Friday, February 18, 2011


Ah! Our favorite "center".  Typically it is the favorite center at many preschools and Kindergartens that I have visited. Sensory activities that are done away from the "sensory table" also grab the children's interest and attention very quickly.   Unfortunately, by the time they get to Kindergarten, time is taken up with "academics"---math and reading mostly---and their sensory table isn't available as often as it should be.  My opinion, of course!  Sensory play has many benefits and maybe I'll just link an article for you to read called A Handful of Fun:  Why Sensory Play is Important for Preschoolers.  There is a lot out there on the internet regarding sensory play and preschoolers and I can also give you more info if you want to contact me.  I think I'll focus on the types of sensory play we have done in the past, for this blog.

Sensory activities are another one of those "must repeat" activities.  Children benefit from repeating them often.  A preschool classroom often leaves a certain material out for at least a week in their sensory table so that the children can explore the material often as they wish.  I typically use a material over each day throughout the week but vary it by changing out the "tools" that are available for exploring. 

This week, our activities were focused around the theme transportation. 

Monday, we started out with sand and vehicle counters. 

Tuesday, we moved to oatmeal (quantity issues...and I wanted to encourage more "multiple child" play). I kept the vehicle counters and added measuring spoons, cups, bowls, and containers with narrow necks.

Wednesday, I added wooden blocks to encourage tunnel and bridge making.

Thursday, we changed out the counters and added wooden toy vehicles. 

Next week, I hope to have more sand available.  We'll be dampening the sand so they can make hills and valleys and we'll put new toy vehicles in (ones that will make different tracks) and tp/paper towel tubes, and small boxes to make tunnels and bridges.

Sensory play material ideas:  (I've bolded the top 5 of what my kiddos have enjoyed the most.)
*water- with/without color; warm/cold; soap/not soapy; icecubes/no icecubes
*sand + water; sand + rocks
*dried beans
*uncooked oatmeal
*uncooked rice (can color the rice using rubbing alcohol and food coloring)
* squirrel feed corn (corn on the cob)---good fine motor to let them remove the corn from the cob.
* bird seed
* aquarium gravel
* popcorn kernals
* mashed potato flakes (later add water for a completely different experience)
* fake snow
* real snow (w/ eye droppers and colored water)
* dirt (then add water later---potting soil works for dry play but not well for adding water)
* cotton balls or pom poms
* shredded paper
* foam scraps
* styrofoam blocks, styrofoam peanuts
* bubble wrap and lotion or finger paint
* coffee grounds
* cornstarch and water (goop/gak-and I guarantee the adults won't be able to resist it either!)
*  fall leaves
* shaving cream
* playdough ( I usually put playdough in my fine motor category but it's sensory also)
* uncooked pasta (you can color with rubbing alcohol and food coloring)
*  "easter" grass
* buttons
*  cooked spaghetti
* pumpkins and pumpkin seeds
* yarn scraps
* petroleum jelly and foam shapes
* rubberbands
* shells
* fabric scraps
* flour (add just a bit of salt to keep it from poofing a lot)
* cornmeal
* corn syrup
* pudding/jello
* silly putty

Oh, the list is endless of what you can do.  I know there are some programs that are limited due to federal regulations and can not use "food stuff" but for those that don't have an issue with "playing with food" there are a lot of options out there.

I guess this topic is going to take more than one blog.  :-)  However, I do want to answer the question "so how do you do this?"

Most preschools have "sensory tables".  These are really nice, at the children's height so they can stand and/or sit at the table, have drains and often have lids.  We don't have that option here in our home-based program so the "next best thing" is what I call our "sensory pool".  We use a plastic wading pool with a plastic dishtub inside.  Most children are unable to really keep it "inside of the tub" so the wading pool helps minimize mess because I can just dump the material back into the dishtub when they are all done.  It defines the space so I don't have children wandering around with the tools or material.  They know that they can play with sensory inside of the pool only.  Mess really isn't usually an issue.  There are some sensory activities we do right at the table or even at the kitchen sink but most we do in our sensory pool.  Below is a picture of Trent in our sensory pool back in October during our pumpkin week.  It'll give you an idea of how we do it.  I'll have to go through my other pictures and see what I can find to post.

By the way, he is using a "bug catcher". 
 I purchased ours from 
and we use them in our sensory play often!  Works those
 "scissor skill" muscles without them even knowing.  :-P

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