I use fall colored rice for another sensory tub that I use around the same time of the year for sorting syllables. And this time, I added some fine motor work by having students pin their sorted cards under the correct number of syllables. It just adds that little extra bit of fun and interest to keep them engaged. (RF.K.2b)
I often use whatever is available and on hand when the need arises. This fall when I was working with my Word Family sorts, I wanted to spice things up a bit so I grabbed a bucket of acorns for my guided reading group to dig through and sort word families. (RF.K.2.c)
During our study of polar animals, these little guys were in our table along with some tinsel, fake snow and Styrofoam. Students retold facts they learned about polar animals through retelling. It was one of the most favorite sensory stations all year. (SL.K.2, SL.K.4, SL.K.6)
I actually keep a list of ideas and items for each month of the year in my planning binder. They’re part of my Getting Started with Sensory Table Activities Pack and will be included in each new monthly Sensory Table pack as well.
I like to use items that will last a couple of years. I have my kids wash their hands before and after they use the table so in my mind, there aren’t as many germs (right?). In any case, colored pasta is always a good way to start the year because it is large and with it you can easily teach clean up procedures. And the color . . . I love using the neon colored food coloring for these because it just turns out so pretty.
Rice is also a good material to use. In the winter months, just white is just fine, but of course, dying it makes it spectacular.
Green for St. Patrick’s Day with discarded gold carnival tokens (I printed real and nonsense words on them.) Who doesn’t like searching for gold?
Natural items are fun and cheap. I can usually wrangle a couple of boys to collect acorns each year for me, but you can almost anything you can find outside.
Colored sand just makes things POP!
How about some garbanzo beans painted gold as in leprechaun’s gold for St. Patrick’s day? And hey, a pot for your gold is the perfect container for some St. Patrick’s Day sensory fun.
In the top drawer of my container, I keep my response sheets and instructional/I Can cards. If they are differentiated, there will be three different envelopes with coordinating colored dots. I also have clean up materials (Don’t you love my Dollar Tree dust pan and broom?), various containers for sorting (I’ll show you how those work in a minute, and things like scissors, hole punches or any other materials that correspond with the tasks cards for the materials that are in the table.
I often allow my students to choose how they want to sort their items, either in buckets (Stick a little velcro on the back of the cards and on the bucket for quick change over of sorting labels.) this sorting tray (Dollar Tree . . . again!) or from a rope with clothes pins. Everyone loves a little variety.
or if there is a response sheet it looks like this:
But I also have modeled the activity prior. When students complete the activity, they have a set of task cards that I have chosen for them to use and that make sense to use with the materials in the table. Students can look through the task cards and choose an activity.
It might be sorting, counting, cutting, weighing, measuring . . . but the part they like is THEY get to choose, and I don’t have to worry about them using the materials in appropriately or doing ‘nothing.’
LivinG To Learn says
Wow! This is a great post! I love your intentionally, organization, and passion for the sensory table. I teach pre k, the sensory table is a part of my daily routine. Thanks for the ideas!
OK….I think you have me convinced!!! Now I need to go invade the storage area at school, I’m pretty sure I saw a sensory table out there a while ago!!!
Love! I have always used a sensory table and when I taught K5 I would do beginning sound sorts as part of our literacy stations. Now that I teach K4, I don’t have to hide my use of the sensory table. The water orbs are found at Dollar Tree- where? Called what?
A few favorites I fill the table with are coffee beans, scented water using extracts, flour with cinnamon. My favorite sensory table content was a watermelon! cut in half, gave the kids tweezers and had them count how many seeds they found but could differentiate by making groups of 10, sorting the white and black seeds etc. It was a sticky mess but the kids of course loved it!
Marsha McGuire says
Great ideas Andrea! Thanks so much for sharing.
Angela Griffith says
I absolutely love this!! I did sensory tables many years ago when I taught at a child development center, and I have wanted to start a sensory table in kindergarten. This awesome post gives me a great place to start, thank you so much for sharing!
The Daily Alphabet
Marsha McGuire says
Welcome back to the sensory club Angela!
Lee Ann Rasey says
Fabulous ideas! I am going to K next week, and there is a sand table in my room. I never had one when I taught K years ago because it was so messy. Now I want to use it, but I think I will use a plastic box to make it easier to change out materials. The other teacher uses hers for play, only with sand. I see you use it more for educational activities. When during the day do your students use it?
Marsha McGuire says
I used it during math stations and often during Daily 5.
Sarah Barnes says
Love this wealth of creativity!! Thanks for taking the time to share :). How do you color your noodles?
Marsha McGuire says
It’s so easy. Stick the noodles in a gallon size zip lock bag. Add 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol and several drops of food coloring. (I like the neon colors.) Then let them sit for a while…sometimes I let them sit for an hour even. Then dump them on waxed paper or tin foil to dry.
Sarah Barnes says
Thanks!! I can’t wait to get started :). Thought of you today at Michael’s craft store. They have “glow in the dark” fingers with the nails in orange, purple and green ~ your colors ~ for pointing to words, etc… and not as gross looking as the usual halloween ones. Just had to share!
Mrs. Boeve says
How many boxes of pasta did you use in your table?
Marsha McGuire says
I don’t really remember. I got them in bulk from Gordon’s Food or Sam’s Club. Sometimes I ask parents to donate a box at the beginning of the year.
Marsha, I really want to incorporate some sensory activities in my classroom! I love this! I know you bundled the “Sensory Throughout the Year”, but will you be selling them individually at any point? Thank you!
Marsha McGuire says
Yes, they will all be sold separately as well as part of the bundle. You just get a bit of a better deal with the bundle.
Positively Learning says
I’m working with students who have thrive on sensory stimulation. In other words, if I’m not providing the environment for appropriate sensory stimulation, they will find it elsewhere! I purchased your year-long packet and started following your pinterest to keep up with ideas. I’m a first grade special educator, so a large covered bin with be our “table” this year. I’m looking for more ways to keep the rigor of Common Core while balancing what my students really need to be successful. This will be an adventure 🙂
Thanks for the inspiration…I look forward to reading more!
Dixie Selva says
Thank you so much for sharing this! I am a kinder inclusion teacher turned Early Childhood Specialist and I am so excited to see the way you’ve meshed standards with developmental appropriateness. It makes me so sad to see so many rooms without sensory tables. I am definitely going to share your post with my teachers! thank you!
One of my goals for next year is to incorporate sensory tables into my literacy centers. When I mentioned this to my principal she mentioned that she could probably find money in the school’s or PTO’s budget to cover the cost – so exciting! My question to you is how much would it cost to buy the tubs and supplies for a year’s worth of sensory bin activities? Obviously it won’t be a specific exact amount, but a ballpark would be great so that I could go to them with an estimate.
Thanks for all you do!
Great questions Jackie (and a potential future blog post subject). This is not an easy one to answer, but I can give you some things to consider. First of all, do you have a sensory table or will you be going the tub route or are you doing both? You don’t have to have a table to do sensory activities, you can get low sided totes with covers (I think they are for under the bed storage), and they are a great alternative. I also have a smaller version of these that I use for a two person or one person sensory tub activity. As for fillers for the year, at the beginning of the year I have my full year kind of mapped out of what I will using. Many many many things can be used more than one year, some things can be gleaned from nature and still other things I request parents to donate if they are able. For instance, I live in Northern Michigan so my hunting dads and moms always are willing to donate a bag of dry eared corn for my table. I also aways ask for pasta and a bag of beans. Pasta is cheap . . . especially when you aren’t buying the tri-colored type. I can always get lots of it. I dye it based on the theme or holiday. Rice is another thing you can request although I have been using some of the same rice for the last 3-4 years. There is so much alcohol in it when I dye it and my kids always wash their hands before and after. Other items like shredded paper and the like, I throw out. It just depends. I also have some scoops, tongs, magnifying glasses that I use for exploring in the sensory table and for activities that I have going on in there. I’m not sure if this helps, but if you have other questions, you are welcome to contact me. Good luck and have a ball!!!
I loved the fall idea with the acorns/corn. A word to the wise though, I tried that this year, I went in on a weekend to put it together because I was so excited to get it all set up (I have a table similar to yours with beans in it and put the acorns along with corn and fake leaves in a small tub for an extra table.) I put my sorting cards in it and then was soooo disappointed on Monday morning! The acorns and corn had turned my cards moldy and it all stunk so badly, not to mention worms…eeek!! So be super careful if you use these, I have several kids with bad allergies so I had to throw it all away. None of it was wet when it was put in so I’m not sure what happened but it was horrible!
Kim, thanks for your comments. Yes! You have to have dry product to put in your bins. Also, when I collect acorns, I always stick them in a large plastic bag in the freezer for a couple of days to kill any critters that might be lurking about. That usually always does the trick.
I just found you through Pintrest and am so excited about using a sensory bin with preschool and kindergarten special needs children in speech therapy. I have IEP goals to target oral language, listening comprehension, play/social skills, sensory needs, attention, behavior… I have tons of ideas for themes, books, and seasons but I want to start simple. I have an extra under-the-bed box I’m taking up to school to use. I’ll be able to pull it out from under my desk and use it over and over. I don’t want to overload the little ones with bright colors, smells or textures (especially since I don’t know them yet). Any suggestions on where to start? would love to hear comments. thanks.
I like to start with colored pasta or just some different dry beans. If you think the pasta colors are too distracting beans is probably the way to go. They are easy to clean up and students can still get in there work with them in different ways.
Good luck. Let me know if you have any questions.
Wow Marsha. Thank you so much for this post. It has been eye opening for me. I am just a mom who loves to volunteer at head start and I am now pursuing my CDA Credential. I am a firm believer in Sensory Tables. My son who has SPD was classified as a kinesthetic learner because his OT uses them in therapy. Once we adapted his routine to fit his way of learning he has thrived. He is going now to Kindergarten and I cannot wait to talk to his teachers and the teachers in Head Start about incorporating Sensory play more frequently. I will come back for more. Again, thank you so much; it is nice to know there is other people interested in this important tool out there.
What a wonderful comment. I’m so glad you liked the post and found it useful.
Hi, I stumble upon your post while looking for ideas for sensory bin. Thanks for explaining in details about what sensory bin is really all about and I like the instruction sheets you created!
I’m homeschool my boy and I am integrating sensory bin into his routine. I would like to know, how often should I do sensory bin activities, once a week or daily? And how long the bins stays for- a day or throughout the week?
I actually have several small bins going at one time. They usually last at least a couple of weeks and then I switch them out but it really depends on my kids and how they are progressing.
I’m sold! I bought a sensory table with my budget this year, and I’m currently printing all the task cards 🙂 Just wondering how you keep your years worth of task cards stored and organized? I’m working on getting it all set up this summer, and want to be ready come fall!
I actually file them amongst my monthly themed tote boxes. So when a new month comes up, I have all the activities for that month available to pick and choose from.