Although sensory tables can be a lot of fun for preschoolers, you can’t always use the same materials in a toddler sensory table due to safety concerns, such as choking or bacteria. To alleviate these concerns, consider using some of the following safe items for a toddler sensory table, and be sure to wash the items with a mild soap when the toddlers are done with play.
No matter what the time of year, consider bringing some little bits of nature into your toddler sensory table. These items are not only safe, they’re also a great way for toddlers to learn about the world around them. In the spring or summer, try finding wildflowers, green leaves, or interesting grasses. In the fall, different colored leaves or pine cones are the obvious choice. And in the wintertime, you may want to consider filling your sensory table entirely with snow! If you do, make sure to provide mittens for the toddlers to use when playing with the snow, although you may want to let them use their bare hands for short time periods.
What should you fill your toddler sensory with? Although beans and packing peanuts are common ideas for sensory tables, they are not safe enough for toddlers as they may pose a choking hazard. Instead, try using biodegradable packing peanuts that melt upon contact with water. Alternatively, try using sand or confetti; although you would not want a toddler to eat them, they’re not dangerous. And of course, you can always use the old standby for sensory tables: clear water.
The main sense that toddlers use when exploring the sensory table is their sense of touch. Using interesting textures in the table can make it more fun for them and can enrich their learning experience. Try to include sandpaper, different types of fabrics, a few big pompoms, or objects covered in netting. You can even empty the sensory table and fill it with chunks of gelatin for a different activity.
Other Safe Items to Put in a Toddler Sensory Table
So that the toddlers can manipulate the filling in the sensory table, consider including dumping and pouring toys, such as shovels, cups, small buckets, sifters, measuring utensils, and funnels. You can also add trucks (dump trucks), or small figurines (ones that they cannot choke on) for toddlers to find. A rule of thumb to go by is if an item is able to pass through a paper towel roll, then it is considered to be a choking hazard.