Sensory Table Ideas for Toddlersby Lisa Walker
Sensory tables give your toddler the opportunity to experience textures and sensations, and explore the way different materials behave. He will also be working on his fine motor skills as he uses his hands to mix, squeeze, grab and pour. Your toddler or preschooler can mix and match the wet, dry, soft and hard materials to create a variety of feelings in one place.
If you mix cornstarch with water, you will be unable to resist playing with it as well as your toddler. This "gloop" feels wet, dry, hard and slimy at the same time and can be made even more appealing by adding glitter or food coloring. The advantage of this is that it cleans up easily. Add plenty of children's bubble bath to your water table to create a "snow scene" or use shaving foam for him to pick up and mold. Put blobs of different colored paints into your table for him to run his fingers through and mix up. Use toy cars to make tracks in the wet substances. Your toddler may enjoy playing with ice to experience the feeling of cold and learn how it melts into water.
Pour dry lentils or rice between tubs -- your toddler will love the smooth feeling as they run through her fingers. Challenge her to pick them up one at a time to practice her fine motor skills -- she may also notice how they stick to her skin. Closely supervise this activity to ensure she doesn't put these items in her mouth. Add sequins or glitter to your lentils to make your table sparkle. Flour offers your toddler a soft, dry texture to experience; she can also make "sandcastles" by packing it tight into containers. Flour can become a wet sensory experience by adding water. Fill your table with fake grass or shredded paper and hide things in it for your toddler to find.
Cotton balls, pieces of wool, fur, fleecy objects and sponges are all ideas for offering your toddler a soft sensory experience. Encourage him to rub them with his fingertips and describe how they feel. Pick them up and tickle his hands and arms with them to see if you can make him giggle. Challenge him to shut his eyes and guess which soft item he is touching. Have him squeeze soft items as hard as he can and then watch how they "spring" back into shape when he lets go.
Rosemary offers a multi-sensory experience, as it feels spiky to touch and has a strong smell that will linger on your toddler's hands after she has put it down. Pebbles feel cold and heavy while autumn leaves are light and scrunchy. Show your toddler how shells feel smooth on one side and bumpy on the other. Put some small hairbrushes on your sensory table and ask your toddler what the bristles feel like.
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