Beach-Themed Writing Tray

Aug 28, 2015

Back-to-school is just around the corner and we’re very slowly transitioning back into more of a routine after a long, wonderful summer. 

For us, getting back into routine means making time for playful learning activities—writing trays like this one are a big hit.

Since we're still hanging on to the last bit of summer, we decided to create a beach-themed tray using sand, shells and glass gems. In the past, we've made them with all kinds of materials and themes, so feel free to get creative and use what you have around the house.

You Will Need:

  • a shallow tray, box lid or plastic plate (something with a colourful bottom is extra fun)
  • some sand
  • shells and other decorative beach items
  • letter, number or word cards (store-bought or homemade)


1. To create your writing tray, pour enough sand into your tray, lid, or plate so that the bottom is just fully covered.  Next, add some visual interest by adding your shells and decorative items along the edges in order to create a picture frame of sorts.

A box filled with sand, shells and gems.

2. Now it’s time to play!

Invite your little one to take out his or her "finger pencil" and create marks, numbers, letters or simple words in the sand.

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As kids draw in the sand, the colour of the tray, lid, or plate should be revealed below. If not, it probably means that you have a bit too much sand—simply remove some and try again.

A child writes a letter in a sand writing tray.

3. Now for the best part. When you’re ready to erase the marks you’ve made, gently shake the tray, lid, or plate side-to-side and you’ll find yourself with a fresh canvas in a few seconds flat!

4. Once your child has had some open-ended time to experiment with the tray, try adding in your letter, number or word cards to extend the activity.

Ask your little one to copy what he or she sees on the card, remembering to start at the top of each number and letter. This is a great hands-on way to work on letter and number formation. As long as your tray is big enough, it’s a fun way for older kids to practice spelling words too.

A child draws a letter d in a beach-themed writing tray.

Remember, it's fun to get creative with your writing trays! Create new ones based on the season or your little one’s interests.

If you’re a teacher, here’s an idea—pour inexpensive table salt into a class set of colourful plastic plates, stack them up and tuck them away in your cupboard for printing practice and other writing activities. Prep-free and so much more fun than pencil and paper worksheets!


Article Author Jen Kossowan
Jen Kossowan

See all of Jen's posts.

Jen is a teacher, blogger, and mama to a spirited little lady and a preemie baby boy. She's passionate about play, loves a good DIY project, adores travelling, and can often be found in the kitchen creating recipes that meet her crunchy mama criteria. You can follow Jen on her blog, Mama.Papa.Bubba, and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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