Sensory Table Activities
By: Carmen Willings
Although a sensory table is sometimes overlooked, particularly in the older grades, it provides a great opportunity for conducting early experiments with math and science concepts such as conservation of volume or cause and effect.
Keep in mind that many students may resist touching new or different textures for several reasons. Some students seem to be particularly sensitive to tactile stimulation and may be more easily irritated by certain types of textures. Others simply don’t like messy activities. The benefits of helping the student build up a greater tolerance for things will allow him to learn more about his world. Help the student to develop tactual and fine motor skills by encouraging the student to feel a variety of textures and provide opportunities for “messy” play. You may need to start with something like finding toys in a bowl of beans before playing with something“gooier”. Vary the materials placed in the table/tub. Alternate wet and dry. Add textures, scents, and sparkling confetti to make it more visually interesting. Use bright colored tools, toys, and objects that contrast with the sand, rocks, etc.
While the student is exploring materials in the dry or wet sensory area, encourage them to not only explore but also transfer items. Demonstrate how to transfer wet items with sponges, basters, etc. into another container. Similarly, demonstrate how to transfer dry items. This is a wonderful opportunity to develop coordination and hand strength and dexterity.
To encourage concept development, make available materials that encourage the student to think about what an object will do, such as sand that is sometimes wet and sometimes dry, requiring the student to think about whether to mold it, pour it, or sift it. Encourage students with low vision to use their vision to look at the movement of water splash in water table; water during experiments with sinking and floating; and fill different containers and see how long they take to sink.
Students can learn about measurement and tools when you provide measuring cups and measuring spoons. Challenge students to guess how many scoops it will take to fill a container or to think about which will fill the container quicker. What tools are best for the various materials?
This presentation provides instructional and communication strategies for working with students with severe and profound disabilities who are functioning between a birth to two-year-old level. It also provides suggestions for setting up sensory environments and creating adapted materials, so the student has activities to interact with no matter what position or area of the room they are in. I share lightbox activities and how to use iPads and computers as instructional tools. Finally, I share functional literacy activities that embed sensory experiences that you can create with your students. The activities are appropriate for the classroom but can also be used during distance learning. This presentation is packed full of activities you can begin using immediately with your students!
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