Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sensory table experiences...the custodian's nightmare!

When I was going through my early childhood coursework we didn't learn much about using sensory tables other than having sand and water in the classroom were nice additions.  When I landed my first teaching job in a preschool classroom I had two sensory tables.  I was fortunate to have a fairly large table that was initially filled with was metal and had wheels on one end so it was easy to move when filled.  My water table was a clear plastic tub in a metal had a drain spigot but I found it easier to carefully carry the whole tub to the classroom bathroom and dump in the toilet (the sink drain was not fast enough to handle that volume of water).  When dumping the water tub the metal frame was left unattended and was often occupied by a preschooler using like a walker for the elderly.  In the beginning I was not very adventurous when it came to the sensory options in my could play in the sand or the water...and the water might have bubbles in it.  This post is devoted to remembering the some of the favorite materials I have used over the years in my sensory tables...for some I will indicate the overall theme of the classroom. 

Image result for sensory table
Not my sensory table but the propped up
lid is familiar. 
  • Snow--real snow (or crushed ice) to be enjoyed with gloves and mittens 
  • Styrofoam peanuts (simulated snow)
  • Cotton balls--snow and with doctor theme
  • Plastic Easter grass--with plastic bugs or jungle animals
  • Uncooked Oatmeal with plastic spiders--nursery rhymes
  • Dried beans/seeds--beware--damp kid hands + dried beans/seeds = sprouts
  • Flour--bakery theme...this was a great idea in my head...not a good idea for a carpeted classroom...and with slightly dampened children they ended up looking like little ghosts
  • Dirt with plastic veggies and silk flowers--gardening theme
  • Pumpkins--with the "lids" cut out
  • Water with live fish--this didn't last long
  • Mud--the kids transformed dirt to different consistencies of mud 
  • Colored rice--my old apartment probably still has remnants of the first 20 pound bag I colored
  • Bubbles, baby dolls, and wash cloths 
  • Cooked spaghetti with a little oil 
  • Ribbons, cardboard tubes, yarn, masking tape, & scissors
  • Fall leaves, pine cones, twigs, sticks, 
  • Rocks, pebbles, aquarium gravel 
  • Ice blocks, water, and polar animals
  • Sod, water spray bottles, scissors, plastic animals 
  • Pseudo moon sand--flour and baby oil
  • Clean mud--toilet paper, grated ivory soap,and water 
  • Paper hole punches

I usually kept a small whisk broom and dust pan near my sensory table for the kids to clean up...some kids enjoyed the broom action better than the materials in the tubs.  I tried not to annoy our custodians, so I spent quite a bit of time cleaning things up as much as possible...but I have heard numerous custodians grumble about sand clogging the vacuum cleaners and other gripes.  I did make a few logistical mistakes with my sensory not place a sand table too close to the computer work station or a sink.  The computers took on a lot of flying sand in every nook and cranny.  The sink issue at first became a problem because of the kids adding too much water to the sand table...a little water added a new dimension to the play...but too much and it was a soupy mess.  The second sink issues was caused by the kids adding sand to the sink which clogged the drain...three different times...I learned several things from that experience...when kids do weird things with the materials it is time for a change and after the first call to the physical plant to unclog the drain it was easier to just shop vac out the sand in my own.  

There are so many possibilities for sensory creative and follow the children's interests and needs.  

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