Pumpkin Spice Salt Tray

 Activity for ages 3 to 6.

Salt tray writing is a super simple, multi-sensory way to encourage prewriting skills or practice forming letters and words.  The addition of a little orange food color and a dash of pumpkin pie spice had my 2.5 and 4.5 year old clambering to get their hands on our pumpkin spice salt tray.

How to Make a Pumpkin Spice Salt Tray

Pumpkin Spice Salt

To make the pumpkin pie spice salt, pour about 2 cups plain salt into a ziploc baggie.  You’ll need enough to provide a solid layer on your baking sheet or tray but not too much that the salt it too deep to write in.  Add several drops of orange food color (or 1 drop red and 2 drops yellow} to the Ziploc, seal the baggie, then shake and knead it until the food color is dispersed.

In this case, regular liquid food color {or liquid watercolor} works better than gel food color.  The gel food color tends to clump, leaving dark spots of salt that can dye your child’s fingers if they choose to squish them.

Once you’ve reached the desired shade of orange pour your salt onto a baking sheet with a lip and leave it to dry.  To speed up drying, I placed ours in the oven set at 100 degrees for 15 minutes.  Once it dried, I sprinkled a teaspoon or so of pumpkin pie spice {a mix of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg} over the salt in the tray, mixed it around a little with my fingers, evened out the salt and we were ready to play.

Pumpkin Spiced Salt Tray

Ways to Play with the Salt Tray

For my 2.5 year old, I let him explore the salt then showed him how he could make circles and lines in it.  He’s just learning his letters so teaching him how to make a line or a curve will help him recognize these components of letters.


For my almost 5 year old, A, who is a whiz with reading sight words, I decided she could use a little practice writing them.  I grabbed a small pumpkin we had and quickly wrote a ton of simple sight words all over it with a permanent maker.  When A came to play I had her close her eyes and point to a word, then write that word on her tray.  At first she wasn’t too thrilled with closing her eyes.  With Halloween still on her mind I think she was expecting a trick of some sort.


But after she realized it was all for fun, she couldn’t wait to try to find all the words on the pumpkin.  She zipped through over a dozen words only stopping long enough to jiggle the tray to even the salt for the next word.


After another dozen or so words she stopped to draw dinosaurs and then we cleaned up for lunch.


To clean up, I dumped both trays into a shallow Rubbermade storage bin, added measuring cups and a bowl, and let the kids simply play.  After we use the salt a few more times for writing practice, we’ll use it as a fragrant glitter substitute in some fall crafts that’ll have our house smelling delicious!

Find More

For more fall themed fun, make our 4 fall playdough recipes and build some fall candy patterns.


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  1. Jackie

    I love this idea! I do have a question about using salt. Have you ever had your child accidently get salt in their eye? I worry about using salt with my students. However, I’m afraid sugar might attract mice or ants. I was thinking about possible mixing salt and sugar.

    • Noirin Lynch

      Hi Jackie,

      I haven’t had any problems with it getting in eyes but if your kiddos have a boo boo on their finger it can sting. You could try colored sand and then just add some pumpkin pie spice for scent.


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Hi, I’m Malia.

I LOVE helping Pre-K, Kindergarten and First Grade teachers save time, stay inspired and give EVERY student bigger results. I’m so glad you’re here!

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