Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Table in the Sand Table

One of the things I’ve always wondered about sensory table design is why there isn’t usually a convenient work area for children to place and arrange materials. Sensory tables are designed as deep receptacles where sand, water, and similar substances can be moved about without spilling over, but there isn’t any easy place to put a filled container on a solid surface to fill it, or to assemble a group of objects that you’re working on.

To solve this problem, I sometimes put a wire closet storage shelf inside the table, providing a convenient surface for children to set their cups and scoops on. And sometimes, the holes in the mesh provide another medium to experiment with, as children pour sand or drop objects through the holes.




After watching the children pour sand over and through the large square holes, I decided to attach a pegboard to the wire shelf, to see if they would be interested in experimenting with how sand pours through those smaller holes. I used a clear sheet of plastic drilled with rows of pencil size holes.


Some of the children noticed the movement of the sand through the holes, but for most of them, the pegboard was just another table. Some were interested in the texture of the surface, and the sound made by pushing the sand across the plastic. The next day I added paintbrushes to the sand, and the children swept and brushed the sand in swirls across the pegboard. But what interested them most was laying objects on the pegboard, and using it as a table, or as a palette or staging ground for their ideas.





Maybe it was the solid surface that held objects up so much better than loose sand does. Or maybe it was the visual perspective of being able to arrange and manipulate objects so much closer to their eyes and line of sight than deep in the bin of the sensory table. Whatever the reason, the table-in-a-table gave some extra scaffolding and support, both literally and psychologically.
                                           



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