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  • Gina

How to DYE Salt for Sensory Play

In this BLOG Post I will teach you how to dye salt for sensory play, ways to extend your learning and storage tips and tricks.

Head to our Instagram page to see more ways to learn & play at home or in the classroom! We love to see you play & share the joy of hands-on crafts & activities at home. Be sure to tag @aplayfilledlife on Instagram or Facebook if you try any of our ideas!!

XO Gina

Salt trays offer a multi-sensory approach to learning. Utilizing this approach is highly engaging, reduces frustration and can be differentiated in so many ways! Sensory play is so fun for kids and this method of practicing writing is sure to engage their senses and get them interested in learning!

If you have a resistant writer, try this! It is a low risk, high reward activity. If you make a mistake, that's OK, just brush it away!

Salt trays are perfect for practicing:

  • Pre-Writing Skills

  • Mark making

  • Letters

  • Numbers

  • Shapes

  • Sight words

  • Consonant-Vowel-Consonant words

  • Your name

  • Cursive

What are Pre-Writing Skills:

Pre-writing skills are the lines and shapes that make up the basis of all letters and numbers. Pre-writing strokes should be practiced frequently in the early years.

Examples of Pre-writing strokes are:

  • Vertical Line

  • Horizontal Line

  • Circle Shape

  • Cross Shape

  • Square Shape

  • Right/Left Diagonal Line

  • X Shape

  • Triangle

It can also be so very calming. The sensory benefits paired with the academic instruction is absolutely amazing.

It is also inexpensive. Grab salt and food coloring from your local Dollar Store if you can. You can also skip the food coloring if you want and just use it as is.

If your child or student is sensory sensitive, try doing this activity using a dry paintbrush to practice writing in the salt, instead of your finger!


  • 1 cup of salt 

  • Food coloring

  • Ziploc bag or container with lid

  • Baking dish lined with parchment paper

  • Measuring spoon

  • Sensory tray or bowl

Step 1: Pour the salt into the bag or container. 

Step 2: Squirt in food coloring. Start with 5 drops for 1 cup of salt.  Add more if you want a deeper color.

Step 3: Seal bag or put lid on container, then shake well until color is fully incorporated! 

Step 4: Spread the salt out on a baking dish and let dry for 1 hour. Repeat the above steps for multiple colors.

Step 5: Drop it on your sensory tray or bowl and PLAY!!!

This is a great recipe to make with your child. They will work on following directions, patience, measuring and more. Plus, you get to share in the special 1:1 time together!

Ways to Extend Your Learning and Play:

  • Provide flashcards (alphabet, numbers or sight words) and practice writing them in the salt tray.

  • Provide flashcards with pre-writing strokes.  Practice writing them in the salt tray.

  • Tape down a piece of construction paper on the tray.  Write letters, numbers or words all around it.  Layer the salt on top and use a dry paintbrush to push the salt around and find what is hidden underneath.

  • Use plastic or wooden shapes and press them into the salt.  Practice recreating the shape with your finger or a dry paintbrush.

  • Pour the salt into plastic bottles with lids and make salt art jars.

  • Squirt glue on a piece of construction paper and sprinkle the colorful salt on top. Make a collage, picture or even practice your letters, shapes, numbers or words!

APFL Tips:

  • Use a thin layer of salt in the tray. If it is too thick, it will be harder to make the marks.

  • When you are dying the salt, be sure to break up any clumps of food coloring/salt. If not, when you are writing it in it, there will be color transfer.

  • If you want to add an extra layer of sensory goodness to your tray, add a few drops of essential oils.

Storage and Shelf Life:

Store in an airtight container. The salt will last for years if kept dry and clean. It may harden over time. Simply break it up and use it again!

You get to decide what is safe and manageable in your home. Always monitor young children and pets' around sensory play.


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