The child traces the letters on dry & fine sand.

The Sand Tray

The Sand Tray


The child reinforces muscular memory of letter shapes.


Further develop the visual and muscular memory of the letter shapes




  • A set of sandpaper letters
  • A small tray with the sand

Control of Error

The sandpaper letters


The phonic sounds of the letters


The Sand Tray

After you and the child have washed your hands, set up the table with the box containing the sandpaper letter cards.

Choose two or three letters that the child is already completely familiar with — perhaps some from his name. Using one letter at a time, place the letter in front of the child, trace it and sound it out. Now, turn the letter over and trace it in the sand. Turn the sandpaper letter card over once again and use it for control of error.

Shake the tray until the sand appears evenly flat, then pass the tray to the child who can trace the letter by himself.

When a teacher has a child see and touch the letters of the alphabet, three sensations come into play simultaneously: sight, touch and kinaesthetic (muscular) sensation. This is why the image of the graphic symbol is fixed in the mind much more quickly than when it is acquired through sight in the ordinary methods.
—Maria Montessori in The Discovery of the Child


Here I have used a baking tray; any other plain tray can be used. Semolina can replace the commonly used sand, or why not use coloured/fluorescent fine sand! This little trick might invite the child to use the tray more frequently.