Create Lasting Memories for Your Kids-Sensory Style

By Christi McKeag, NW Des Moines Publisher November 24, 2011

I have a love of sensory activities. It started from the time I was very little. As a preschool teacher, it was one of my favorite centers to sit back and watch the children play in. Naturally, when I had children of my own, I couldn't wait to start doing messy sensory activities with them.  


This sensory table contains: 

  • Black Beans ($1.14/bag - I bought 5 for my large table- at Walmart)
  • Magnetic Letters ($1 at Target or Walmart)
  • Magnetic Numbers ($1 at Target or Walmart)
  • Alphabet Charms ($3.97 for bag at Walmart bead section)
  • Wooden Letters ($2.97 in Walmart craft section
  • Glitter Pom Poms ($1.99 at Hobby Lobby, but I had purchased these awhile ago)
  • Pipe Cleaners (I had so many of these in my craft supplies)
  • Measuring Cups (I had on hand)
  • Tongs (I had on hand)
  • Tin Pails (I had on hand but they were from the dollar spot at Target)
  • Any sensory table or Rubbermaid tub


A note about the supplies:If you can find foam letters and numbers instead of magnetic letter and numbers, it would be a safer option for all children. If you do use magnet letters, please supervise the activity carefully and always, always check each piece carefully for loose magnets! This activity can be modified for younger children with larger items that are not choking hazards.

We started this activity one morning. I gathered all the supplies the night before and placed them in the sensory table. When my kids woke up, the sensory table was sitting out the way you see it in the first picture. Both my kids were immediately drawn to it and my oldest begged to play right away. I made them eat breakfast first, but I think my daughter asked me every few minutes if I promised they could play as soon as she was done with her muffin and yogurt. They helped me open everything up while we talked about what each item was. The kids immediately dug in and the most amazing thing happened... all I could hear was the sound of beans hitting metal and plastic,  giggles and questions about what things were. They both spent 45-minutes fully engaged in scooping, dumping, sorting, and touching. It was amazing to watch a 22-month-old with a short attention span not leave the side of a table for 45-minutes.

My daughter was so excited to play that she ran back immediately after eating snack and refused the go clean off her face! This is what she did for 5-hours that day! It was really neat to watch her find different uses and bring other toys to the table. It took her nearly 3-hours to realize that she could string the alphabet charms on the pipe cleaners, but after that she has asked me to spell words for her to make bracelets. Since we put these items out my kids have spent hours running their fingers through the beans, hearing the sound of the beans hitting the tin buckets, sorting items out, finding letters, etc. I have spent an equal amount of hours sitting there watching them discover and explore every aspect of simple and every day items. I can't even describe how amazing it is to watch new experiences through the eyes of a child and a sensory table is a portal for that.

All of these items are rated for 3 years and up.  Magnets found in the Magnetic Letters and Numbers can be dangerous if swallowed.  Supervise your children during all sensory activities.