Trying to find effective Montessori activities can be difficult. People might think that sensory tables are Montessori aligned, but most of them aren’t. We’ll give you some great ideas for how you can make sensory tables more Montessori-friendly.
Montessori sensory tables engage learning in a natural way. For example, having a nature table with actual leaves, sticks, rocks, and dirt gives children an immersive experience. A table where kids can touch fabrics like silk or sequins and learn about different textures is also Montessori aligned.
Even though a sensory table may not exactly be a Montessori tool, this article will help you to understand how you can create a Montessori-like experience for your class or child. This is a great way to spark some ideas for what you could do to create your own Montessori sensory table.
Best Montessori Sensory Tables
First, let’s look at the actual tables themselves. If you enjoy DIY projects, there are plans available to build your own sensory table.
If you’d rather purchase one, there are several good options available in a more natural Montessori aesthetic, such as this simple one from Ikea. It functions as a regular table or desk, but the removable storage bins (which you do have to buy separately) transform it into a sensory bin table.
There are multiple sensory table options available on Etsy, some that can even be customized to your specifications.
This large sensory table with shelf is one of the more expensive options, BUT it has some cool features such as the bottom storage shelf, extra durable construction, and rolling casters for easy mobility.
Once you have your sensory table, how do you prepare the environment for your child? What is the best way to incorporate Montessori-aligned activities with your sensory table?
Montessori Activities: Importance
The purpose of Montessori activities is to allow a child to experience and learn about their environment in natural ways. Many times, the activities that are presented within a classroom are designed to isolate a certain skill. In the Practical Life station, a child can practice pouring water from a pitcher to a cup. This helps to isolate the skill of eye and hand coordination. Along with this, a child is also naturally developing their gross motor skills. These are the types of activities that are important for Montessori learning to be effective.
Sensory tables aren’t typically used in Montessori learning because they don’t typically fit its methods. It seems like they should work because they are built to engage a child’s five senses through an interactive process. However, most sensory tables or bins have too many textures, colors, or sensory experiences. It begins to overwhelm the child and this defeats the entire purpose of Montessori learning.
Although there are different textures or environments to interact with, it doesn’t isolate certain skills. This lack of isolation makes it more difficult for a child to engage with those activities and materials in a meaningful way. So, if you want to make a Montessori-like sensory table or bin, you need to be careful that you are just focusing on the senses. You don’t want to overwhelm the child to a point where they are unable to meaningfully engage with their environment.
As you probably know, everything that is used in Montessori learning has a purpose behind it. There are specific reasons that relate to a child’s coordination, their ability to develop empathy, and their ability to grasp abstract concepts more concretely.
So, let’s get started! We’ll talk about some different ideas that you can use to create an effective Montessori sensory table for your class or for your children.
Creating a Montessori Sensory Table
Creating a Montessori sensory table can be done by incorporating natural elements, as well as items found within the home. This will help children to learn more effectively. When we talk about natural elements, it doesn’t just mean things found in nature. Natural elements also refer to household items like wooden spoons or different types of cloth. Really it could be anything that your child might encounter at home.
Nature Sensory Table
Nature is such an important aspect of Montessori learning. Being able to step outside and interact with what they find is a great way for children to develop respect for their environment. Walking barefoot on cement or sand definitely engages the sense of touch. Obviously, you don’t want your children or students walking on a table. But what you can do is have sand and pinecones on the table, allowing them to engage their sense of touch.
The pinecone will help them to engage their sense of touch, but also their sense of smell. They can smell the woodiness of the pinecone. You can also have a variety of leaves for the kids to touch, feel, and smell. They can look at the differences in color, feel the differences in texture, and even hear the difference in sound when they rub them in their hands.
Another possible activity to do with a nature sensory table is to have a specific theme. If you are learning about the ocean that day, having a sensory table filled with different seashells and mollusks is a great way for them to learn more concretely about the ocean. They can feel the different shells and learn their names.
Fabric Sensory Table
For another option, you could also use a sensory table for fabrics. You could have different types of fabric for the children to feel. You could have a sample of silk, one of velvet, and one that has sequins on it. The children will learn about different textures and how they feel on the skin. You can create a matching game for this type of sensory table which helps them to test their mental recall for which fabrics are which.
If you have an older group of children you are working with, you can create a sensory table where they can practice using the different materials to dress a doll. This will help them to learn how different fabrics work, and which ones might be easier than others. For example, using silk to create a dress for a doll is going to be easier than working with something bulkier, like fleece.
Water Sensory Table
You may think that a water sensory table would be the perfect idea for this. However, you can do this already at the Montessori hand-washing station. Or, you can have your child practice washing their hands. They can also experience this during their bath time. It is something that is already part of their daily experience.
However, having a sensory table that can also function as a water table can be enjoyable for your child.
Sensory Table Tools and Accessories
The most common items used with sensory and water tables are usually items you can already find in your home, such as kitchen utensils, cups, scoops, tongs, etc. However, there are sets of child-sized wooden sensory bin tools available for purchase.
These are just a few ideas, so if you have any that you think follow Montessori learning, give them a try. If you notice your child or students interacting with certain things a lot, you can take those and create a Montessori sensory table activity. Always remember that Montessori learning is supposed to follow the child and allow them to learn and understand concepts in their own time.