|Plastic tubes, marbles and very fine sand|
provide a soothing play experience
What is your sensory table being used for and why should you open it sooner rather than later?
The sensory table is one tool in a teacher's repertoire to provide much needed sensory experiences throughout a child's day. In addition, these experiences can also incorporate play, communication, sorting & classification, and science options.
Depending on the materials, sensory tables provide an open ended experience where children learn the properties of the materials and how to control them. And children often stand at the table, enabling movement in classrooms that increasingly expect children to sit.
There is also research supporting sensory experience's impact on motor performance, cognitive development, sensory processing, social-emotional learning - not just for children with disabilities, but typically developing children as well.
The American Occupational Therapy Association has a wealth of resources and links to current research.
|This board is attached with velcro to the edges of the table to provide a|
place for experimentation.
Choosing materials and adding novelty over the course of a few days or even weeks sustains interest and focus. For example you might start with colored water and scoops, then add droppers, then other colors, then plastic test tubes.
|Bark, wood pieces, plastic forest animals, sand - for dramatic play, |
construction, and sensory stimulation.
These children had been sorting (above) for days and when they began scooping and counting their teacher gave them a clip board and asked "How many scoops do you think it will take to fill the jar?" "How will you keep track of how many scoops?" These 4-year olds developed a dot "tally" system for counting (right).
|Rice, sprigs of lavender, blue containers|
I remember pulling up a stool to play in a tub at the sink while my mother did other things in the kitchen. This kind of opportunity allows children to play alongside adults, and even practice some of the things grownups do - like wash potatoes, scrub carrots (and maybe even peel them), play with measuring cups in water, mix cornstarch and water and see what happens - all provide sensory experiences that involve play, motor practice, and scientific discovery & math.
This 2012 link from High Scope not only has ideas for sensory table explorations, but reinforces the rationale for using the sensory table often and with intention.
Some ideas for your table:
- Base Material: flax seed, corn meal, types of sand, rice, tiny stones, water, glass jewels, play dough, cornstarch & water, ice or snow (with gloves), leaves, acorns
- Tools: plastic scoops, measuring cups/spoons, eye droppers, tongs, tweezers, small cups, bowls, fish nets, muffin tins, clear plastic or glass containers
- water, fish nets, shells, plastic fish
- playdough with jewels or tiny stones hidden in the dough, golf tees to press in
- playdough with sprigs of fresh herbs - rosemary, lavender, etc.
- aquarium rocks, water, and plastic turtles and frogs
- ramps, cars
- paper tubes, marbles
- pom poms, pipe cleaners, beads
- wire, cut up straws, washers
- rocks, driftwood, clean pea gravel or sand
- plastic bugs, dirt, seeds
- half fill with soil, plant grass seed, cover with plastic wrap to create a greenhouse, water and then play in the grass with plastic insects, animals, wood, etc.