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Exploring the Sensory Table

boy at sensory table

About this video

In this video, we watch Cameron and Anthony, both age 4.5 years, as they play at the sensory table in their classroom. Children enjoy exploring materials with their senses. A sensory bin or table is a place teachers can set up opportunities for children to do this type of exploration in the classroom while containing the mess that may occur as children play. Sensory tables allow children to actively explore materials using a variety of tools and their hands.

Sand and water are frequently used in sensory tables, but there are endless possibilities for materials such as wood chips, leaves, gravel, or fabric swatches. By varying the materials, teachers create opportunities for children to use descriptive vocabulary and compare the properties of different materials with their peers.

In this video, we see Cameron and Anthony describe the colored water and sea life figurines in the table. We hear them discuss how the figurines look different under the colored water. They hypothesize about a reason it might occur (i.e., “it might be a mountain”). In these conversations with peers, children are developing observation and predication skills that are foundational for future science learning.



People talking in the background.

Cameron: Wow, it’s so squishy, buddy.

More background chatter.

Anthony: It’s so cool.

Cameron: That one turned red. Mine turned green.

Anthony: I don’t know why that turned green. It might be a mountain.

Cameron: It turned green. We had, I had to roll it down.

Benchmarks and How They Were Met

BenchmarksHow They Were Met
Language Arts
1.D.ECa: With teacher assistance, use complete sentences in speaking with peers and adults in individual and group situations.
1.D.ECb: Speak using age-appropriate conventions of Standard English grammar and usage.
The boys speak to one another using full sentences and age-appropriate language. They show their knowledge of conventions of English by using contractions, verbs, and adjectives.
12.C.ECa: Identify, describe, and compare the physical properties of objects.
12.C.ECb: Experiment with changes in matter when combined with other substances.
The boys are playing in a sensory table exploring the physical properties of objects in water. One boy describes the materials as “squishy.” They also talk about the color of the materials and discuss how the materials “turned” colors.
Social/Emotional Development
31.A.ECa: Show empathy, sympathy, and caring for others.
31.A.ECb: Recognize the feelings and perspectives of others.
31.A.ECc: Interact easily with familiar adults.
The children interact with one another verbally as they discuss the materials inside the sensory table. This cooperative activity also allows the children to practice sharing materials and engage in prosocial behavior as they work closely together at the sensory table.

About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Family Child Care
  • Child Care Center
  • Preschool Program

Intended audience(s):
  • Parents / Family
  • Teachers / Service providers
  • Faculty / Trainer

Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
Related Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards:
Reviewed: 2019