Sensory tables can be found in virtually every preschool. These tables are comprised of either a large, commercial table or a shallow, plastic tub that is then filled with various items perfect for sifting, digging, sorting, squishing, and more. Following are numerous sensory table ideas that you can instill in your own classroom.
Ideas for Sensory Tables that Use Water
Many sensory tables incorporate the use of water. A couple of great ideas include adding soap and plastic dishes so the students can practice washing dishes, adding rubber or plastic fish and nets so that the children can pretend to go fishing, and adding food coloring so that your students can play with mixing colors.
One great idea is to introduce one or two live goldfish to the water-filled table. Then, you can encourage your students to use a net to try to “catch” the fish. Of course, close supervision is required for this activity. After the fishing game is completed, you can add the goldfish to your classroom’s fishbowl.
Turkey basters or long eyedroppers can be intriguing additions for preschoolers. You will most likely have to teach the students how to squeeze the bulb to pick up the water, and then you can let them enjoy their newfound tool.
Ideas for Tables that Use Sand
Sand is another popular factor to incorporate with sensory tables. You can set up a “treasure hunt” for your students by carefully burying plastic gems and different-sized dog bones under the sand. Then encourage the children to dig for their treasure. After the digging is completed, they can glue their findings onto a piece of construction paper to create the shape of a dinosaur or other shape.
A good preschool theme idea for the last week or month of school is a beach theme to celebrate the upcoming summer. For this theme, you can incorporate sand castle molds, shells, and other beach-themed items.
To add variation to your sensory table’s sand, try adding plastic glitter to make shiny, reflective sand. You can also add colored sand so that the students can see what happens when they combine uncolored sand with the sand that has been colored. Incorporating water and ice is another great way to encourage discoveries.
Other Fun Ideas
No matter what type of sensory table you have, it can be fun to add some similar items such as magnifying glasses, colored paperclips, foam packing peanuts, dried pasta, soil, leaves, shaving cream, and shredded paper. Another great item to make for your table is ublek. Ublek is made with equal parts water and cornstarch. It has a firm consistency, but it melts when you hold it.
Clean up is very important when it comes to sensory tables. Always keep rags, towels, and a dustpan and handheld brush nearby for spills. Encourage your students to clean up their own messes. A great piece of advice is to require your students to wear smocks when they play with the sensory table.
Mary Robinson has been teaching preschool for well over a decade. You can get instant access to her preschool activities, crafts, and lesson plans by visiting her website: