Explore the Senses with a Sensory Table! Activity

3.6 based on 386 ratings
Updated on Jul 3, 2013

It's a place designed for squishing, sifting, sorting, digging and pouring, where children can get messy, discover, and play freely. It's a sensory table. And almost every preschool has one. Now you can duplicate this sensory stimulation device at home, too!

What You Need:

  • Large, shallow, plastic tub
  • Table
  • Bath towel
  • Rags
  • Handheld brush and dustpan
  • Sensory tools outlined below

The following are some great fillers with which to begin:


  • Add soap to wash plastic dolls or dishes
  • Add food coloring to experiment with color mixing
  • Add assorted items to experiment with floating and sinking
  • Add small plastic or rubber fish and a handheld net


  • Jell-O
  • Noodles
  • Dry instant mashed potatoes
  • Cornmeal (makes a great sand substitute)

Easter grass with plastic insects and butterflies


  • Birdseed
  • Rice
  • Cereal
  • Oatmeal

Office Extras

  • Shredded paper
  • Foam packing peanuts
  • Colored paper clips

Assorted leaves, twigs, grass, and magnifying glasses 

Household Items

  • Cotton balls, buttons
  • Shaving cream (In winter, add trucks to plow snowy roads in the table!) If your child's learning the alphabet, help her  trace letters in the shaving cream.

Magnets with a random assortment of metal objects to "catch"

What You Do:

  1. To duplicate this learning opportunity at home, place a large, shallow plastic tub (the kind meant for storage under beds work great!) on an existing table, hard-surface floor or outside on the ground.
  2. Spread a large bath towel underneath to catch any overflow. Keep rags, a handheld brush and a small dustpan nearby so your child can clean up as independently as possible.
  3. Add whatever equipment your child enjoys from the above list of suggestions. Get creative when adding to it! Even plain, old plastic cups can be fun.
  4. When you have a specific goal in mind, such as helping your child sort different colored buttons, let her play alone first, then step in later. In most cases, given time to explore independently, a child will discover the concepts you want her to understand.
  5. If you want, she can help make lists (for example, of which items sink and which float) or talk to you about her observations. Or she can just discover without the need to explain. Let her get dirty, and above all, have fun!


Jen Sherwin is an experienced administrator and educator specializing in the field of early childhood.

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