Here is a unique, free, and beautiful sensory writing tray filler to try! Children will love cutting and tearing the pine needles for this activity. Once its ready, children can practice writing letters, words, and other prewriting strokes in the fragrant pine needles. This is the perfect way to work on fine motor skills this holiday season!
There are so many advantages to using a sensory writing tray! Children get to use multiple senses while learning and playing which means you can suit any child’s learning style. Children love smelling the pine, moving their fingers in the tray and touching the needles. I promise, they aren’t sharp and my boys didn’t complain about how they feel.
Another reason I love sensory writing trays is because they appeal to children of all ages and are a naturally differentiated activity. Preschoolers can work on prewriting skills and mark making, while older children can work on writing alphabet letters and even spelling words!
Ready to make one? Here’s what you’ll need….
- Pine Needles
- Tray- We repurposed a Melissa and Doug play dough container for this activity
- Optional- Branches, stones, beads clothespins and sensory tray writing prompts
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RELATED: Check out Fall Leaf Sensory Writing Tray
Here’s What We Did:
We used all of the pine needles from the Pine Needle Sweep activity and had to collect a few more fallen pine branches from our yard because the sensory tray required extra pine needles.
My boys helped me cut and tear the pine needles off the branches for extra fine motor work. I added some red beads to make the tray look a little more festive!
I also included a paintbrush in case my boys didn’t want to use their fingers in the pine needles, but they enjoyed both methods.
My four year old liked making large strokes with the paintbrush. He swept all of the pine needles to one side and then the other of the sensory writing tray.
I wasn’t worried about him making letters because there are so many benefits to just using a paintbrush. When holding on to a paintbrush, children build fine motor skills because it requires them to use a pincher grasp to hold the paintbrush. It also encourages them to move their hand, wrist and arm to create an image.
He also liked filling in the empty spaces with the red beads. They looked like holiday berries in the tray!
My six year old was a little more precise. He enjoyed making letters and filling them in with the red beads.
Leo liked watching his older brother make different letters, so he joined in and helped him fill in the letters with beads.
I taught them how to put the beads back in the jar and then shake the pine needles in the tray to start over for a new letter. They were busy for a long time with this activity!
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I hope you give this simple sensory writing tray a try! I promise, your little nature lovers will love it as much as my boys.
Looking for more winter activity ideas?! Check out:
A Simple and Adorable Holiday Wreath for Kids
Winter Small World Play Using Natural Materials