5+ Ways to Use Your Sensory Table
When our twins turned one, they were gifted this Water Table. It is awesome! Of all the toys, materials, and equipment that have come and gone in the past two years this is one of the few that has maintained a constant place in our play spaces. Most often it has been found in our backyard, so our #30daysoutside project has once again sent us back to our water table that has been situated in a corner of our new backyard. We have used it in a variety ways to play and learn in the past two years. I thought I would share some of our favorite ways today. Whether you have a water table or simply a large empty container, these are some easy ways to provide some sensory experiences and learning opportunities for little ones.
1. Water Play
Being a water table, the natural material to start with is water. Our twins loved water in all forms from a very young age. They were eager to help me fill their table with water and splash away. We started by using the materials that came with the table for exploration, but these were soon rotated. Here are some of the materials we have used in the past two years to expand water play in our water table:
*Rocks and other heavy materials
*Empty rings and other light weight materials
2. Other Sensory Materials
Water Tables can easily be used to other sensory materials. We have filled our table with all of the following materials for sensory play. A lot of creative ideas can be found on Pinterest and from other sources for adding to sensory bins. We have done many of these, but we always start with simple explorations. Especially for young toddlers, it is the exploration of the material that is the most interesting. How does it move? How can it be molded or transfered? Can it be scooped? Here are some of our favorite materials for the sensory table:
3. Imaginative Play
Around the age of two, our children starting involving in more pretend play. It was natural to extend this to their play in the sensory table. This can be done by adding some simple props to the table to encourage pretend play. Three of our favorite ways to do this are:
*Create an imaginary scene. When we went to the Green River in Chicago we made our own in the water table. When the Winter Olympics was going on and our twins were captivated by ice skating, we froze water in the sensory table and added our Little People collection to the table. I generally steer clear of plastic toys, but for using with sensory materials it is hard to deny their washable quality.
*Cooking in the sensory table. Much like pretending to cook in the sandbox or making mud pies, this play can be executed in a water table with simple prompts. I've been served some interesting dishes of dried rice or water over the past few years.
*Adding Play Materials to sensory materials. These generally follow our children's interests. For example, when our twins were fascinated by trucks at a construction site, I created this sensory exploration with some of our play trucks.
4. Bringing Outside In
My twins spent their first three years in the Midwest where winters are long and cold. Outside playtime is often limited and exploring snow and ice without mittens completely impossible. I have found with my children and with toddlers I've worked with in the past, that bring ice and snow inside provides important learning opportunities for these curious little ones. Each winter we brought our water table inside, covered the floor with a large beach towel, and filled it with snow or ice. Snow can be molded and scooped much like sand. Ice can be observed and manipulated like rocks. Furthermore, observing how these materials melt inside is a hands on way to learn about this natural process.
5. Learning Games
Science experiments are easily conducted in a water table. They provide a standing work space and contained space for explorations. One of our earliest experiments was looking at sink and float with rings. There are also fun search and find learning games that can be set up in sensory tables. Here are some more ideas for activities for the sensory table.
*Letter or Number Search and Find
*Finding Matches: putting sets of two identical objects in sand or other sensory materials to search for and find.
*Find Puzzle Pieces and then put the puzzle together.
How do you use your water table? We'd love to hear some of your favorite sensory activities!
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