How to make pre writing exciting and fun

If you’re reading this article, you are most likely looking for ways to help your child learn writing. Using a sand tray writing is a fun activity that will help your child to develop motoric skills necessary for handwriting. Sand tray writing is not just for children! Try it for yourself and you might be surprised how much you can learn about your inner life.

There’s something about drawing in sand. Most people just love it. If you live near a beach, you can do drawing on a large scale with your hands and feet, otherwise a sand tray will do just fine.

What you need to set up your sand tray?

Sand Tray

  • any tray with high edges about A3 size (plastic tray, food tray, baking tray…)
  • sand or ground rice or corn flower
  • a straight edge that fits the tray size (like a ruler or a think piece of wood)
  • 3 sets of tracing cards (set A, set B and set C)

I’m going to use a serving tray I bought at Wilko. It’s made of wood and has a grip handle on each side which helps to lift and hold the tray. I used a bag of rice flour from a supermarket. Some people recommend using salt but salt tends to absorb moisture from the air and get soggy after a while. To smooth the sand/flour by shaking the tray a little or use a straight edge (ruler) to smooth the surface.

How to print your free printable tracing cards

Please download free printable tracing cards. There are three sets of cards and printing instructions included.

Cards are intentionally created as A4 size so that everyone can scale the size down as they wish. Please, set your printing properties according to the pictures below. Always check the preview in the bottom right corner before you press print to avoid wasting ink and paper.

Printing settings to print 2 cards on one sheet
Printing settings to print 2 cards on one sheet
Printing settings to print 4 cards on one sheet
Printing settings to print 4 cards on one sheet

Before you give this activity to your child or before you get absorbed in tracing shapes in the sand yourself, ask yourself a question, “What is hand writing?”

What is hand writing?

What a stupid question. Handwriting is words on paper, right? Actually, there’s more to it than meets the eye. The words that you see on a sheet of paper are a recording of a movement. If you walk on snow or sand, your feet will leave footprints. Handwriting is a recording of a movement that happened in the past. Movement happens and a pen leaves a mark.

Writing and drawing is a recording of a movement that happened in the past

There’s a surface, a paper and your hand that moves and there’s a pen between you and the paper. By using a sand tray, you remove the middleman, the writing tool so it’s just you and a surface. You experience the movement directly. For children it’s especially important because they haven’t mastered holding a pen perfectly yet and if they focus on holding a writing tool, they can’t focus on writing itself.

Why is important to learn cursive writing

I’m from the Czech Republic. All Czech kids had been traditionally taught cursive writing at school.

Czech cursive writing
Czech cursive writing

In recent years there has been a tendency to move towards Western models and introduce Comenia Script which is modern and easy to learn and read. This type of writing is commonly used in the UK and many other countries so why not?

Comenia Script
Example of Comenia Script

At first, I was thrilled because at the age of 10 I started using writing similar to type and have been using it since, despite my teacher’s disapproval. I changed my view completely about two years ago after reading a book by Vimala Rogers: Your Handwriting Can Change Your Life (Your Handwriting Can Change Your Life! on amazon.com, Your Handwriting Can Change Your Life on amazon.co.uk
). The next day I went back to my hand writing after more than 20 years and it was hard. But my life changed just like she promised.

There is a very good reason why not to use type script for handwriting. The cursive script has two major components, more curves and ligatures, that connect one letters together within a word.

Many psychologists and experienced pedagogues warn that using writing without ligatures has a very negative impact on child’s emotional and psychological development. More than ever, I believe they have a point.

Male and female energy and your left and right brain

Writing is a recorded movement of your hand, remember? That movement isn’t purely mechanical. Your hand is instructed by your brain which is affected by your emotional and mental states. If you’re stressed or frustrated of rushed, your handwriting changes. Even putting a signature down is a challenge if you’re stressed out before taking a test. Your emotions have a huge impact on your writing. But it works other way around too.

Emotions affect motion. Motion affects emotions.

Our Universe consists of male and female energy. Male energy moves in straight lines whereas female energy moves in curves. Handwriting is moving your hand in curves and straight lines. Our western society is predominated with male energy (left brain). There’s too much of it and it created imbalances. Have a look at two examples of handwriting mentioned above and compare the two scripts. Which one has more curves and which one has more straight lines? See my point? And that’s just a shape of the letters. Ligatures that connect one letter to another are just as important for our brain functions.

The way you write has a direct impact on your emotions and mental states.

Explore how writing affects your feelings

Time to use your sand tray! Hope you downloaded and printed the ultimate collection of free tracing cards. There are three sets. Set A are shapes made of lines and angles – yes, you guess right, that’s the left brain male energy set. Set B are waves and curves – the female right brain energy set. Set C is the two combined together, curves and straight lines.

Let’s do some sand tray writing!

Using a sand tray

  • Start with Set A.
  • Put cards on a pile pictures up.
  • Smooth the sand in your tray either by shaking the tray or using a ruler.
  • Take a few deep breaths and focus inward. Take your time and don’t rush.
  • Trace the first shape in sand and pay attention to feelings and sensations that occur in your body.
  • Smooth the surface again.
  • Put the top card on a side face down.
  • Repeat the tracing process with the next card
  • After you finish set A, do the same with set B and compare how you feel.
  • You should be able to tell the difference. If not, repeat the process again till you can.

Your child is most likely more sensitive that you are! The shapes you choose for your daughter or son will affect how they feel or behave. Choose carefully which cards you give them based on the difficulty but also balance set A and set B. If a child is slow and not active enough, choose more card from set A. If your child is hyperalert and needs calming down, choose more cards from set B. Set C combines both energies.

Conclusion

Using a sand tray writing activities is easy and fun but it can be much more. For you, it can become a tool for exploring your own emotions and inner states. Your child will focus primarily on mastering the shapes and physical activity but lines and curves will affect their emotions just as well. The type of handwriting your children learn at school can has an impact on their psychological and emotional development.

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