Desert Sand Writing Tray. Plus free printable desert themed Word Cards

Dec 16, 2014

dubai tourism platinum heritage shangri-la hotel bloggerati australia 1001 events

dubai getaway

Whilst in Dubai, I was fortunate to experience a really incredible Heritage Desert Safari and Dinner with Platinum Heritage. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip and an absolute must-do if you visit Dubai.

One of the things that I noticed about the sand in the Arabian Desert was just how powder-fine it was. Not coarse like most of our experiences with sand. Running it through your fingers and squeezing it between your toes was a real sensory experience and whilst the sand on top could get very hot, underneath it was beautiful and cold.

Taking this sensory experience further, when I came home I made my daughter a sand writing tray. She is really into writing these days so any chance for her to practice her reading and writing, work on letter formation/handwriting and learn and practice new words, I will jump at.

As I've just been in the desert, this was a great opportunity for us to talk about the desert, my experience and other extreme environments. To complement the activity, I made a little set of cards with desert themed words on them for her to practice reading and writing. It never hurts to add extra words to their vocabulary and these words will bring up other discussions and learning points. You can get your own copy below.

Click this link to get your set of --> printable desert themed word cards. You can then choose to print or download the set onto your computer.

Maddie (almost 6) loved the feel of the cool sand. I just used some of the play sand out of our sandpit and sieved it to get the finest grains of sand through and leave out the little bits of tanbark etc. that end up in our sandpit. You could use play sand, kinetic sand or even salt if you have no sand available, for a similar sensory literacy activity. You don't need a lot, just a thin layer of the sand on a tray of contrasting colour (so that lines can easily be made and seen in it) will be fine.

As they write, encourage children to consider their letter formation and where we start and finish our letters. They should also think about their spacing. How many letters are in the word and therefore how big can their letters be?

At the beginning of the activity, have children read and sound out the words. Even a large word that one might consider too difficult for beginners, like "conservation," is one that early readers can attempt. By breaking the word into "chunks" or small groups of letters, it is easier to sounds out, ie. con-ser-va-tion. Take it further: for older children, you can ask them to think of other words that contain "tion" in them. Does that combination of letters usually make that same sound? 

These are all lessons that are helpful for children, whether or not they "need" to be learning about conservation as such.. (although, when's not a good time to learn about conservation?). The scope of learning and the invaluable practice of skills make a simple activity such as this, very beneficial to children. The sand, tray and use of finger are what make the activity something that would appeal to children and make them more likely to want to learn and practice these things. They're just having fun.

To start a new word, lightly shake the tray. It is fun to watch the word slowly disappear into the sand. (For younger children, I recommend a tray with deeper sides so that it's less likely to get shaken or tipped off.)

Here are a few more pictures from my amazing desert safari.

Thanks to Mel from One Crafty Mumma for this picture
My Mox shoes provided a nice pop of colour and allowed the sand to slip in and out easily. Great for a light but fully enclosed shoe. Thanks to Mox for sending me this great new mint colour to take with me to Dubai.

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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dubai getaway dubai tourism platinum heritage shangri-la hotel bloggerati australia 1001 events


  1. That sand was divinely fine!

  2. What a fab idea Deb! And I just love your photos of the safari, the one of you and Felicity is awesome!

  3. haha, you took it! Thanks for that pic, love it too.

  4. Did I take it? Are you sure? haha I can't remember and we weren't even drinking.

  5. LOVE the sand writing idea, must put this on the list to do with my boys :) Gorgeous photos in the dessert, looks like so much fun!

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  17. This looks like a great idea to make your kids learn new words. However, isn’t this a little unhygienic? I mean, at the end of the day, it is sand! My daughter is sensitive and she falls sick very quickly, so I may not prefer this recommendation. Last year, she got so sick that I had to take the Dissertation Literature Review Writing Service online . So ya! No risks. Love the pictures though!!

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