Sensational Sensory Stations

by Rachel Stepp

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Touch and feel sensory box stations are always a hit when center time rolls around! Children love the idea of sticking their little hands in a box of unknown treasures to explore and learn. I have seen sensory boxes filled with a variety of contents, and sometimes those contents can get out of hand! But if you’re feeling like adding a sensory station to your classroom, here are a few simple ideas:

If you don’t already have a sensory table, create your own! This can be done by purchasing an under-bed storage container; this size works well because it is long and shallow. Simply clear off a tabletop and put your storage box on the top of the table. Add Velcro or tape to secure your storage box so that it won’t find its way to the floor.

Next, add your contents!

1. Dry Noodles

Add uncooked noodles such as bowties or elbows and allow students to dig through them to find hidden contents. For younger grades, make a list of your hidden contents and have students search for each item and check it off as they find it (ex: a bouncy ball, dice, a fake coin, etc.). Also, you could hide tokens that have a number or letter on them. Ask your students to find the numbers or letters in chronological or alphabetical order.

2. Dry Rice and Beans

Add shovels and cups to the sensory station to allow students to dig through dry rice and beans. Let students write/talk about how the rice feels as it flows through their hands. You can dye white rice using food coloring to add some color to your table.

3. Sand

Wouldn’t it be nice to bring a little beach to the classroom? Add sand into your sensory station to let students experience the feeling of sand between their fingers. You can put a funnel and other sand toys in the box to let students play with. Ask students to try to ‘build’ buildings and create tunnels. Let them build their motor skills as they dig through the sand.

4. Water

If you’re feeling brave enough, add water into your sensory box. Water will be an automatic hit in your classroom! Students will enjoy sticking their hands into water and exploring its properties. Add in items–like a small toy boat, a small hollow plastic ball, a magnet–that allow students to explore the idea of sink and float. Create a worksheet that allows them to record predictions about sink and float and then their findings.

When bringing a sensory station into your classroom, it is important to remind students about guidelines they should follow. Such guidelines include keeping the contents in the table, following directions at the table, and completing work at the table. You can always ask your students what they would like to see in the sensory box… children are full of great ideas!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia who is brimming over with creative ideas to share on A Learning Experience. And aren’t we glad!

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5 Comments

Filed under Centers, Cooperative Learning, Science

5 responses to “Sensational Sensory Stations

  1. We had a bin of rice at home for about 2 years for the kids to play in. We had all kinds of toys and tools over time that made it into the box. We just kept a lid on it when not in use.

    I also liked to get out a large metal bowl and fill it with water and soap suds or my daughter when she was younger. Lots of towels on the floor helped contain the inevitable spills, and it kept her busy while I worked on dinner or cleaning. There was something very relaxing about it for her.

  2. Ramona

    Another idea, if you are brave enough also, is to put gardening soil in your sensory table. The children seem to enjoy getting their hands very dirty.
    I observed in a Pre-K classroom where the teacher had the dirt in her sensory box, next to the sink and the art area. The children had put the beans from the art area in the dirt and added water to the box. When the teacher returned over a three day weekend, guess what? She had beans in her sensory box. The children loved the idea about beans growing in the box.

  3. Jennifer

    Sensory activities are so important for the little ones and they can be extremely inexpensive too! We have used bins of beans, rice and elbow noodles for over two years now. Many of the play kitchen tools work well in the rice and beans. Add in some $1 measuring spoons and $2 measuring cups and you have an easy way to teach many math skills! Having fun and learning at the same time – what could be better?!

  4. Peggy Hernandez

    Rachel,
    I haven’t had sensory stations in my classroom before. But, I am doing a poetry unit in my class. I like them to think about the 5 senses when writing poetry. I think I will have them go through some sensory stations, guess what the item is and write a poem about how it feels. It would be fun to have some jello or other slimy gook and let them really experience how it feels in their hand. I could see some great poems coming out of this.

    gooey, slimy, sludge
    moving in my hands
    what could it be oozing
    down my fingers? Jello,
    pudding, someone’s brains?
    Oh no!

  5. ecossick

    These comments and ideas are all awesome. Peggy, your poem cracked me up. A $20 School Box Gift Card is in the mail to you, my dear. :)