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Simple Chinese New Year Sand Writing Tray for Toddlers and Preschoolers

For our Chinese New Year Theme with our Rainy Day Tots we have a sand tray activity that you can set up and use with our featured book Dragon Dance by Joan Holub to practice some writing and prewriting skills with your toddlers and preschoolers. So here we go our easy low prep sand tray Chinese New Year Activity for your toddlers and preschoolers.

Toddler and Preschool Sand Writing Tray inspired by Dragon Dance

Sand Trays for Writing Practice

Sand trays are one of our favourite ways to work on pre-writing and letter formation skills with our toddlers and preschoolers.

Extension activity for the book Pinkalicious by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann with this Pinkalicious Sand Tray ideal for pre-writing practice in preschool.
mark making with pencils developing preschool writing skills

They are easy to set up and provide an experience for mark-making that is also sensory.

Using a Sand Tray with Toddlers

With toddlers, we prefer to use sand in our tray than salt which we have seen elsewhere as from our own experience some toddlers will put everything in their mouths.

We also remove the tools and let them start out using their fingers to make marks in the sand.

As they get older and progress to preschoolers we provide tools like paintbrushes, feathers, pencils and sticks to “write” with. As well as prompts like the pages of the book or an alphabet.

chinese new year writing the letter D from the front cover of Dragon Dance in a sand tray

For our Chinese New Year theme, we used the letters on the cover as well as the symbols within the book to copy and make the marks in the sand.

finding chinese symbols in the book dragon dance and using making them in the sand of a simple Montessori sand tray

Looking for crafts for the Chinese New Year for kids check out these Year of the Tiger Crafts for 2022

Materials Needed for your Chinese New Year Sand Tray

We have included affiliate links to some of the products and resources as an associate we may earn from qualifying purchases.

  • Small Tray – we use a sorting tray like this set it’s really good value and comes with 5 different colours perfect for using for different themes.
  • Coloured Sand – we have bottles we use for the sand tray and crafts like this set
  • Paint Brush for older toddlers and preschoolers – part of this set we have for all of our crafts

Copy of Dragon Dance by Joan Holub or another book about the Chinese New Year for toddlers and preschoolers.

Materials for your sand writing tray on a Chinese New Year theme

You could add some gold glitter to the sand tray if you wanted to add some sparkle but as we only have biodegradable glitter we did not want to use it for this purpose.


  1. Pour the sand into the tray.
  2. Set it up on a clear surface with the book and paintbrush.
prewriting skills as part of a Chinese New Year theme with toddlers and preschoolers using books and symbols for inspiration

Using the Chinese New Year Sand Tray

We sat down together and I started by pointing to the D of the title of the book. Then copied it into the sand.

Our toddlers copied as well making lines and curves with their fingers.

With the preschoolers, we picked out the Chinese symbols for Good from the banners that lift in the book and used those to copy into the sand.

Copying Chinese Symbols from the Dragon Dance Book to write in the sand tray

In our Rainy Day Tots Facebook Group, we have also shared a copy of the symbols for each of the animals of the Chinese Zodiac that you could print and cut up and use in the activity as well.

More Chinese New Year Activities and Crafts for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Free Printable Chinese New Year I Spy Sheets for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Chinese New Year Craft

Looking for more ideas to use with your toddlers and preschoolers about Chinese New Year theme check out these 2 simple ideas

book based activities - chinese new year Dragon Dance by Joan Holub inspired montessori sand writing tray activity for toddlers and preschoolers

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