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I had thought about putting together a sensory table for my kids for ages, but the “real” ones are expensive. When Anna’s pediatrician suggested that Anna’s strange way of moving might be a sensory issue, I decided it was time to make a sensory table!
Putting Together a Sensory Station at Home
The easiest way to make a sensory station is to take a plastic storage bin and place it on the floor, but I wanted something that would encourage Anna to stand. Tables are also easier for multiple kids to play around, in my experience. I did some research and settled on this Step2 Naturally Playful Sand Table. You can’t drain the water, but you can dump it out fairly easily (the table doesn’t weigh much), and it has a cover that you can fasten on with elastic bands – nice if you are having little friends over who are likely to put the contents in their mouths. It fits through standard doorways, so you can move it around the house as needed without having to remove all the contents. We put different things in it all the time –sometimes it doubles as our LEGO table! The bucket and other toys featured in that top photo all came with the table, which was a nice!
Pom Poms and Pony Beads are some of the more popular things to put in! We did some fun experimenting with weighing pom poms and pony beads. You need only a few pony beads to balance out a bucket full of pom poms! We have also used Perler Beads, although they apparently didn’t make it into my pictures!
This beach setup with colored sand, a few shells, Florist Marbles, and a couple measuring cups was also very popular. We use Craft Sand, and four-year-old Lily likes to swap out the colors! We use a small play dustpan to sweep it up, and a funnel to put it back into the container for next time.
Four-year-old Lily uses the sand table for a lot of dramatic play. In the photo above she is making pumpkin cupcakes! She also likes to bring our small plastic animals and squinkies into the bin to play.
I’ve added chopsticks a few times, and Lily likes to use them to write letters in the sand. She also uses them to pick up pom poms!
Right now we have our sensory table full of soft things – pom poms, feathers, and felt letters. We’ll probably add some fabric scraps in, later today.
My preschooler and toddler are the main kids who use this table, but sometimes my “big kids” – six-year-old Johnny and seven-year-old Emma – join in also. I love that!
Here you can see a quick clip of Anna and Lily using the table. You can tell in the beginning that Anna was leaning on the table – not the best way to support herself! Her physical therapist suggested putting the table next to the couch, with only a small space for her to stand (but not lean) between the couch and the table. That worked beautifully!
We store our sensory materials in little clear bins (the sand goes back into the containers it came in), and the lovely plastic containers that the delicious but pricey Talenti ice cream comes in. Being able to re-use the containers helps justify that splurge!
I should add, Anna is getting better and better at standing and even walking a little bit! I think the table has been a huge help, maybe through providing the sensory stimulation she needed, but also by distracting her while she works on getting stronger!
Do you have a sensory table? What do you think we should put in ours next?
MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.
28 thoughts on “Simple and Affordable Sensory Table Solution”
This is so enspiring! Thank you so much for sharing your great ideas!
Thank you, Margarita!
So glad that this table is serving so many purposes for you! And yay for it helping baby Anna! I sighed to myself when you called her a toddler. I think she’ll always be Baby Anna to me, lol. I like the longer table that you have. We have a round one, but my son got too tall for it. So for right now, we’re using a storage bin :(
I think she will always be Baby Anna to me, too <3
Sensory tables are awesome! Now I want to go back in time and get one too! My daughter’s daycare always had something different. I loved the rice!
I should get one, I love all these ideas! The only problem is that we’re short of space to put it.
Working with limited space always complicates things like this!
This is great! I’ve just done bins on the floor, but I like this idea better.
Cute clip of your girls in action! Love the idea of a great distraction while Anna works on getting stronger. Go Anna!! :)
Another one here who doesn’t have one, specifically because of the clean-up :) I’m wondering what alternatives we could do, or perhaps we could set one up outside.
This has really not been messy for us, mainly because I only put a few things in the bottom (instead of filling it up) – and, since it’s a table, not a bin, the kids can’t dump it out. Setting one up outside is a great alternative, though – I plan to do that more as it warms up.
I love it! Such a great substitute over expensive ones!
This is great! I’ve been meaning to do something similar but I just never get around to it. It’s so much easier to just send them outside to play with rocks and sand and leaves – maybe I’m just a lazy mom!! They would love the colorful pom-poms and beads! It’s wonderful to hear that Anna is standing more and starting to walk – I can see that this table would be a great incentive!!
Part of the reason I am only doing this now is that it used to be easy to send the kids outside to play! Here we have only concrete outside – not a very exciting sensory experience. I do plan to take this table outside more as it warms up, but if I had easy access to rocks and sand and leaves I would probably stick to that, also!
I spent the first almost-seven years of my life on a farm, and so many of my memories of that time are sensory ones – lying on my back on a freshly-plowed field, digging in the soft dirt, feeling kernels of corn, climbing a rope ladder to get up to a treehouse. I would love for my kids to have that type of a childhood, but since I married someone who will always work in a city (and who currently works in a very crowded area) I have to improvise! I think the way your girls are being raised is absolutely wonderful!
Thank you for making me feel better!! I love those memories of your childhood and I hope my girls have similar ones – still they would absolutely love this table. It must be a big adjustment for both you and your kids to have mostly concrete outside but I can’t wait to see what you do with the space – I’m sure it will be amazing!!
What a great blog, Mary Ann! I’ve wanted a sensory table for so long as well. Thanks for the tip on a cheaper one. I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog!
You found me! Glad you like the blog! You’ll have to come over to give our sensory table a spin :)
We actually don’t and it is one of the things on our wishlist that I would really LOVE to buy for Aarya! Because he loves stuff like sand, salt, water and the types! Yours look wonderful!
Sounds like he would LOVE one!
Yay for progress! Anna really likes those beads. We haven’t done sensory tables. Maybe I’ll start with Miss Baby J.
I did a few sensory trays with Emma and Johnny, and they enjoyed that – it’s a nice smaller scale option :)
Yes, smaller scale is good for a small living space ;-)
Yay for therapy working! We have never had a sensory table – my husband would have gone insane over inevitable mess :)
This has been surprisingly un-messy, partly due to my children’s personalities and partly because we don’t fill it to the top – and because we have it over carpet, so that stray beads don’t bounce all over the hard floor. I was afraid it would drive Mike nuts, but he’s been all right so far.
I realize that I never really did much sensory table stuff with my kids at home. I let them do that in preschool. I wish I had been blogging then to get these great ideas!
The bloggy world is gold for mothers of young children!
This is such a smart solution. Sensory tables are so much fun but I think a lot of people shy away from having them.
I think people hear the words and picture a huge, gigantic mess, but it really doesn’t have to be that way!
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