Heart and hand prints in the salt tray in prek

I recently shared how we have started writing in the salt tray and I have to say, my kids love the salt trays.  I have learned a few things about using a salt tray and have been exploring a few additional ideas  to keep the salt tray experience interesting to my class…

What I have learned

The amount of salt you place in the tray makes a difference. I received an email from one of my readers and she gave me permission to share her salt tray tips and this photo with you (see below)

Nancy Earnest says…

“We use a salt tray in our classroom and encourage the children to use just their fingers in the tray (vs sensory table when it has sand which is whole hand). Our salt tray has only about 1/3 cup of salt in it so that they get a visual of what they “write” in the tray.  Having a dark color on the bottom of the container is valuable.  Dark colored cake pans or cookie sheets work fine. And yes it does take some self control for them not to put their whole hand in.  It happens but they gradually work towards appropriate use.”

Nancy's Salt Tray

I just love the tray Nancy uses in her classroom and after reading Nancy’s thoughtful insight to the salt tray, I went back and thinned down the amount of salt I had in each tray. Nancy was right, using less salt in the trays works much better for printing in the salt. I also found two sturdy boxes to use for my salt boxes. I set out the new salt boxes and a few heart shaped cookie cutters to let the children explore both printing and writing…

The children loved making prints with the hearts in our salt boxes. I added the heart shaped cookie cutters since we were talking about the shape of a heart in our lesson for the day…

I am going to keep my salt boxes as our “permanent” salt boxes but because I only had two salt boxes and four children wanted to play, I went ahead and spread the salt between four trays so each of the children could have their own salt tray to work with at the writing table…

I have already seen an improvement in the children’s use of the salt trays. One little boy eagerly practiced writing all the letters in his name – when he completed each letter he would shout, “Look Mrs. Stewart – I made a Z!”…

The children printed hearts, and made letters for quite some time before moving on to other things.  I was very surprised when one of our boys came up with this super cute handprint with a heart shape in the middle then all the children wanted to give it a try…

Of course, watching the children make their heart and hand prints got me thinking that the “heart in the hand” would make a super cute art project for Valentine’s day too!!


Some of my students discovered that if you lightly shake the salt tray, the lines and shapes go away so you can start again…

I will continue to share the salt boxes (or trays) with the children and continue to encourage them to work on writing the words they know along the way. We are all learning something new from this experience each time we try it…

By |2012-01-27T06:53:55+00:00January 27th, 2012|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Leeanne A January 27, 2012 at 7:06 am - Reply

    Great tips – thanks for the update!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 27, 2012 at 7:11 am - Reply

      You are welcome Leeanne:)

  2. Esther January 27, 2012 at 8:25 am - Reply

    I have never heard of Salt trays! Great ideas! We have to do it! My daughter would love it!

  3. Roopa@putti prapancha January 27, 2012 at 9:25 am - Reply

    Love the use of cookie cutters!! And that ‘heart in a hand’ is super cute:)

  4. Vanessa January 27, 2012 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Wonderful! I used the same basic idea on a light table with my three year old and he was quite interested. Thanks!

  5. Melissa @ The Chocolate Muffin Tree January 27, 2012 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    Salt tray looks like so much fun! We’ll need to try this soon!

  6. Stephanie January 27, 2012 at 6:28 pm - Reply

    I love your yellow trays. They seem to be the prefect size. I have some trays but they are bigger. Where did you get your trays?

  7. Miss Eileen January 27, 2012 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    Have you had problems with the salt drying out your student’s hands? I did a salt tray a number of years ago and I remember having problems with very dried out, uncomfortable skin – I haven’t tried it again since, but I’m tempted! : )

  8. Having fun with our kids January 28, 2012 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Nice salt tray activity. It’s like a home made magna doodle. Nice activity.


  9. Allison January 28, 2012 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    Great idea about having a dark background under the salt, thanks!

  10. Mariss February 6, 2012 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    I love the idea as well.. but all I can think of is OUCH if the kids have any sort of cut or scratch that would be exposed to the salt. What could be used in place of salt that would work as well? Or am I just being too over protective? lol

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 7, 2012 at 12:42 am - Reply

      We have been using the salt quite a bit and no “ouches” so far! You could possibly use some sand (white sand)!

  11. tricia February 7, 2012 at 2:17 am - Reply

    I’m running a montessori post soon on using sensory trays- we use colored sand- but the salt is so pretty! The images are really nice here- Congrats on top 9!!!

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