Literacy at Home: Salt Tracing

It’s easy to help your children build their early literacy skills at home! There are five practices that do this: talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing.

Salt Tracing is a really simple activity that you can do with minimal materials which supports all of the practices except singing (although we bet you could build some singing into it)!

What do you need:

  • 8 x 8 dish or square container (tupperware works too!)
  • Table Salt
  • Flash cards
  • Coloured paper (if you are using a glass or clear container)
  • Fingers!


  1. On a deck of flash cards or some pieces of paper, write out each letter of the alphabet. You will want to start by introducing only capital/uppercase letters on the flash cards at first, and then integrate the lowercase letters at a later date. Uppercase letters are easier for children to learn first because they generally have more unique shapes while many lowercase letters are similar to one another.
  2. Find a safe place to station your activity such as on a table or a spot on the floor. Although this is usually a tidy activity, it does have the potential to get messy if your dish gets knocked over!
  3. Fill your dish up with table salt so that there is a ¼ of an inch of salt covering the full pan. If you are using a glass or clear container, place your 8×8 pan on top of a coloured piece of paper to help the letters POP out.
  4. Place the flash cards beside the dish and in front of your child. Have them first trace the lines on the paper before they move to tracing them into the salt. This is an activity that the child will need help with at the beginning. You may need to demonstrate it a few times for them, so they can see what you are doing, and support them while they are first beginning. Sound out the letter while they are tracing it out in the salt and have them repeat the sounds/names of the letters back to you. This will create an auditory and tactile memory for their alphabet learning.
  5. If your child ends up creating their own pictures in the salt, that is okay! Tactile play is great for children. You can ask them about the images they are tracing and if they put a name to their picture, find a letter in your flash cards associated with that picture. Example: If your child says “I’m drawing a circle,” find the letter “C” for circle and talk about that. Letting them play with the salt while presenting the letters will create a tactile memory for the letter!
  6. Pro tip: you can reuse the salt for this activity! Put a lid on the container, or slid it into a bag and keep it for the next time you are doing salt tracing.

Bonus activity:

Set up two dishes, one for uppercase letters and one for lowercase letters. Fill one dish with salt and one with sugar. After your child is done playing, have them place one wet finger in the salt and one in the sugar then get them to lick it off. Have them identify the flavours as sweet vs. salty! *Make sure you have a cup of water on hand just in case they really don’t like the flavours.