Sensory tables are terrific tools for hands-on learning. Students can practice scooping, measuring, engage in imaginative play, conduct scientific experiments, and take creative risks. Sensory tables benefit a child's cognitive, physical, emotional and social development.
However, you needn't drop $300 bucks on a fancy sand and water table from a classroom furniture website. I spent $7 on a large plastic bin from Walmart and set in on a narrow table. Works great!
NEXT: Oatmeal Cookies Aren't Just for Eating! -->
Oatmeal Cookie Play
Fill the sensory table with raw oatmeal (old-fashioned is best), and a little cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground clove. I like to add glitter too -- everything is more fun with glitter. It also serves as an extra reminder that this oatmeal is not for eating.
Add measuring cups, muffin tins, little spoons, and funnels. Children can measure ingredients and whip up orders of "cookies" for customers, as well as build fine motor skills.
NEXT: Travel to the North Pole! -->
North Pole Scene
Fill your sensory table with ice and water. Add big rocks, plastic boats, polar bears, whales, and other northern critters. Children can engage in imaginative play with the rocks, boats, and animals and explore temperatures.
When you use water in a sensory table it must be cleaned out daily. Sensory table water quickly becomes grimy and full of germs. Students also must sanitize hands before and after using the sensory table.
NEXT: It's Snowing! -->
Instant snow is incredible! You can buy it from any teacher store and of course Amazon. One small container added to water will fill up an entire sensory table, and it really feels like cold, fluffy snow! Offer the students a variety of tools for exploration: small shovels and bowls, spoons, and even pretty rocks for making designs in the snow.
NEXT: Popping Good Fun! -->
Make a big batch of air-popped popcorn and add it to the sensory table while still warm. Students will love burying their hands, scooping, measuring, and filling a variety of containers: little bowls, baby food jars, dixie cups. Encourage children to build fine motor skills by giving them tiny little spoons for carefully scooping and transferring popcorn to containers.
Towards the end of popcorn play, you can offer children small spray bottles of water and let them experiment with spraying the popcorn.
NEXT: Make the Colors Swirl! -->
Christmas Color Swirls
Fill the sensory table with a few cans of shaving cream and add a few drops of red and green food coloring (or whatever colors you like). For extra fun, add glitter. Children can explore the texture of the shaving cream, experiment with color mixing, and draw shapes and designs with their fingers.