Monday, November 28, 2011

Sensory Table Ideas

Sensory table activities can be so messy but they provide such wonderful learning opportunities for children that a little mess is well worth the mess.

Preschools and In-Home child cares will typically offer some type of a sensory table, and activities. Sensory table activities can help children develop fine motor skills, increase math and science skills, and children will be learning while they are playing with the items you have included in your sensory table.

A sensory table can consist of a plastic container that sits on your table or floor to a sensory table purchased through a school supply store. If you are limited on space, a plastic container purchased from Target or Wal-Mart will work perfect.

Below are a few pictures of storage containers used as a sensory table. You don't need to purchase a sensory table. Children get the same benefit.

Following picture is of a under the bed storage container that is used as a sensory table. It is placed on top of a table.

Creepy Crawler Sensory Table Idea

Contains: Green crinkled paper, tweezers, plastic insects, magnify glasses.

Have children use the tweezers and dig through the "grass" and find insects. Use the magnify glass to look at the insects closely. Additional idea: Put insects in 2 piles. Those with wings that can fly and those insects that crawl.

When using a sensory table - the items to place in there are only limited by your imagination. Select items that will provide a good mix of sensory stimulation. Keep the interests of the children in mind when placing items in the sensory table.

Dry Goods:

When using dry goods, place measuring cups, spoons, plastic cups, funnels and other items that will have the children pouring, measuring, sorting, weighing, stirring and scooping. You can use any dry ingredient that is safe for children to play with. Such items can include:
  • oatmeal
  •   colored rice or noodles, (different shapes
  • popcorn (popped or kernels) 
  •   sand
  • corn meal
  • bird seed
  •  flour
  •  sugar
  • coffee
  • dried beans
  • potting soil
  • aquarium rocks
  • pom poms
  • cotton balls
  • packing peanuts
  • etc.
Textured Items:

Using items with texture give children the opportunity to compare the way items feel. Place different types of sand paper, and have them compare textures. Which ones feel soft - which ones feel rough. Other items can be:

  •  carpet pieces
  • carpet padding
  •  wallpaper
  • tissue paper
  •  bows
  • ribbon
  • bubble wrap
  • feathers
  • cotton balls
  • rocks
  • buttons - different sizes and colors
  • wrapping paper
  • crinkled paper
  • sponge pieces
  • etc.
Wet and Wild

Turn your sensory table into something wet and wild. Add water, and some toys for a quick fun learning opportunity. Include items for children to use to pour, fill, and explore. Adding food coloring can change their learning opportunities. Take 2 different colors of food coloring and mix red and blue and see what color you get. Other items you can use for a wet and wild time are:

  •  jello
  • shaving cream
  • cooked spaghetti with oil
  • ice cubes (add food colors)
  • eye droppers
  • rotary egg beater with soapy water 
  • rubber works
  • fishing bobbers
  • small empty squeezable bottles
  • whip cream
  • mud 
  • clay
  • goop
  • measuring cups
  • corks
  • basters
  • bowls
  • funnels
  • small empty squeezable bottles
  • tongs 
  • snow
  • tweezers
    Talk to the children about different activities they are doing. Learning opportunities are just a splash away.

Talk to the children about different activities they are doing. Learning opportunities are just a splash away.

Keep in mind when planning your sensory table activities, the time of the year. You can do so many fun activities using the seasons as your template. For fall include leaves from outside, sticks, acorns, and other fall items. Winter - include snow if it snows where you live. Include small shovels, ice cubes, cars, and other items. If it doesn't snow where you live, use cotton balls, boxed potato flakes. Let the children wear mittens as they explore this sensory table. Spring might include Easter grass from Easter baskets, plastic eggs, small plastic Easter animals and summer include sand, shovels, sand toys and sand molds.
Think of holidays. The following 2 pictures show different sensory tables using a Christmas theme.

Here is the beginning of a December sensory tub, This provider plans on adding bells, tinsel, and some small Christmas bulbs. Fake snow was used for the filler.

 (Picture Courtesy of Terri's Countrykids)

This is Christmas Sensory Tub. A small fiber optical Christmas tree and some ornaments for the kids to decorate, when they're done they can redecorate many times as they want from now until Christmas. 

 (Picture Courtesy of Little Learners Home Preschool)

A October sensory tub. Can also be used for creepy crawlers. Find the spiders. Using tweezers the children are using their small motor skills.

 (Picture Courtesy of Teddybearlane Home childcare)

A cutting sensory tub. paper scraps and scissors give children the opportunity to practice their scissor skills.

 (Picture Courtesy of Teddybearlane Home childcare)

Fall sensory ideas for the bin:
  • Leaves
  • Pine Cones
  • Acorns
  • Pumpkins
  • Gourds
  • Cranberries (keep in mind they are small)
  • Apples
  • Rake
  • Bowl
  • Basket
  • Twigs/Sticks
You may have these items around your home that you can use. You may be able to collect things outdoors like leaves, acorns and pine cones. The local dollar store usually has seasonal items that will help you create great sensory bins without the expense.

Know as children are playing in the sensory table you have put together, they are learning. 

Cognitive Development

As children learn how much of a substance will fit into a container, they are developing math skills. They are figuring what size container will hold what they want to pour. Counting. How many scoops will fill the container. Matching, classifying and sorting.

As children manipulate the materials, they will learn to understand concepts such as full/empty, more/less, and sink/float.
Science - cause and effects. Problem solving. 

Language Development

Finding fun activities they wish to share and talk about. Pre-writing skills as they pour, grasp, scoop and work on eye-hand coordination as they use the materials placed in the sensory table.

Social and Emotional Development

Sensory experiences provide children with the opportunities to feel good about their decision making. They take pride in their predictions, make observations, and respond to their findings.

Physical Development

Children are using small motor skills as they are whisking, pouring, measuring and manipulating the items located in the sensory table. They are learning how to control their bodies. 

Creative Development

Sensory experiences provides open-ended opportunities to create. Children can use the materials how they want, and that is more important than what they create. 

Who would have thought there would be so much to learn and would be so beneficial to each child as they are pouring, measuring and playing in the sensory table that you have provided to the children in your care.

Just a reminder, as you put your sensory table ideas together, keep the age of the children using the table in mind. Use nothing that will be easily swallowed and keep in mind allergies.
Have fun.... remember whatever you do, the children will enjoy and will become a wonderful learning opportunity.

Thank you
1 - 2 - 3 Learn Curriculum

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