Here are some ideas and pictures of my Preschool Sensory Table activities.
Find more science ideas on the Science Resource Page
Children mixed primary-colored water to make secondary colors. The bucket in the middle was for dumping the water when finished, or to start over.
Children mixed cornstarch with colored water to make “goop”.
Children added liquid soap to water with medicine droppers and blew bubbles with a straw.
Children poured water into different sized containers.
Children poured sand into different sized containers. (I use dustless Jurassic Sand.)
Children explored crushed ice and colored water by adding drops of colored water to a cup of ice.
Transferring (Left to Right)
Children used a spoon to move cocoa from the bowl on the left to the right. The cocoa gives off a nice scent. Cinnamon and other spices can also be used.
Creative Exploration (Lizards)
Children used Jurassic sand with Tree Blocks, river rocks, and plastic lizards for creative play.
Creative Exploration (Turtles)
Children used water with river rocks, aquarium grass, and plastic turtles for creative play.
Creative Exploration (Spiders)
Children used Jurassic sand with Tree Blocks and plastic spiders for creative play. The plastic spiders are spider rings with the ring part cut off.
Exploring Volume with Rice
Children used dry rice and colored jewels with measuring cups, funnels, and different sizes and shapes of clear glass containers.
Exploring Volume with Water
Children used water and colored jewels with measuring cups, funnels, and different sizes and shapes of clear glass containers.
Insta-Snow is a superabsorbant polymer. I let my kids watch as I make it so they can see the powder absorb the water. I bought mine at Hobby Lobby, but you can also get it from Steve Spangler. Since my kids don’t get the opportunity to see or touch real snow, they like to just run their fingers through it and play with it. You could also use it with measuring cups and containers of different sizes, or with small plastic polar animals.
Marbles and Melon Scoops
Children use the melon scoops to pick up marbles and put them in the ice cube tray.
Boats (Exploring Density)
Children start with a ball of clay, which sinks in the water. They form the clay into a boat that will float. After they have made a boat that floats, they add small bear counters to see how many can sit in the boat without it sinking. Note: Only use oil-based, non-hardening modeling clay for this activity. Do not use play dough or earthenware clays.
Pom Poms, Bottles, & Tongs
Children use the tongs to pick up the colored pom poms and drop them into a bottle. This activity is good fine motor practice and hand-eye coordination. The bottles in the picture are Tazo drink bottles, which I chose because the opening was not too small and not too wide. I later replaced them with clear plastic bear-shaped honey bottles since our sensory table is on a hard floor and the Tazo bottles would break if they fell.
Trucks & Blocks with Sand
Children can build a small village with the blocks and roll the trucks in the sand to make roads around their village.
Children use turkey basters with water and different sized containers (such as buckets and measuring cups). These are like using giant eye droppers and are good fine motor practice.
Cups With Holes & Without Holes
Children use cups with holes and without holes to explore in the water. I used clear punch cups and placed two without holes in the sensory table, then punched holes in two more using the sharp end of a drafting compass (normally used for drawing circles). Children enjoyed watching the “rain” fall from the cup with holes.
Children use kitchen strainers to catch the fish in the water. I purchased a small package of foam fish at a craft store for about $2. If foam fish aren’t available, you can use any foam shape or cut fish from sheets of craft foam. They used the buckets to collect the fish they caught.
I added about 3 bags of green Easter grass to the sensory table, and hid plastic ladybugs and ants in the grass. Each child at the sensory table used a pair of tweezers and a bug box. They searched through the grass to find the bugs, picked them up with tweezers, and placed them in their bug box.
Someone donated some bottles of finger paint to our class, but we had no finger paint paper. Instead of finger painting on paper, we put it in the sensory table, and the children loved it! It’s also fun to add two colors that mix well, such as blue+yellow, or red+yellow. Be sure to have children push up their sleeves and wear a paint smock for this activity.
Fill the table with rice. Mix in some non-magnetic plastic beads (such as colorful pony beads), magnetic marbles, and colored metal paper clips. Include a magnet wand for each child. Children explore with the magnets in the sensory table, discovering which items are magnetic and which are not, and using the magnet wands to find buried magnetic treasure. They can also see how many paper clips and magnetic marbles they can attach to the wands before they fall. (Note: These items could be a choking hazard for very young children.)
Flour & Water Mixture
Place a cup of flour, cup of water, spoon, and bowl in the sensory table for each child (I only have room for two children at our table). The children can choose the amounts of flour and water to add to their bowl and stir, experimenting to see the different consistencies they get when they add more water or more flour.
Lily Pads, Turtles, Frogs, & Fish
First, cut green craft foam sheets into lily pad shapes. Pour water in the sensory table, and add the lily pads. Then add some small plastic animals, such as fish in the water, and turtles and frogs to place on the lily pads. The craft foam lily pads will float even after you put animals on top of them.
Resources for Your Sensory Table
I receive a lot of questions about where I purchased the sensory table. The truth is, I rescued it from my school’s storage building in pitiful condition, got rid of the bugs and frogs, soaped it down, and sprayed it with white spray paint (the kind made for plastic). Check educational supply catalogs to find similar sensory tables. Community Playthings has a nice one.
Don’t miss the science resource page!