to get engaged because it’s so fun to move around. I get as excited about it as my little ones do! Kids can use their fingers or a brush or pencil to help them draw in the salt.

If kids can easily move the salt in the tray to form shapes, letters, or designs, then the sensory tray will be a success!

RELATED: Need more easy to set up activity ideas? We have so many amazing toddler activities!

How to set up a simple salt tray fine motor activity:

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To get started with this activity you need a few things:

Salt Tray Materials

Salt Tray Fine Motor Activity Set Up:

It doesn’t get easier than this!

  1. Pour some salt onto your tray.
  2. Spread it out to cover the whole bottom of the tray.
  3. Add some tools (brush, pencil, trucks)
  4. Optional: Add some notecards with shapes on them for some fun pre-writing exercises!

What are pre-writing skills?

Pre-writing skills happen BEFORE we ask kids to do any handwriting skills or letter creating. Before we ask them to write, children should be able to form a variety of strokes. They should be able to do these pre-writing strokes in sequence before learning how to write.

These are the pre-writing strokes with typical development stages. Kids all develop at their own pace, so may not follow these ages exactly.

  • Vertical Line – (Age 2 imitates, age 3 copies/masters)
  • Horizontal Line – (Age 2 1/2 imitates, age 3 copies/masters)
  • Circle Shape – (Age 2 1/2 imitates, 3 copies/masters)
  • Cross Shape (+) – (Age 3 1/2 imitates, age 4 copies)
  • Square Shape – (Age 4)
  • Right/Left Diagonal Line – (Age 4 1/2)
  • X Shape – (Age 5)
  • Triangle (Age 5)

As you play and explore a salt tray you can show your child some of these pre-writing strokes above, or other strokes, and have them try to do them as well.

I like to draw the different strokes onto notecards and place them on the tray for kids to copy! You don’t need worksheets to learn pre-writing skills! Here are a few ways Allie at No Time for Flashcards shared to help kids develop pre-writing skills while they’re playing!

RELATED: Fine motor skills can also be developed through play! You’ll love these 10 simple fine motor sensory bins.

Have you tried a salt tray fine motor activity like this before? Do you have any other favorite ways to help kids build fine motor skills? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!