Homemade Sensory Table

We recently made a sensory table for the girls to use.  Well, when I say “we” I really mean that I draw up a plan and then Ed did the actual building.  Sensory tables are a great place for your little ones to explore with their senses (hence the name) and for messy projects but they can be pretty expensive.  This design was relatively cheap, under $20, and didn’t take too long to make.  A huge thank you to my friend Kendra for the inspiration.

And here’s a picture of the girls enjoying their finished sensory table.  They were exploring volume using measuring cups, jars, and bottles with the rice and beads in the bins.

Another great part about this design is that it can easily be adapted to meet different size needs. You can build it to whatever size bin you purchase. You can also easily add more compartments, creating a square or a row of stations.

Supplies: 2″x2″ baluster (cheaper to buy in 8 ft segments), 1 1/2″ wood screws, lag bolts (heavy gauge screws with a hexagonal head for a ratchet/wrench), plastic bins, drill, sandpaper, spray paint

 

Measure according to the bins and cut the baluster wood to shape.  When measuring, just look at the sides, don’t include the lip of the bins since you want it smaller so that it hangs from the lip.

Use 1 1/2 inch wood screws to connect the pieces.  We made one large rectangle and then inserted the middle piece.  And use a miter box at a 45 degree angle for all four corners.

Choose the height for the table (we went with about 18″ plus the 2″ of the frame) and then cut the leg pieces also from the baluster.  Attach the legs with lag bolts (really what you want are large bolts that have a hex head so you can use a wrench or ratchet on it.  You will need to drill out the holes first so that you don’t split the wood.  Ed used a larger drill bit so that you can sink the bolts so that they are flush with the wood and don’t stick up.  (The center prong will create a guide hole for the hole you drill for the bolt.)

Sand it so that the wood is even and the corners rounded to make it safer/softer.  You can puddy in the gaps but on ours they were so small it wasn’t worth the effort.  Then paint it.

Drop in the buckets.  For the bins, try to get as flat a bottom as possible.

We’ve been having a lot of fun with our table.  Above, they are having water play with water beads.  They are beads used in floral displays that puff up with the water and are squishy.  They come in all kinds of colors, are fun to tough, and can squish into all kinds of bottles, etc.

Just to show how much money you are saving, here are some similar sensory table designs…

I’m Special Dolls

This was a great way to connect our themes of “I am Special” and Our Bodies.  We got the silhouettes from Michaels craft store.  The girls described themselves to me.  I wrote their words on the people and then they colored them.  I found it interesting to see how the girls thought of themselves, although it was a little difficult to explain adjectives.  This is something I think will be fun to do again in the future every so often to see how their descriptions change and even how their drawings change.

How did Mia describe herself? Smart; strong; brave; beautiful; little; nice; smart; loves, collections, flipping dolphins, seals, and Disneyland; funny; giggles; really strong person.

What did Zoe say about herself? God made me; smart; pretty; funny; beautiful; clever; lovey; good at making things; serious; loves to play with toys.

I also picked up a boy packet for our preschool co-op group.  When my friend Kendra (an awesome mama) led the group, she had the kids draw self-portraits on them as part of our self-awareness activities.

 

Pouring, Plucking, and Basting

I just wanted to share some quick and easy activities to help little ones practice concentration and fine motor skills.  We’ve had fun pouring beans, plucking pom poms, and spurting water with a baster.  All of these activities were inspired by activities in the book Mommy, Teach Me! by Barbara Curtis.  Personally I think that nowadays it’s even more important to help children learn to concentrate since there are so many distractions out there.

Pouring

To practice pouring I picked up measuring cups with a spout and handle from the dollar store.  Following the Montessori set up that Barbara Curtis described, we used a tray for the cups, beans, and bowls.  While many people suggest using the trays as a means to focus the activity, I found a very practical benefit in that it captured all the beans when the girls spilled.

After mastering pouring beans, they can move on to pouring rice and then water.

Plucking

To build finger and hand strength as well as focus, the girls would pluck up pom pom balls with chip clips.  You could use tweezers or tongs as well.  What I liked about the chip clips was that they were bigger than tweezers but smaller than tongs. And we used pom pom balls because they are colorful but you could use cotton balls just as easily.

First I had the girls put the pom poms into the spaces on a large egg carton (but a small one would work just as well).  I was trying to encourage the girls to move one ball at a time since they were eager to move them all as fast as possible.   Later we would sort the balls according to color so that they were also practicing their sorting.

 

Basters

Also from the dollar store, we picked up some turkey basters and plastic bowls.  Each girl had a baster, a bowl with water, and an empty bowl.  I also added a few drops of food coloring to the water to make it more interesting and easier to see in the baster.

Be warned, this can be a very frustrating activity.  The girls really liked it but they also had a hard time getting it to work.  Basters are kind of counter-intuitive which you don’t notice until you are showing a child how to do it.

 

Want to get more out of these activities?  Set up the bowls and utensils so that children are working from left to right to ready the brain for later reading.  Also, end before things get out of control and your child is bored with the activity.

Swat the Bug Alphabet Game

When I came across these cute flyswatters at the dollar store (2 for $1), I got the idea for an alphabet game.  Luckily my awesome husband was willing to design it for me on the computer.  🙂 They are really cute and work perfectly with all of our bug activities we’ve been doing for springtime.

Bug Alphabet Cards

To keep the girls from getting overwhelmed, we started by laying out just a couple letters at a time and adding to them.  Then I would call out a letter and the girls would smack it with their flyswatters.  They loved it!  Later they played all on their own, swatting circles and calling out the letters.

So far we’ve only played on the floor but you could certainly tape them to a wall.  I also thought it would be fun later on to make a physical dot-to-dot with the letters around the house, having the girls follow the alphabet around or simple words spelled out.  I thought that would be fun for older kids who know their letters better.

For smaller children who do not yet know their letters, they could practice sorting the circles by color or bug, just getting exposed to letters.

I recommend printing them out on cardstock and laminating them so that they remain sturdy.  And while we only have capital letters right now, little does Ed know that I’m hoping he will make lower-case letters soon too.  As soon as we have them I’ll post them.

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