Have you ever wished that you had a sensory table at home? Well here are a few ideas for how to set up a water exploration space! You can go as simple or as elaborate as you would like, and there are several ways you can tailor what you offer to fit your space and the interests and age of your child! Of course, you could always explore other sensory materials in similar set-ups, but since water is something we all have access to, that is what I will focus on here.
Style #1: Simple and Spontaneous
The basic idea: take the container described in the section above, elevate it, and add more surface space for transferring water. Maybe you have a child-level table that will hold your water bin, or maybe (like me) you have a ton of cardboard boxes still hanging around from when you moved. Place your container on top of whatever surface you choose in order to bring it to a good height for your child to be able to scoop and dump. It is nice to have extra space along the side for other containers to be added or for setting down utensils that aren't in use. I put together the above set-up in a matter of minutes yesterday by taping the water bin to a cardboard box with packing tape (I probably didn't really need to do this, but I figured better safe than sorry), lining the leftover box surface with a kitchen towel, and adding another plastic bin with the lid still on as additional "counter space."
What goes with water? - Material Suggestions
Now that you have your "water table," here are a few ideas for different types of set-ups you can create.
- Cooking and Mixing: bowls, whisks, measuring spoons, measuring cups, ladles, muffin tins... basically whatever you want to grab out of the kitchen
- Fluid Dynamics: funnels, containers of different heights and sizes (preferably clear or translucent), scoops, droppers, basters
- Paper Pulp: sheets of paper (ripped up or not) to submerge in the water; you can also offer surfaces to place the pulp to dry, such as plastic-wrap lined cooling racks or bowls to create dome sculptures. Just playing with the strange squishiness of wet paper can be pretty fun on its own, too.
- Color Experiments: small containers of different colors with spoons or droppers (or squeeze bottles if you have them!) full of colored water (I like to use liquid watercolor paint, since it is washable); or freeze ice cubes with different colored water, then add them into the clear water to watch it change.
- Bubbles: there are lots of tips for making bubble solution if you want to actually blow bubbles, but if you just want sudsy water, any dish soap will do. Combine with materials for stirring up more foam (whisks are great for this) and scooping and transferring it. If you are trying to blow actual bubbles, you can make some bubble blowing tools at home, too.
- Nature's Gifts: Combining natural materials with water is always great fun. Rocks, shells, leaves, pinecones (watch what happens if you submerge dry pinecones in water for awhile - it's fascinating!), flowers, etc. can all lead to interesting games in the water table. If you have any large rocks, it can be interesting to try brushing water onto their surfaces and seeing how the color changes.
- Mix and Match: And of course, any of the above ideas can be combined!
A few general tips:
- Put at least one towel on the floor AND have an extra on hand to wipe up additional spills.
- Set up in the kitchen if possible - if not, try to be near the kitchen or bathroom so you have easy access to a sink for either getting more water or pouring water out, as well as materials for clean up.
- It's okay to set limits, AND it's fun to look for possibilities! For instance, one day Nova started to transport water across the kitchen to her pretend cooking area, leaving a trail of drips across the floor. I ushered her back over to the water-play zone, while also bringing some of her play pots and pans back with us so she could include them in her water experience.
- You can decide how "permanent" you would like it to be. Maybe you create a set-up that you leave out for a few days or more. Maybe you keep your materials tucked in a corner to pull out as needed. Maybe you set something out, then put it all away when you are done because the last thing you need is more piles cluttering up the house. Do what works for you!
- Start out simple - you can always add more later! Both at home and at work, I often have an extra element set aside to bring out when interest starts to wane (such as the colored ice cubes seen above). This helps to extend the experience!
I hope this offers you some ideas for your days at home!
Katie (and Nova)