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Child Development

Developing and Cultivating Skills with a Sensory Table

sandboxIs it smooth and wet or bumpy and dry? Is it sticky and gooey or slippery and fluffy? Does it tickle? Can it change shape? These are just a few of the questions that children can explore while using a sensory table. Learning with a sensory table is more than a fun time-filler; it allows them to gain insight and information about the world around them by providing essential hands-on experiences. Investigating materials with no preconceived knowledge also helps develop and refine cognitive, social and emotional, physical, creative and linguistic skills.

Building a Sensory Table
There is no “right way” to construct or present a sensory table. Choose a surface in your home, build your own, or buy a table from the store to get started. Typically, a sensory table consists of any surface or collection of tubs rotated regularly that contain a plethora of sensory materials, items that provide children with hours of learning, exploring and fun. Choose mediums (ingredients to fill the tubs) and materials (items to add to the tubs) to enhance the sensory experience and spark your child’s interest and creativity—assuming these components are age-appropriate and safe. Here are some ideas to get started:


  • water (and ice, with soap)
  • sand (wet or dry)
  • dirt (wet or dry)
  • oil
  • cornmeal
  • rice or pasta
  • yogurt
  • hay
  • beans
  • shaving cream, whipped cream or hand lotion
  • play dough
  • clay
  • confetti or sparkles
  • silly putty
  • Jell-O
  • cereal
  • sugar or salt
  • outdoor items (leaves, acorns, twigs, pine cones)
  • foam
  • flour
  • coffee grounds
  • Insta-Snow
  • popcorn kernels
  • packing peanuts
  • sawdust
  • marbles
  • cardboard tubes
  • feathers
  • shredded paper
  • potpourri
  • felt
  • oatmeal
  • sandpaper
  • cotton balls
  • bubble wrap
  • beads (or water beads)
  • buttons
  • bells
  • pom poms
  • rocks, stones or gravel
  • Legos
  • applesauce
  • playingMaterials:

  • sponges
  • shells
  • string
  • glue
  • soap
  • balloons filled with various mediums
  • blocks
  • magnets
  • cooking utensils (spoons, basters, sieves, whisks, tongs, funnels, measuring cups, spatulas)
  • combs
  • food coloring
  • egg cartons
  • spools
  • Ping Pong or bouncy balls
  • straws
  • corks
  • buckets, pails or bowls
  • shovels
  • scissors
  • Popsicle sticks
  • clothespins
  • magnifying glasses
  • spray bottles
  • toothbrushes
  • tape
  • small mirrors
  • finger paint (or puff paint)
  • Remember, there is no right or wrong way to use a sensory table; they are appropriate for all ages, genders and races. Encourage your child to explore: don’t overwhelm him with tasks and don’t be too quick to answer his questions. Every table and every experience will be different and some may be messy, so be sure to cover the surrounding area and keep water and towels nearby.

    Five Sensory Crafts for Kids:

      Cloud Dough
      Silly Putty
      Instant Snow
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