Sensory Table

Sensory table ideas - sensory filler list, sensory tools list plus how to make it meaningful play in your early childhood classroom

"Play is often talked about as if it was a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning." Mr. Rogers. I LOVE this quote and it really speaks to how important play is.  As teachers it is our job to set up the environment, question, and take students' play to the next level!


The sensory table is a staple in early childhood classrooms (or it should be). Each week I reflect and create a plan for my sensory table. It is a place where students LOVE to play and I need to be intentional about how I set it up. It needs to be inviting, engaging, and a place where learning will occur. I keep the same material in the sensory table for 3-5 weeks depending on how long our theme or study is.

Sensory table ideas - sensory filler list, sensory tools list plus how to make it meaningful play in your early childhood classroom

Plan and reflect about what material you want to put in your table. I always connect the material to what we are learning about (theme) and what my students are interested in. There are ENDLESS
materials you can put in a sensory table! Above are some of my favorites!


Every week in my lesson plans I have a learning objective for the sensory table. Adding different tools to the sensory table will support different objectives.

Sensory table ideas - sensory filler list, sensory tools list plus how to make it meaningful play in your early childhood classroom

As teachers we always need to know why we are doing what we are doing and be able to justify what we are doing.  Let me show you what I mean...


Each week during my birthday theme, I added and/or took out props/tools to meet various objectives based on student needs and interests. I put colored rice in the sensory table because I thought it was bright and colorful like sprinkles!


Week one, students were measuring with measuring cups and measuring spoons to explore measurement and volume. For week two, I added cake pans and empty cake mix boxes.  I had several students who were pretending to make cakes week one.  By adding the cake mix boxes and pans students could pretend to make a cake from start to finish, exploring sequence and ordinal numbers.  Sorry I forgot to take a picture that week.


For week three I added number candles and rubber cupcake liners. From my assessments, I noted that some students needed to work on identifying numbers 1-10. By adding the number candles, students could incorporate the numbers into their play, take about them which made the numbers meaningful to them.  


The last week I added letter manipulatives. Students could make a letter cake, match the letters, make their friends names with the letters, or just explore the letters to build their knowledge about letters through play.

By purposely adding something new or changing the activity each week, students have something new to explore or expand upon.  Making their play fun, exciting,and intentional!


Incorporate math, science, dramatic play, fine motor, and literacy intentionally by adding various tools and/or props. Plan activities and materials that infuse other areas so students are always learning.

Here are some of my favorites from last year.

Sensory table ideas - sensory filler list, sensory tools list plus how to make it meaningful play in your early childhood classroom

Letter manipulatives! Dump any letter manipulatives you have into the sensory table. My students had the idea to make letter soup so we added bowls, measuring cups, and spoons. Another week I added sorting trays and students sorted the letters different ways. 


We had beans in the sensory table during our Food theme last fall.  I added tweezers, small plastic bottles, cardboard tubes, and measuring cups.  The tweezers were added to strengthen their fine motor muscles. The bottles and measuring cups were added the following week so students could explore measurement concepts and volume.


Little Legos were a hit and AMAZING fine motor work. The first week students were just building (pictured).  The next week I placed pattern cards in the table and students could explore patterns by making or extending patterns with the Legos.


Ice experiments and investigations were a ton of fun during our winter theme! Students used pipettes, tweezers, and water to investigate their own ideas and conduct their own experiments. One student experimented how to make holes in the ice. See his little hole with the blue water in it!


The next week we were learning about animals that lived in the arctic, I froze plastic arctic animals in ice. As the students were trying to free the animals, they were talking about the animals and building their vocabulary.


The last week, I froze various colored water by request! A group of students were wanting to see "what would happened if the water was different colors and it melted together". I LOVE it when students take charge and be the leaders of the play!


Sand! I found this amazing playground sand at the Toys R Us in the spring. To start, I only put in buckets, funnels, and shovels. Students had funnel races. They explored the relationship between size of the funnel and amount of sand it holds (volume)! The next week, I added empty juice bottles. I only added two bottles so students could practice sharing and taking turns. Having social skills objectives is important too!


The third week we were learning about having snakes as pets so I added snakes to the sensory table to build vocabulary and knowledge about snakes.

Sensory table ideas - sensory filler list, sensory tools list plus how to make it meaningful play in your early childhood classroom

In my classroom whatever is in the sensory table always a bit of it ends up on the ground.  I had a grand idea one day to add baskets with dust pans and brooms so students can clean up what flies out!
 At the beginning of the year students need help using the dust pans and as the year goes on they can do it independently.

Like it? Pin it!
Sensory table ideas - sensory filler list, sensory tools list plus how to make it meaningful play in your early childhood classroom

Check out my Pinterest board for more sensory table inspiration! 





6 comments

  1. Thank you for this fabulous post! I am planning on implementing a sensory tub in my kindergarten classroom. These ideas will help me so much in getting started!
    Jill
    Chevronandcenters

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jackie this is such a great post!! I feel like I haven't done the sensory table in my classroom justice, and your post is definitely motivating me to do a much better job with it this year! I am totally going to try to color my own rice and pasta and make my own play-dough, none of which I have ever done before!! Thank you so much for sharing such a great post, I can't wait to better utilize my sensory table this year!!

    Erin
    Kindergarten Dragons

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I found this so helpful! Can you please give an example or two of the objectives you write for your sensory play? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I use mostly science, math, and fine motor objectives for the sensory table.
      When students are using measuring tools: uses standard and non-standard tools to measure
      When students are using tweezers: develops and strengthens fine motor or uses small manipulatives with increasing strength and dexterity
      Hope that helps!

      Delete

Back to Top