Have you heard of a sensory tray? You’ve most likely seen or at least heard about sensory tables for hours of play and learning in a preschool classroom. They’re also amazing for kids to play with at home. I love a good sensory table, but the “I love all things small and cute” person in me is slightly more obsessed with sensory trays. So please, sit back and let me tell you all about them!
A sensory table is basically a large and pretty deep tub, filled with a material like (just for example) uncooked rice, lentils, dirt or water. Add in a bunch of small tools and containers and you’ve got yourself the makings of a space where kids build fine motor, problem-solving and early math skills as they play. And because it’s large and deep, it’s perfect for a small group of kids to play in together–so add social skills to the growing list of its amazing benefits.
So what about sensory trays? There are so many reasons to add these to the mix in your home or classroom. Number one, they’re smaller and more shallow. So that means they’re less expensive to fill with both filler and tools. And that means smaller spills, which equals easier clean up and less waste. And, since they are intended for only one child to play with at a time, they are a quieter space for those kids who might need a break from group play. Kids can spend time really getting involved in their own creations, explorations, and discoveries. They can really dig in 😉
Fill it Up!
So how do you make a sensory tray? It’s so easy! If you already have a sensory table in your space, you can fill your tray(s) with the same fillers and tools you already use. All you need is one tray (although I usually set up the space with two trays so that there was the potential for a little conversation between two children.) I used round trays I bought 20 years ago (that they don’t make anymore,) along the lines of these. Any shape will do, of course. You want to get something that’s not more than a couple of inches deep, so the kids are comfortable with the tray sitting in front of them on a table. I always placed mine on top of a large towel to catch the little spills. Place another small tray or plate alongside it, for extra tools and containers that may or many not get used.
It’s as simple as that! Depending on the ages of the children using the trays, you might need to give them some guidelines when you first introduce the trays. But in general, kids just know how to play when you provide them with open-ended, engaging materials.
Don’t have a sensory table? No idea what I’m talking about? Interested but not sure what I mean when I say ‘fillers’ and ‘small containers and tools?’ Never fear! I’ll be doing a whole post on the what, why and how of sensory tables in the very near future.