The children are very interested in the sand tray in the school. We have two sand trays which allow the child to trace various numerals and letters. Once given a lesson on the name of the number or the sound of the letter, they trace the sandpaper to feel the shape and then trace it in the sand. This gives the child the opportunity to practice writing letters/numbers before writing them on paper. We have heard various shouts of joy when a child writes a "three!" or a "zero!" in the sand tray! They are excited to be able to produce what is on the card themselves.
This activity prepares the hand for writing, gives a stereognostic impression of the letter or numeral and gives the child the satisfaction of doing it themselves.