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The Basics For Setting Up A Sensory Table In Your Classroom

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Sensory activities are a key component of every early childhood classroom. They allow your students an opportunity to explore different textures and get hands on time with a variety of different materials. As you plan your classroom next year, make sure that you include a space for sensory activities and learning.

Setting Up A Sensory Area

Although you can purchase a sensory table from an education equipment company, that is not the only way to set up a sensory area.

You can spread out a tarp or tablecloth on the ground and use plastic containers for sensory buckets. Or, you can place the plastic container on a table instead. If you create your own sensory area, you have a little more flexibility. You can purchase a long plastic container that is a few inches deep, like those that are designed to slide under beds, so anywhere from three to five children can play at the same time. Or, you can use smaller plastic containers more the size of a brownie pan to create smaller sensory stations for one or two students.

Establish The Rules

Sensory areas allow your students to get hands on. However, getting hands on can also get messy. Be sure you explain to your students that they are to keep the sensory materials in the sensory area.

You should also firmly establish that there will be no throwing of the sensory materials, and that such behavior can result in the loss of sensory table privileges for the remainder of the activity. Throwing materials can get messy and dangerous, so be sure to be firm with this rule.

Choosing Sensory Material

You should change out the material in your sensory area every week or so. You can coordinate the materials to align with things you are teaching in your classroom, or you can let the materials stand alone.

Shaving Cream

Shaving cream can be messy, but kids love to play with it. Plus, all you have to do it clean it up is have your students wash their hands.

The first time you use shaving cream, you may just want to let your students explore the material on their own. 

In the future when you use shaving cream, you can "hide" objects like toys, foam letters, and foam numbers in the shaving cream and have your students find the objects. This provides another level of play and learning all at the same time. 


For a yarn sensory table, you can have your students cut the yarn up into different lengths as a separate activity to prepare the material for the table.

The first time you do the yarn table, just add yarn and let your students explore and play with the material. The next time you do the yarn sensory table, encourage your students to use the yarn to make pictures on the table. Finally, you can add beads to the sensory table, so your students can explore stringing beads and making pictures out of the yarn and the beads. 

Additional Material

Don't limit your sensory table to the materials listed above, you can use any of the materials listed below in your sensory table. You can even combine the different materials together for a whole new sensory experience:

  • Oats
  • Salt
  • Flour
  • Beans
  • Cotton Balls
  • Ping Pong Balls
  • Q-tips
  • Scraps Of Cloth
  • Pillow Stuffing Material
  • Snow
  • Water

The key to a successful sensory table in your preschool classroom is to establish the rules for interacting with the materials for your students from the start. Then, all you need to do is change out the sensory materials on a weekly basis and provide your students with different ways to explore the material. Sensory tables are really about giving your students an opportunity to explore something new and engage their senses and imagination. 

For more information about early childhood education and preschools, contact a company like D & J Educational Inc.