Where the Wild Things Are Sand Tray Activity

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Where the Wild Things Are is one of my favourite children’s books of all time, so I am thrilled that it’s this month’s selection for the Virtual Book Club for Kids!

Ella and I did a few fun Where the Wild Things Are activities after reading the book, and today we’re going to share with you a Montessori sand tray activity that is great for early math skills and pre-readers.

The Real Meaning Behind Where the Wild Things Are - and an early math and pre-writing activity using the Montessori Sand Tray! A great book-inspired activity for preschoolers.

First, I’d love to delve into the meat of the book a bit.

Where the Wild Things Are starts off with a young boy named Max causing some typical-kid trouble. He is sent to his room without supper (keep in mind this book was written in 1963) and so he decides to travel off to the land of the Wild Things.

A keen reading will show you that the pictures of the book get progressively bigger as Max’s actions get wilder and climax in a wild rumpus Where the Wild Things Are – eventually taking over the “civilization” of the printed word, and consuming the whole page.

As Max begins to miss his home (“where someone loved him best of all”), he can smell the good things to eat. He sails home to find his food still hot, with the wild pictures taking up less of the book’s area – the wildness is retreating. (The “still hot” food is a beautiful metaphor for him returning back to behaving and realizing that he is still unconditionally loved, despite his brief foray into being the King of All Wild Things.

Where the Wild Things Are Activity - Pre-writing and math activity using simple materials you probably already have at home (plus an explanation into the hidden meanings of the book!)

For this activity, we focused on controlling big and small hand movements – making shapes progressively bigger and smaller in a sand tray.

Materials for Sand Tray Activity:

  • Cue cards with different shapes or letters drawn on
  • 2 cue cards with “bigger” or “smaller” written on them (you can alternatively make one set of these for each shape)
  • Deep tray
  • Coloured sand, cornmeal, or other similar texture
  • Comb or scraping tool for “resetting”

Where the Wild Things Are Book Activity: setting up the Montessori sand tray

Have your child start off by tracing the shape into the sand. Encourage them to look at the example cue cards to check their work – does their shape have the same number of sides as the example? Are their lines straight or curved like the example?

Have your child “reset” the sand by carefully combing over it – we use a clean dish scrapers for this task.

Next, encourage them to make a bigger or smaller version of the shape they just made.

Where the Wild Things Are Book Activity: tracing shapes in the Montessori Sand tray - bigger and smaller prompts

“Bigger” and “smaller” are essential math concepts for children to understand, as is shape recognition.

The tracing element of this activity is great for budding writers, as the gritty sand provides a powerful sensory stimulation to their finger muscles, which helps them prepare to make steady lines and curves when writing letters.

You could of course do this activity with letters instead of shapes, if your child already has familiarity with letters. If your child is not that comfortable with letters, I find that shapes are more neutral territory.

Where the Wild Things Are Book Activity: resetting the Montessori Sand tray

This post is part of the 2015-2016 Virtual Book Club for Kids.

Every month we will feature a fun and educational children’s book activity, and link to several other blogs sharing an activity from the same book.

Here is the schedule so you can read along with us:


Be sure to check out the Where the Wild Things Are Activities from the rest of the Virtual Book Club for Kids!

Monster Hands Alphabet Match from Toddler Approved

Mapping Backyard Habitats from Rainy Day Mum

Where the Wild Things Are Gross Motor from 3 Dinosaurs

Make a Wild Thing With Shapes from Still Playing School

Where the Wild Things Are Wild Word Rompus from Growing Book to Book

Name Crown from The Pleasantest Thing

Wild Things Scented Monster Play Dough from Preschool Powol Packets

Where the Wild Things Are Treats from I Can Teach My Child

 Monster Glyphs from Inspiration Laboratories

Where the Wild Things Are Counting Game from Mom Inspired Life

Colour Tree Game from The Educator’s Spin on It

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  1. I love your beautiful sand tray and “Where the Wild Things Are” is a fun book to read! I remember that book as a child. Thanks for explaining how the sand tray helps to develop the skills for writing.

  2. I just love sand tray work. It it how Bulldozer finally learned how to write. I’ve never thought about the concepts of bigger and smaller while reading the book in this post. Thank you for adding new meaning to a great story!

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