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Sensory Play

Do you have a space for sensory play in your classroom? I am lucky enough to have a large sensory table to put sensory materials in. If you don't have a sensory table don't worry, before I had a table I kept my materials in shallow plastic bins.

My students love when I change over the materials in my sensory bin. I try to change the materials every 2-3 months depending on what is in the bin. Often times I might leave a base material in the bin i.e. sand and change the task. For example I might keep sand in the bin for a few weeks. One week I might have students identifying coins in the sand and the next week I might focus on scooping and pouring.

I leave out a variety of tools in the sensory table depending on the objective, but I am sure to change the objective or rotate the tools every week to keep the sensory bin exciting. I thought I could share some sensory bin ideas with you. If you have an item that you put into your sensory bin that is a hit in your classroom let me know by writing a note in the comments section.

.If I have a plan of what I am planning on putting in my sensory table I am more organized and more likely to switch up the tasks.
I created a yearly sheets to plan / keep track of sensory materials and tasks across the whole school year.
Click here to get the sensory table planner.

Let me know what you like to put in your sensory table.

Sensory Table - Base Materials 

When purchasing a base material for my sensory table I am looking to buy a material that can withstand being scooped and poured and jumbled around. I am looking for something that I can buy a large quantity of because I need enough to fill my large sensory table and I am looking to buy the materials at a reasonable price.

Filling your table for free is totally possible! I live in New England so I like to take advantage of the seasons- in the fall I fill the sensory table up with leaves, acorns, and pinecones. In the winter I scoop out some snow and bring it inside. Not only are these options free they align with the science curriculum at my school.

Other ways to fill up your sensory table for free included filling it with water for water play. Math manipulatives for sorting, patterning or building can also be added to a sensory table without a cost.

Scraps of paper in a sensory bin could be used for practicing folding, ripping, or cutting.

My advice is to get creative when looking for materials to fill your sensory bin with. My wedding invitations arrived in a huge box filled with biodegradable packing peanuts they were a huge hit in my sensory table, you never know what you might come across.

Not everything I put into my sensory table is free. Some of the materials I put in my table are from the dollar store!

Check the vase filler isle for smooth rocks, water beads, and fake grass.

Bubbles make a fun sensory material in the summer, large bottles can usually be found in the toy aisle of your local dollar store.

Don't forget to check out your local dollar store's food isle for dried beans, rice, and corn kernels.

In the gift section of the dollar store there is crinkle grass in many different colors and can fit into many tasks. I bought my grass in bulk after Easter for a great discount.

I even buy the shaving cream I use for sensory play at the dollar store.

Other examples of base materials for your sensory bin includes sand, and potting soil.

Now that the base material is decided you have to decide which task is required.

Sensory Table - Tasks / Tools

When students are playing in a sensory table the task might be just to give them sensory input so touching and playing with the materials is their only job.

If students gravitate towards the sensory table as a preferred activity I might create tasks for them to do at the sensory table in addition to playing with the materials.

I might ask students to scoop and pour using sand shovels and buckets.

I bought most of my shovels and buckets for scooping and pouring in the seasonal section of the dollar store in the summer.

Using funnels for scooping and pouring is also fun. I got my funnels from the dollar store. Check in the tool aisle.

I also use the sensory bin as an identification activity. I have placed numbers or letters in the sensory bin, students dig through the bin and identify letters or numbers as they find them. Sometimes I have students sort / match letters or numbers they find

I have had students look for coins in the sensory bin. Students identify the name and value in addition to sorting the coins they find.

My students love to use the strainers when they are looking for objects in the sand table. I bought a three pack of strainers at the dollar store (look in the kitchen area).

Sometimes I have my students work on fine motor skills at the sensory table. I have students spray with a plastic bottle I got at the dollar store. Tasks that involve the spray bottle include predicting what will happen when the sand gets wet, putting washable color into the water and predicting what will happen when the colors mix in snow.

Sometimes I put different materials into the bin for students to sort. Pictured below I placed a variety of insects into the bin. Students sorted the insects by color, others sorted the objects into objects that were insects and objects that were not insects.

Students love exploring objects in the sensory tables with magnifying glasses and tweezers.

Let me know what you put in your sensory bin by writing a comment below.