you're a preschool teacher, chances are you know all about sensory
tables. If you don't know much about them or would like to know the
benefits of a sensory table, read on. You don't have to be a teacher
to have a sensory table. As we learned, you can use just about
anything to make a sensory table at home. We asked our experts,
Stefani Doyle, a pediatric occupational therapist and Christy
Swanagin is a developmental interventionist and lead teacher for a
two-year-old preschool classroom. Both work at the Child Development
Centers of the Bluegrass in Lexington, KY.
What exactly is a sensory table?
A "sensory table" can really be any type of container filled
with some type of tactile medium.
What ages benefit from a
sensory table in the classroom?
Developmentally appropriate practice would probably recommend
sensory tables in a classroom setting for children up to age
five (or preschool level).
Little Tikes Sand &
Sea Play Table
Why use a sensory table?
Children learn through their senses. Sensory tables improve
children's sense of touch which helps them perceive their
environment accurately. Exposure to a variety of textures improves
children's development of fine motor skills. This is important for
manipulating toys, completing necessary self-help tasks such as
dressing, using utensils (i.e. spoons, crayons etc.), and of course
builds a foundation for future classroom expectations of
handwriting. Sensory tables also facilitate development in other
areas such as understanding concepts like, "big/little", "in/out",
"on/off", and is a great activity to develop social interaction
Our children (above) are
playing in oatmeal
with a few common items found around the house.
What are some
ideas for teachers to use in their sensory table?
Beans, rice, dirt, leaves, nuts, sand, water, grass, dry pasta
noodles etc. It's also fun to add manipulatives such as
small scooping tools, buckets, rocks, plastic bugs, fish and other
"creatures" (found at many "dollar stores"). Be creative! The
options are endless.
Do you personally have any recommendations for sensory
tables? (i.e. cost, size, features)
There are many therapeutic and/or educational catalogs that sell
nice sensory tables with drains (if using water). They usually
cost about $200.00. To be honest, almost any container will
do. You can even use Rubbermaid containers, boxes etc.
How often should you switch materials in the table?
This really depends on the child. In a classroom setting
it would be good to change the materials about every two weeks;
however, at home, its important to read
your child to determine when he or she is bored with the
activity. When it
begins to lose his or her interest, change it. This could
be every week,
every two to three days or every two weeks depending on the
child and how
often they have access to the sensory tables.