Almost every pre-kindergarten classroom in the country has one or more sensory tables, centers or bins. Young children in a structured classrooms spend the majority of their day engaged in some form of sensory play. But why is sensory play so important? Isn’t it just an excuse for kids to make a mess? Well, no, it could be an unintended result but by making a proper sensory table, messes will be limited.
Sensory play helps children develop fine motor, language and inquiry skills. It can also provide an opportunity for especially active or easily distracted children to practice focusing their attention on one task for a significant amount of time.
The most well known benefit of sensory play is fine motor skills development. Children practice picking up items of various sizes, weights and shapes. This helps them develop strength and dexterity. They also practice motions such as pouring, scooping, pinching and lacing which will eventually help them learn how to write, tie their shoes, and button their clothing.
As children play with new objects or substances they search for new ways to describe their experience. This is particularly true if other children or an adult interacts with them while they play. For example, a child playing with fruity cereal rings may call them sweet, pretty, colorful or crunchy.
Exploring new and interesting objects through their 5 senses will also foster a desire to be inquisitive. Children are naturally curious but sometimes their curiosity can be stifled when they are too often told not to touch the things that intrigue them. A sensory table provides a safe environment where they know they are free to explore.
Some particularly interesting items to put in sensory tables are listed below:
-Colored water (use food coloring)
-Cooked and colored spaghetti
-Moon sand ( homemade recipes are fun to try)
-Cut up pool noodles
-Dry rice and beans
-Items from nature (leaves, acorns, rocks etc.)
WARNING **Be sure to consider the age appropriateness of an item before including it in your child’s sensory table especially if you plan to let them play while unsupervised. Many of these items, and others, are choking hazards.**
At PVCGuy.com we always urge readers to DIY. It’s a fun experience and the results can be rewarding. We do realize not everyone has the time to do it, so for those busy parents, we can recommend the Step2 Cascading Cove Sand and Water Table.
Click the link to check prices on Amazon.
This table has two different mediums for sand and water which will help kids explore how objects move on and in these two materials and the umbrella will help avoid any sunburns.
If you want to read more about how sensory tables can improve the five senses and help develop motor skills, PBS has a great article here that discusses sensory table play and its benefits.
Also check out our Cozy Coupe Rebuild for another great project for children.
Credit for this article goes to Sierra D., master’s degree in elementary education – guest writer