Saturday, 4 August 2012

Dinosaur theme sensory table

Today we got our hands dirty and made a dinosaur land in our sensory table. I used compost, pine cones, shells, plastic plant pots, and spaghetti pasta.

We also made a car ramp using a bit of plastic and a bucket of water :) 

A lot of people dismiss sensory tables thinking its just an inconvenient mess, when in reality they are so much more. Young children learn using their senses. They need to feel, see, smell, hear, and sometimes taste materials in order to fully understand it. We are very aware of this when our children are babies and are putting whatever they can find in their mouths and playing with crinkly toys but we forget that this goes beyond the toddler years.

Sensory tables build on cognitive development. This is a mental process that includes memory, making decisions, problem solving and understanding language. It is the part of our brain that helps us process information and apply knowledge.
When it comes to the sensory table the children are given materials and tools with no instruction of what to do. They will  use their senses to process what materials and tools they have been given by observing and experimenting  and apply their knowledge to decide what they are going to do with it.
This self directed play allows children to be creative and gives them confidence and a feeling of self achievement.

Macey quite often puts quite a lot of thought in to this when I put new things into the table. Yesterday evening she was drawing up plans on ideas that she had for the table. She wanted a slide for the dinosaurs and asked if she could have some glue to stick the spaghetti together.

Maths can be applied to count, size, match and sort items into groups. They can grasp a better understanding of full and empty, more or less, and whether things float or sink.
In our dinosaur themed table Drew pointed to the pine cones and attempted to count. He then put a pine cone in one of the plastic plant pots and filled another with shells. Macey told him he had more shells than pine cones.

Science concepts are used when predicting outcomes and experimenting with materials such as cause and effect. Children have the opportunity to explore and build a better understanding of gravity and speed.
When Macey and Drew were playing with the water bucket and car ramp they were trying to figure out which car went down the ramp the fastest and recognised that some cars floated and the bigger ones sunk to the bottom of the water. They also used cause and effect when discovering  what happened when they mixed  water with mud. They put the wet cars in the sensory table and noticed that the water made the mud slimy.

English and language can also be improved. Children build their hand eye coordination and fine motor skills which are used for holding a pencil to learn how to write when pouring stirring, whisking and manipulating the materials. The activity gives a child a sense of self awe which they want to share. It gives them something interesting to talk to others about because each child will use the materials differently. It builds on their vocabulary as they try to express and share their ideas.

A simple activity, with huge benefits, that will give your child hours of enjoyment!

Other sensory table ideas:  ( click the image title to find out more)

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