As an Early Care and Education Consultant and Trainer, I am asked to conduct workshops on a variety of topics for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. My main goal in presenting at conferences and trainings (and also in writing this blog) is to share ideas and activities to use with the children in your care. I have been asked to present my workshop, “NO CHILD LEFT INSIDE! Extending the Curriculum Outdoors” for Infant and Toddler Teachers. The program coordinator specifically asked me to focus on the sand and water table and the sensory materials that can be included for this age group.
Is your sand and water table buzzing with activity or is it stagnant like the water you always seem to have in it? Perhaps your sand and water table is closed because you think it creates a mess. Whether you need to rekindle interest in your sand and water table or remind yourself about the value of sensory play…read on to discover the sensory learning opportunities found in the sand and water table.
The sand and water table can be equipped with two basins or tubs side by side or it can be one large table. Whatever the configuration, most of these tables can be used inside or outdoors. Sensory play, sometimes known as “messy play,” happens in the sand and water table. It is a center for exploring with your senses, experimenting, scooping, and pouring, squeezing and smushing (building fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination for handwriting), sharing and turn taking. Children can watch chemical reactions, mix colors, repeat observed phenomenon, and try new things. Sensory play promotes spatial awareness, mathematical thinking, and scientific exploration and discovery. It also is simply a great way for children to relieve their stress. Sensory play can be very soothing and relaxing to a young child.
Ideally, the items in the sand and water table should be switched out every week, though there are some materials (i.e., water) that need to be emptied daily. What you can and cannot include in your sand and water table depends on the children and the different policies of your program about the use of food during play and explorations, as well as concerns about children’s food allergies and sanitation. Some of the items listed may be problematic for toddlers and those children who insist on putting everything in their mouth, ears or nose. Provide close supervision and use only larger items for the very young.
Materials, Ideas & Activities for the Sand & Water Table:
- Water (cut up sponges and different sized containers)
- Water (turkey basters, buckets and different sized containers)
- Water (cups with holes and without holes)
- Water (foam fish, sea creatures, aquarium nets, and buckets)
- Soapy water (no tears shampoo) and babies to bathe, dishes or clothes to wash
- Colored water (with liquid watercolor)
- Bubbles (2 cups Dawn dish soap and 6 cups water) and bubble wands
- Ice—cubes, crushed, blocks, shaved, or snow—with salt, rock salt, liquid watercolor, pipettes
- Ice—plain, colored, shaped or with objects frozen inside
- Sand (sterilized, fine-grained sand)
- Sand (trucks, cars, foam wooden blocks or tabletop unit blocks)
- Kinetic Sand™ with Tree Blocks, and plastic animals and people for imaginative play
- Flour (alone or add water for a sticky mess—just coat the table and use with smallplastic vehicles or matchbox cars)
- Cloud Dough (8 parts flour to 1 part baby oil)
- Coffee grounds (used then dried)
- Cornmeal and coffee grounds
- Oats (dry or wet)
- Oatmeal, cinnamon, and salt
- Ecofoam packing peanuts or Magic Nuudles™ (dissolves in water)
- Cooked colored spaghetti
- Finger paint
- Torn or shredded paper
- Easter grass (plastic eggs and plastic bugs)
- Shaving cream or white foam paint (plain or with liquid watercolor)
- Shaving cream and or white foam paint with blocks
- Baking soda, vinegar, empty pie tins, and plastic eye droppers
- Flubber and plastic scissors
- Oobleck (cornstarch and water mixture)
- Colored rice
- Colored rice and flour
- Clean mud (toilet paper, ivory soap bars, water)
- Dirt (add water=mud)
- Dirt (scoops, small shovels, plastic flowers and plastic pots)
- Nature specimens (pinecones, leaves, flower petals)
- Wooden discs
- Pom-poms and cotton balls
- Fabric scraps of different textures
Depending on the contents of the sand and water table, add small shovels, rakes, sand and water mills, small watering cans, squeeze bottles, sifters, sand molds,buckets, plastic or rubber animals, small people, boats, vehicles, kitchen utensils (wire whisks, slotted spoons, scoops, tongs, tweezers, funnels,mixing cups, basters, ladles, muffin tins, plastic cookie cutters, ice cube trays, sieves) and a variety of containers to foster complex sensory play.
I think it’s important to have two sand and water tables—one for inside and one for outside. That way, depending on the weather and your setup, some kind of sensory activity can be available for the children to explore. Infants and toddlers rely on sensory input to learn about their environment. Sensory play helps build neural connections that support thought, learning, and creativity. It supports language development, cognitive growth, fine/gross motor skills, problem solving/reasoning, and social interaction. Sensory experiences are like food for the brain. With a little bit of planning, sensory play in the sand and water table can happen everyday!
Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:Best Value Sand & Water Activity Table and Lid (SWTAB, SWTABL) Neptune Sand and Water Table with Lid (NEPTUNE) Sand & Water Buckets (BUCKSET) 32 Ounce Bubble Solution (BUB32) Bubble Wands (BUBWNDS) Small Shovels (SMSHOV24) Watering Can (WCAN) Colorations® Easy-Grip Dough Cutters (EGCUTTER) Sand & Water Mills (MILLSET3) Pour and Measure Play Set (POURPACK) Funnels (FUNNELS) Excellerations® Fun Foam Fishing Set (REELFUN) Sailboats (SAILS) Sturdy Scoops (FUNSCOOP) Super Classroom Sand Set (SDSET) Sandtastik® White Play Sand (PLAYSAND) Soft Touch Cute Baby Sea Creatures (BABYSEA) Soft Touch Cute Baby Wild Animals (BABYZOO) Soft Touch Cute Baby Farm Animals (BABYFARM) Soft Multicultural Career Figures (HELPER) Small Multicultural Career Figures (PEOPLE) Bathing Dolls (BATHSET) Primary Toddler Dish Set (DISHSET) Magic Nuudles™ (ALLNU) Kinetic Sand ™ (KINSAND) Colored Play Sand (CSANDALL) Sparkling Sculpture Sand (BLINGSET) Shape it!™ Sand (MOONSNST) Small Gotcha Nets (NETS) Gator Grabber Tweezers (GATGRABS) Medium Insects & Spiders (INSECTS) Foam Wooden Blocks (WDFMBLK) Foam Tabletop Unit Blocks (FOBL) Tree Blocks with Bark (TRBLK) Tree Blocks without Bark (TRBLKNB) Chubby Land, Sea & Air Vehicles (CHUBBY) Fun Dough Scissors (DSCISSOR) Colorations® Tissue Paper Grass (TGRASS) Super Safe Plastic Droppers (12SSD) Colorations® Liquid Watercolor Classic Colors (13LW) Colorations® No-Drip Foam Paint (BFP) Colored Macaroni (SMAC) Colored Rice (RRIC) Colorations® Washable Finger Paint (CWFPS) Colorations® Sensory Sand Finger Paint (SANSET) Fabric Squares (FAB) Jumbo 2” Pom-Poms (LGPOMS) Craft Fluffs (FLUFFPK) Wood Craft Rounds (WOOD50)