You may have heard of sensory tables or tubs. They are a staple in preschool education and provide so many great opportunities for learning. Children benefit by exploring their senses, using oral language to talk about what they are doing at the table and coming up with ideas for stories. If you don’t have space for an actual table or just want to do a specific season/topic related sensory activity, a great way to do it is through sensory frames.
To get started, you gather a variety of materials for a specific holiday/topic/season. Organize the items so that they’re easy to see. Get a frame from the thrift store or use something you already have. The children create a scene using the materials you’ve supplied.
I find items at the dollar store, thrift store, in nature, or reuse items we have at home for the materials. I also like to offer the use of a pincer tool. This can be helpful to improve fine motor skills and grip.
Here you see an example of Spring themed scenes my daughter created. As she worked she came up with her own little ‘story’ about what was happening.
Here is what I heard from her while she was working:
“The butterflies are nocturnal just like owls. They are going to sleep in the morning and stay awake at night. Owls and bats, too.”
“The ladybugs are having a little chat and then it started to flood. It flooded so hard, everyone stayed into their house. And the flood came from the rain. That’s how it made the flood.”
“There was a huge flood. The grey rain clouds made lots of rain.”
“Oh no, the water swooshed on. The lady bug floated away. But, he’s not going to die. He’s going to be safe. He was struggling through the water and was trying to get to his rock. He saw a pink egg and went into it.”
These frames are a wonderful tool to encourage oral language. Allow the child to explore all of the materials first. Then ask questions as the child works or when he/she is finished.
Questions to ask during/after the scene is created:
- Why did you choose those materials?
- What did you do first, next, last?
- What is happening in your picture?
- Do you have any characters?
- What is the setting of your scene?
- Is there a problem that needs to be solved?
- Is there anything else you would add if you had other materials?
- Can you create a different scene using the same materials?
Examples of materials you could use for the frames:
- cotton balls
- paper cut-outs
- pine cones
- glass gems
- small sticks
- rounds of wood cut from branches
- silk flowers & leaves
- large seeds
- felt cut outs
- foam cut outs
- any somewhat flat material that can be used creatively
Here are some other examples of sensory frames my children have done in the past:
Just have fun with it! You’ll be amazed at what the children come up with!