Sensory play set ups can be as simple as you like. From my experience, as long as they are open ended, they are sure to get great engagement. I set up this really basic water table invitation for my 3 year old and I couldn’t believe the imagination and creativity that resulted from it!

What you need:

The Set Up

This literally took me a matter of minutes to put together. I filled the large bin with water and then placed the fine motor tools in one of the small bins and the measuring cups and funnels in the other. The final touch was to add a rainbow family of six counters down the middle of the table.

Initial Exploration

With a set up like this I never really have an expected outcome as to what the play will look like. I’ve always found that it is really important to offer a few different tools and transfer containers as this encourages better engagement, and also a sense of the child directing their own play. The first thing my 3 year old did was to experiment moving the water around using the Twisty Dropper™. She enjoyed filling the measuring cup and even tested out holding the funnel above  which was great for her gross motor skills and crossing the midline.

Testing out the Tools

Before long my little one was diligently testing out each fine motor tool. She used the Gator Grabber Tweezers™ to rescue the counters from the water, as well as scooping up and transferring the counters with the Handy Scoopers™. These tools worked her little hands hard and were perfect for developing those all important fine motor skills.

Let’s Make Swimming Pools!

Here’s where the magic truly happened. When you keep a set up open ended it allows for the child to use their imagination to direct the play as they desire. My daughter yelped with excitement as she declared that she was making swimming pools for the family. She was so excited to transfer the water from place to place, carefully deciding who was going to swim in which pool and why.

Throughout she enjoyed continuing to use a variety of materials and tools to move the water and counters, chatting away about her play as she went. This play conversation is so incredibly valuable for language development and creativity confidence. I loved listening to her taking the cat and baby counters swimming together in the ‘baby pool’! She even gave them a little water safety lecture!

A Few Tips:

If you feel like your child never seems to engage with sensory setups like this be sure to engage with them. Play with the tools, ask them if they can do what you are doing, or do they know how something works. Joining them in their world of play is a great way to build their inquisitive nature as well as their confidence. Sometimes all it takes is to mention a simple idea such as ‘how can we make this container full’, or ‘how many counters can we fit in here’ and that will be enough to get the play rolling.

Another tip is to be led by your child’s passions. My little one always wants to play with her people counters so I knew she would be interested in the set up. If your child is more into dinosaurs or cars, just roll with it. One final tip is to enjoy your sensory play outside whenever possible as it makes cleaning up much easier. Water is one of my favorite sensory bases because all it takes is a quick mop up and possibly a change of clothes if things really get crazy. Happy playing!