A sensory table is an important addition to an early childhood setting for it holds material for children to explore with, play and learn. Depending on how the sensory table is set up and what material is provided, it can help foster growth in all aspects of a child's development. For instance, a water table with measuring cups will aid in cognitive growth such as math concepts, or a sand table with animal figurines will allow for dramatic play. The examples are endless. But, the sensory table does not have to always be filled with sand or water; there are many variations it can hold.
Choosing a Sensory Table and Getting Prepared
Sensory tables vary in sizes. It is important that the table is shallow enough to allow children to reach into the material and explore, yet deep enough to allow messy play to occur within its boundaries. The tables can be found online, in catalogues or stores such as ToysRUs.
Another important step is to make a sensory table box or container filled with items to use, so that when the material is decided upon, the tools for playtime are easily accessible. The box can be filled with measuring cups, cups with spouts, spoons, eye droppers, tongs, funnels, scoops, plastic animals, little boxes with lids, different shaped containers, cupcake holders, shovels, buckets and so on. In addition, as with drama play, themed sensory table boxes can be made separately.
Different Ways to Set Up a Sensory Table
Sensory tables in early childhood settings, such as preschool and daycare, can easily follow seasons and themes. The following are ideas for seasons:
Spring: Easter grass with plastic eggs, plastic chicks, ducks and bunnies, baskets.
Summer: potting soil, plastic flowers, children's shovels and rakes, empty flower pots/containers from flower shops, gardening gloves and empty seed containers.
Fall: : autumn leaves made from paper or plastic, a collection of real nuts, little pinecones and boxes to collect the nuts in, such as a cupcake pan.
Winter: different shaped ice made from a variety of forms, with water and salt
Sensory Tables Foster Social Development
Although some children like to experience the material alone, the sensory table is always a social place. It is a great place for children to create scenes and use their imagination. Sensory tables can be set up to foster dramatic play in young children which is an important area of their growth. Following are some ideas for setting up a table to include drama and social development:
•babies: plastic babies, empty soap bottles, cloths, small amount of water and bubbles.
•farm scene: plastic farm animals and containers for them to eat out of, places for the animals to sleep, sitting in sand or uncooked oats
Sensory Tables for Hands-On Learning
The sensory table is a wonderful place for children to learn through hands-on experimenting. It is a good idea to have a place to wash up afterwards if the material is messy, perhaps a tub of soapy water and a towel nearby. Following are some suggestions for some fun variations for children to explore:
Goop: cornstarch mixed with a bit of water and a few drops of food coloring. This mixture will create a runny, yet solid material.
Straws: find colored straws and allow the children to cut the straws with scissors and collect in different sized containers.
Eyedroppers: place eyedroppers in small containers filled with different colored water(food coloring drops into water) surrounding a large bowl filled with soapy water or empty ice-cube trays so children can explore with colors.
The ideas for filling up a sensory table are plentiful. Children love to explore various materials and share the experience with others.
This article, written by Christine Moore, was originally published by suite101.com