Hands-on Montessori prewriting activities, such as dyed sand tracing trays, allow toddlers and preschoolers to practice fine motor control and develop pre-writing strokes.
Hands-on Montessori prewriting activities, such as DIY tracing trays with dyed sand, rice, salt, or sugar, help children develop fine motor control, hand-eye coordination, and pincer hand muscles, which are fundamental for writing and many other important practical life skills.
Sensitive Period for Small Objects
Young children between the age of one and three-and-a-half are experiencing an intense sensitive period for small objects. During this sensitive period, a child is fixated on small objects and tiny details, indicating that a child’s mind is able to discern order and particularities. Just like myelination during infancy, where a protective myelin sheath of insulation is formed around the nerve fibers, allowing electrochemical messages to travel from the brain to the muscles, a young child needs movement.
In fact, fine motor movement promotes brain development, the hand being the chief teacher of the child. And interestingly, during this sensitive stage, the fixated interest in small objects will ultimately lead to the development of fine motor control and the pincer grasp. Thus,
He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence… [However,] never give to the mind more than you give to the hand.Dr. Montessori
Thus, before your child learns to hold a pencil for the first time, s/he needs sufficient fine motor control and hand strength to be able to attempt the pre-writing strokes. So, we need to prepare the hand to hold a pen or a pencil way before your child is able to write! The best way to do it is through simple and engaging invitations to play and various sensorial hands-on Montessori prewriting activities.
PRE-WRITING Shapes and strokes
A major component of pre-writing skills is pre-writing shapes. These are the pencil strokes that most letters, numbers, and early drawings are comprised of. They are typically mastered in sequential order and to an age-specific level. These strokes include the following strokes: |, —, O, +, /, square, X, and Δ. So, tracing and forming proper strokes (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal) has a positive effect on handwriting abilities, as tracing lines are the prerequisite to letter formation!
DYED SAND TRACING TRAY
If you think of it, all alphabet letters and numbers are made out of lines and curves. And, the very first line your little one will master at about two years of age is a vertical line, followed by a horizontal line, then slowly mastering curves in a circle, and finally being skillful at / slanted lines. So, to gain muscle control and memory, setting up inviting and hands-on Montessori prewriting activities is not only fun but effective in allowing children to practice these important skills.
YOU’LL NEED for Dyed Sand Tracing Tray
- Pre-Writing Strokes strips which are a part of the WINTER MEGA Activity pack
- laminating machine or an iron (see HERE how to use an iron instead)
- corner rounder (optional)
- sand (if collected from the beach, sieve small stones and shells prior to using)
- a recycled jar
- silver metallic paint (optional)
- 1 drop of blue food coloring (a little goes a long way!)
- glitter (optional)
- small rakes
- a tray
Dyed Sand Tracing Tray Tips
First, print, laminate, and cut the pre-writing strips [PAGE 25-25]. Then, dye the sand according to the video instructions. Let dry. Pour dyed sand in a tracing tray and model a child to follow and trace the pre-writing strokes. (Optional: lay a contrasting paper under the sand for color-pop.)
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DYED SAND TRACING TRAY ALTERNATIVES & TIPS
- for TASTE SAFE alternative, instead of SAND, use SALT or SUGAR
- Instead of silver paint, use white paint. I did not want the blue color to be intense but rather silvery blue, like ice/glacier/snow, so I added silver paint. But feel free to skip the paint completely and just add less food coloring.
- RICE is also a FUN tracing medium
Always Supervise Your Child!
Have you ever tried making a Dyed Sand Tracing Tray? Leave a comment if you did.
MORE Hands-on Montessori prewriting activities
SEE DETAILS on PRE-WRITING STROKES HERE
LEFT TO RIGHT PROGRESSION
Montessori prewriting activities also offer your little one an opportunity to learn/practice left to right progression. Moving left to right is a valuable skill that sometimes goes unnoticed since it is so natural to us adults. However, it is not intuitive to little people, and a lot has to happen in their brains to move objects with their hands as well as eyes from left to right. We want to practice this skill because this is how we read and write.
You can also offer loose items during Montessori prewriting activities to add novelty and fun to your tracing practice.
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