Sensory Table Activities & Fun Ideas for Kids
Explore fun, engaging and exciting Sensory table activities to do with toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners. Our activities are widely used by teachers, moms, dads, child care providers and more!
All our activities are available at no cost and are free to print and share.
Sensory Table Introduction
If your classroom has a sand/water table you already know what a valuable teaching tool it can be.
For those without Sand/Water Tables. Try these Activities in
· Small containers
· Large pots, pails
· Plastic dishpans
· Plastic baby baths
· Kitchen/bathroom sinks
· Large, flatter plastic tubs (Rubbermaid type)
· Wadding pools (outside)
Also known as sensory tables/bins, these tools allow the children to feel/smell/hear/see and sometimes, taste the media they are using. Almost all thematic curriculum can be incorporated into your sensory table. If no set theme is being used, the options are still unlimited. Sensory tables allow children to extend play and experiences from other areas of the classroom/home. The following is a list of items that can be placed in the table for play and some have listed add-ins that can enhance the sensory item.
Baby oil – water buckets and shovels
Soapy water – doll clothes and clothespins
Wood shavings – scoops
Scented extracts – toothbrushes
Leaves – toy garden tools
Hay – farm animals
Cotton – milk cartons and cans
Pebbles – popsicle sticks
Dirt – plastic flowers and pots
Dry pasta – toy cooking pans
Water and cornstarch mixture – blocks
Dry beans – plastic insects or dinosaurs
Cedar chips – sponge hair rollers
Grains – kitchen utensils (spoons, ice cream scoop, spatula, etc..)
Ice cubes – squeeze bottles and funnels
Flour and water mixture – turkey basters and egg beaters
Sand – rubber hoses, corks, spools and strainers
Popcorn – popped or kernels
Ping pong balls
Cotton balls with clothespins
Wrapping paper and scissors
Packing peanuts (the cornstarch ones that Discount School Supply packs with are excellent)
Wallpaper sample book pages and scissors
Glitter In Water
Glitter With Flour
Shredded paper ( Hide plastic spiders in it for Halloween)
Water with colored ice cubes
Oatmeal – cooked or raw
Garland & scissors
Multicolored popping corn
Lots of old potpourri
Colorful tinfoil pieces
Chow mien noodles
Spaghetti (cooked or dry)
Plastic eggs and straw
Scraps of material
Cut up pieces of felt
Carpet samples cut up
Plastic astronauts and rockets
Teddy bear counters
Cold and warm water
Play-dough with cookie cutters and rolling pins
Objects to make impressions
Magnets and magnetic materials
Tongs/tweezers with marbles
Styrofoam pieces and tooth picks
Colored wagon wheel macaroni
Disposable rubber gloves with water and freeze
The list goes on and on, all it takes is a little imagination and energetic children!
Water Table Props:
balloons filled with water, basters, blown up balloons, bowls, dish mops, clear plastic containers, dishpans, eyedroppers, funnels, margarine tubs, measuring cups, measuring spoons, paintbrushes, ping pong balls, pitchers, scoops, sieves, sponges, spray bottles, straws, rotary egg beaters, whisks, baking pans, cardboard tubes, craft sticks, gelatin molds, plastic tubing, scoops, spatulas, sorting trays, spoons, whisks, wind-up toys, tongs, sponges, loofahs, eye droppers, ladles, slotted spoons and ice cube trays
Homemade Sand Table Sieves
· Aluminum pie pans: Use a nail to poke holes in the bottom of aluminum pie pans. Smooth out any rough edges.
· Plastic Containers: Use a nail to poke several holes in the bottoms of margarine tubs, yogurt cups or whipped topping containers. Vary the size and number of holes as desired.
· Plastic Tennis Ball Containers: Use a nail to punch holes in the bottoms or sides of empty, plastic tennis ball containers.
· Sand Combs: Cut rectangles out of heavy cardboard. On one side of each piece of cardboard, cut a set of notches. Vary the kinds of notches made on each piece. Let your children use the cardboard rectangles to comb patterns in the sand.
· Sockdozer: Fill an athletic sock with 1 1/2 cups sand. Tie the top of the sock into a knot or tie a piece of twine around the top. Let the children drag the sock in the sand to make ditches and designs.
· Measuring Can: Rinse and dry out an empty Parmesan cheese container. Let your children use it to experiment with the concepts more and less by
rotating the top for different pouring amounts.
Sensory Table Arts and Crafts
You will need: red, yellow and blue food coloring, dish detergent (or bubble solution), water, cups, printer paper, straws, old towel.
Give each child a cup filled with bubble solution / water and a straw, give each child a piece of paper and put it under the cups. Put one or 2 drops of coloring into each cup, but make sure everyone near each other has a different color.
Now for the FUN part, have all the children blow bubbles until the whole table is completely covered with bubbles. Pop them and do it again and again until they start to tire of the activity. Now soak up the water with a towel and set the pieces of paper in the sun to dry.
Sensory Table Games and Activities
Cut the bottles off baby powder containers and fill them with water. Let your children open and close the tops of the containers to make showers in the water table.
Clean and rinse empty soup cans without the sharp edge kinds. Punch holes around each can about 1 inch up from the bottom. Have your children fill the cans with water and watch it sprinkle out.
Place a variety of colors and sizes of sponges in a bucket for your children to play with at the water table. To make the sponges more fun to play with, cut them into the shapes of animals, people, boats, flowers, etc.
Place a variety of sizes and colors of soap bars, including some regular bars of soap and some Ivory soap bars, in the water table. Let your children discover which soap bars float and which ones sink. (the ivory soap bars float because they are less dense than water, the regular soap bars sink because they are more dense). Then let your children use the bars to later up, wash their hands and make bubbles in the water.
Cut the bottom half off a foam egg carton and float it in the water table to make a cruise liner. Collect 12 ping-pong balls, corks or bottle caps for passengers. Use a permanent felt tip marker to add faces to the balls, corks, or caps. Let your children take turns putting the passengers in the eggcup cabins of the cruise liner.
Balancing Act Barges
Place plastic foam food trays in the water table. Have your children place small objects onto each food tray “barge” so that a “balancing act” not a sinking act, occurs.
Arctic Ice Play
Fill the water table with comfortably warm water. Add several trays of ice cubes, one tray at a time, to the water. Ask your children to observe what happens to the water temperature and the ice cubes. Ask them to explain the difference between temperature of the water and the temperature of the ice cubes. Then let the children float toy boats through the ice cube “icebergs.”
Gelatin: Make several large batches of gelatin (plain or flavored) Cut the gelatin into squares and place them in the water table for the children to explore with their hands. Or make gelatin in dishpans for your children to play with.
Bring some snow in from outside. You could also use “BioColor” or Food coloring in Water spray bottles to make pictures in the snow.
Fill your sensory table with blue water, using meat trays, cut out fish and other sea life shapes and cover them with foil. You can color them with permanent marker. Add some seashells too. Attach a paper clip and fish for them with magnetic fishing poles.
Color rock salt by soaking in alcohol and food coloring. I made blue, green, and brown. Children make a collage using blue or green for the ocean, brown for the sand and some uncolored rock salt for shells. My class loved doing this because the rock salt looks like gemstones.
Colored Sand and Salt Shakers
Gather several salt shakers and fill each with a mixture of equal parts of clean sand and powdered tempera paint. Set the saltshakers, along with construction paper and glue, on a table. Allow the kids to use the glue to make ocean animal designs on their papers and then cover them with different saltshaker mixtures.
Sink or Float
Collect items that float in water and items that do not. On a piece of paper, draw three columns. Title the first column “Float?” and list the names of the items under the title. Write “Yes” and “No” at the top of the second and third columns.
Let the children place each item in a tub of water and record whether or not it floats by making a check mark in the appropriate column on the chart. Count together the number of check mark in each column and discuss with the children the results of their experiment.
Have on hand a wide variety of shells. Let the children sort the shells into group by kind, size, texture, etc. Have them count the number of shells in each group. Continue by asking the children to find the smallest and largest shell. Then have take turns balancing the shells in each hand to see which is heaviest and which is lightest.
Finger paint with green, blue tinted shaving cream, offering various “combs” to drag through and make ripples.
If you are near a beach, visit or have someone bring in a bucket of ocean water to examine what’s in it.
Pump Art Chalk Designs
Fill a plastic pump bottle with water. Have the child color the footpath with colored chalk. Then they can press the pump top and make a design on the chalk. You can use different sizes of bottles.
Provide plastic squeeze bottles for children to fill and squeeze under water.
Cut sponges into different shapes. Tape a shape sponge to the front of a bucket. Put the buckets next to the water table and the sponges in the water table or tub. Tell the children which shape to pick up. They squeeze the water out and put it in the correct bucket.
More Adventurous Sand/Water Table Ideas
· Oil Spills – Teach the children about oil spills by pouring black ink in the water table and explain what can happen to animals, and sea life.
· Minnows – Fill the water table with minnows. Let the kids watch them, feed them…
Dramatic Play Ideas
· Let the children build a damn with the sand… add water in a basin that can be your water source.
· Let the children use sponges and dishrags to wash play dishes in a dishpan of water.
· Let the children dig for GOLD in the sand… plant small rocks (aquarium rocks work great) in the sand that have been spray painted gold. This is great for cowboy, Wild West, Texas, or California units
· Let the children hunt for 4 leaf clovers in the sand. Plant foil confetti clovers in the sand for the children to look for.
Permanent Sand Castles
Children dig a hole in wet sand that is in the sand table. They then add small shells and rocks to the walls of the hole. The teacher then pours plaster of Paris in the holes and let harden. When it is taken out it is a permanent sandcastle. The kids think this is awesome.
Cars With Bubble Wrap
Add bubble wrap, old cars, and a little it of water to your sensory table. The children drive their cars over the bubble wrap to make a popping noise.
Hide clean chicken bones in sand. Have the children dig them up.
Sensory Table Garden
Fill the table with topsoil and add plastic flowers and plastic plants. The children can use child size gardening tools.
Tearless Bubble Play
Use tearless baby shampoo in water. No one cries when they get bubbles in their eyes.
Mashed Potato Fun
Stir water into instant mashed potato flakes. Then add food coloring.
Oooey Gooey Fun
Pour white glue into your table. Start adding liquid starch to the glue, a little at a time, until it starts to become blubbery. For even more fun, add rock salt to the mixture.
More Oooey Gooey Fun
Cook Knox gelatin according to the recipe on the box. Refrigerate until firm. Add the wiggly mixture to your table.
Have the children wash their toys in the sensory table with soap and water.
Make a large batch of cornstarch goo for the sensory table.
Add dirt, toy cars, and Legos to the sensory table and have the children build their own little towns.
Another Snow Idea
Snow with magnifying glasses (they saw that snow is not very clean)
Add assorted dried beans with measuring cups, bowls, spoons, etc. to the sensory table.
Put buttons in water and have the children sort them by color, size, or whatever. They can use tweezers to pick them up with.
Put a little sand in the bottom and fill with water, add green food coloring and plastic snakes for a swamp.
Make colored ice cubes with water mixed with food coloring. The kids play with the cubes in the water table and really like to see the color swirl and mix as the ice cubes melt.
Water Play (One and Two Year Olds)
· Water Wheels
· Squeezing – bottles, basters, sponges
· Filling bottles – screwing & unscrewing caps, matching caps to bottles
· Spraying – add food coloring to water in spray bottle, child can spray onto paper
· Blowing bubbles
· Sorting – 10 sponges cut into shapes, sort into different containers
· Sensory (warm/cold) – add ice cubes colored with food coloring and watch them melt.
· Add diswashing liquid and beat to a foam.
· Floating toys
· Washing babies, dishes, chairs, etc.
Water Play (Three & Four Year Olds)
· Pouring – -back and forth, filling containers, pouring into glasses without spilling -draw a line with a marker on the outside of a container and have child fill to the line
· Measuring – how many scoops/cups fill this container? – How many large scoops/cups fill this container? – filling same size clear cups to the same height – filling a series of clear cups in a sequence of highest to lowest
· Pouring and Mixing Colors
· Squeezing and Filling Bottles/Basters – concept of air pushing out of container and making bubbles
· Spray Art Murals
· Blowing Bubbles
· Tongs Transfer – pick smaller items out of water with tongs and transfer to another container
· Sponge Shapes – circle, triangle, square etc. – sorting – squeezing
· Sink or Float Experiments
· Make boats
· Water wheels
· Washing babies, washing and hanging up doll clothes
Meat Tray Boats
Ask local grocery store for unused, clean meat trays. Make great boats. Plus collect milk caps and toss them onto floating meat trays with letters/numbers/colors on them. Letters–write upper case on trays; lowercase on caps. They try to make matches. (Younger ones just throw blank caps and try to say the letter it lands on.) Numbers-Match quantity w/numeral or add up points. (meat trays have 1 or 2 on them) Colors–match color of milk cap with color of tray (laminated construction paper circle tapes to it).
Ask 2 or 3 of your children to make mounds in the sand at the sand table. Then have the children close their eyes while you hide a small plastic toy in one of the mounds. Have the children open their eyes and search in the mounds of sand for the toy. Let the child who finds the toy first hide it the next time.
Working On the Railroad
Show your children how to draw railroad tracks in the sand with craft sticks or unsharpened pencils. Have them make the tracks go up hills, down valleys and around corners. Then give the children small toy trains to run over the tracks.
Collect some sand and let it dry completely. Put the sand in a flat, open container and set it out along with some magnets. Let your children run the magnets through the dry sand. Then have them examine the magnets for small black shavings of iron. Explain to the children that some sand is made from rocks that have iron in them. (Be sure to test your sand ahead of time to make sure it has iron shavings in it.)
Angels in the Clouds
Cut out and laminate various colors of paper angels, add white cotton balls to the water table. The children can sort and play with the angels.
Try putting a bunch of toy dinosaurs in a pile in the table. cover it all in a mountain of shaving cream. Let the children “dig” to find the dinosaur bones.
Add some small rocks, and outerspace related items (astronauts, land rovers, space ships) It looks like a distant planet.
A year of Ideas
· January (The Arctic) flour, snow or clean mud, arctic animals, snow plows and cars, sifters
· February (The Community) saw dust, millet or buttons, helper people and animals, plastic valentines
· March (The Mountains) split peas, soil, leprechauns, plastic green containers
· April (The Garden) Easter grass, grass clippings, ground cork chicks, bunnies, plastic Easter eggs, strawberry baskets
· May (The Jungle) potting soil, mud, birdseed, plastic birds, small shovels, watering cans, fake flowers on stems, small plastic bugs like caterpillars & butterflies, plastic animals like squirrels
· June (The Beach) sand (fine or course), water shells, marine life, water, buckets and shovels
· July (The Park) water watering cans, sponges, soap and egg beaters, boats
· August (The Zoo) birdseed or sawdust, plastic animals, strawberry basket cages
· September (The Home) rice, sand or pea gravel, plastic people, sand wheel
· October (The Backyard) cornmeal, plastic pumpkins, bones, (real or plastic), plastic spiders
· November (The Farm) popcorn, leaves or seed pods, farm animals, turkeys, tractors and trucks
· December (The Forest) salt, cotton balls, Santa and reindeer, gift boxes, small pine boughs
Sensory Table Recipes and Snacks
Combine 1/3 c. flour and 2 Tablespoons sugar in a saucepan. Slowly pour in 1 c. water and mix well. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Makes 1 cup.
Shave two bars of soap. Shred two rolls of toilet paper. Add two cups warm water.
2 cups of sand, 1 cup cornstarch, 1 cup water. Mix sand and cornstarch in saucepan. Stir in water. Heat mixture, while stirring. When thick, remove from heat and cool.
Sensory Table Songs, Poems and Finger Plays
(sung to “The Wheels On The Bus”)
Water is wet and it pours like this, pours like this, pours like
this. Water is wet, and it pours like this, See how it goes.
The Water Goes Drip – Drip
(sung to “The Farmer In The Dell”)
The water goes drip – drop, The water goes drip – drop,
Drip drop, how it does plop, The water goes drip drop.
The water goes splish splash. The water goes splish splash.
Splish splash, how it does dash. The water goes splish splash.
The Waves Are Moving
(sung to “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”)
The waves are moving across the sea, hurrah, hurrah, Repeat
The waves are moving constantly, They move so fast across the sea.
Oh, the waves are moving so fast across the sea.
In The Sand
I dig holes in the sand with my fingers. (wiggle fingers)
I dig holes in the sand with my toes. (wiggle toes)
Then I pour some water in the holes (Pretend to pour water)
I wonder where it goes (Move hands out to sides, palms up)
Sand Is Gritty
(sung to “Frere Jacques”)
Sand is gritty, repeat. I like sand. Repeat. Sand is many tiny rocks
Broken down from bigger rocks. I like sand. I like sand.
(sung to “Frere Jacques”)
Make a sand cake, make a castle, in the sand, in the sand, Pouring,
measuring, digging, repeat. Just feels grand. Repeat.
I Like Sand
(sung to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”)
Sand can be wet, sand can be dry, I like both, I’ll tell you why.
I make sand castles with wet sand. And pouring dry sand feels just
grand. Sand can be wet, sand can be dry, I like both, I’ll tell you why.
In Your Hands
(sung to “Skip To My Lou”)
Mold, mold, mold the sand, repeat twice. Mold it in your hands.
Pat, pat, pat the sand. Repeat twice. Pat it in your hands.
Sift, sift, sift the sand, Repeat twice. Sift it with your hands.
Dear Reader: You can help us make this theme even better!
All of our theme ideas have come from our imagination and from reader submissions. Please use this form to contact us if you have crafts, activities, games, recipes, songs or poems that you would like us to add to this theme.