This is a fantastic little activity that I set up at my daughter’s preschool, you can however also do this at home with your own kids!
The best part about this autumn/fall sensory table is that most of what went onto the table as playing materials we collected from the park during our nature walks.
Our children love to walk with their Dad, who also loves to walk in the park and forest near our house… and they always come home with treasures – especially if I have not joined them – they bring me gifts.
You can imagine the excitement when we HAD to collect enough treasures for an entire class!!! Bags full of acorns, chestnuts, leaves, and sticks were collected!!
As you are going to want to set up your own sensory table with materials you have around you, let me explain my thinking – this can hopefully inspire your own…
I wanted to add things that:
- We had collected ourselves
- Have color
- Have smell
- Have different textures
- Are familiar and unfamiliar
- Act as a starting point – or a base
This is what I added to our Autumn Sensory Table:
We had collected ourselves
- Leaves – Autumn leaves
- Big leaves to print table mats with,
- Sticks and twigs
- Play dough
- Autumn leaves
- Leaf printed table mats
- Painted popsicle sticks
- Scented play dough:
Orange Scented – This play dough lasts for months
Cinnamon Scented – With no cream of tartar
Clove Scented – No cook, 5 minutes to make!
- Spices (cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon)
- Aromatherapy burner with clove oil
Before the children arrived in the classroom I blasted my aromatherapy burner with clove oil – the classroom smelt amazing!! I loved watching both the parents and children arrive, as they walked through the door you could see the ends of their noses wiggle…
Have different textures
- Smooth acorns & chestnuts
- Prickly cloves and dried bay leaves
- Squishy play dough
Are familiar and unfamiliar
- Familiar – Play dough & popsicle sticks, leaves, sticks, acorns & chestnuts
- Unfamiliar – Leaf table mats, bay leaves, cloves, the scent in the play dough
Act as a starting point – or a base
At each little chair, I placed a leaf printed table mat so that each child could sit down at the table (or stand as some do) and immediately feel part of a new activity – their own leaf placemat gave the children their own little space to feel comfortable in.
I printed leaves with poster paint onto cardboard. They are not laminated or anything fancy – but they make such a good first impression!!
This is the best part – when the children arrive and you get to watch their faces and reaction to something new!
This is also the part when you see just how important and relevant routine is for preschoolers (2-4years.)
Usually, there are puzzles, play dough, and fine motor activities on the table when they walk in, things they are used to and are familiar with. Today, there was color and clove smells and things, and more things…
Most children rushed to the table very excited. There were a few who stood at a distance and looked for a while, and there was one little lady who stood behind her Mom for the longest time!!
It is then that you realize just how stimulating the smallest change is, and you are reminded just how little 2 years old really is…
The smallest thing makes a big impression… I love that!
The class created and played.
They all went for the play dough and the popsicle sticks first – as this is familiar.
Slowly they started adding other things to the play dough, and then they got making and building and doing!!
And – the parents played too!!
One of the Dads picked up the cinnamon play dough and said ‘this smells so good I could eat it!”
We kept the materials and put them onto the table every morning for a week.
The kids – and parents – loved this sensory table.
So next time you go for a walk, see what you can pick up to squish into play dough the moment you get home!!