Day fifteen of our Simple Play :: complex learning series brings you some great sensory tub ideas, for babies, toddlers and beyond!
Very simply, a sensory tub is a container of some kind, filled with a variety of materials that encourage children to explore with all their senses. You don’t need any special equipment, and because they are so easy to make, you can keep changing the contents to offer your children lots of interesting experiences.
There are three basic components to a sensory tub:
One: a container. You’ll need something large enough to hold a variety of items, but shallow enough to allow your child to be able to reach inside and explore. We most often use a plastic under-the-bed storage box, but a cardboard box, washing up bowl, paddling pool, purpose-made sand and water table, or even the bath tub can all be good alternatives. For ideas on container choices, take a look here (affiliate link).
Two: a base material. You can just pop your sensory items in the tub on their own, but using a base material turns the sensory tub into a lucky-dip treasure hunt, where your child can dig down inside and discover hidden goodies. Materials that make good base materials include water, rice, pasta (both dried or cooked), sand, mud, oat flakes, shredded paper, grass clippings, leaves…
Three: added extras! Try to include a rich variety of materials within the tub, so your child can explore using all their senses. You can add things with different textures, smells, shapes, colours and sizes. Anything goes, so long as the items are safe to handle and you know your child will enjoy playing with them. You can print of this poster of ‘loose parts’ ideas for suggestions, and take a look at tubs featured below for ideas.
Sensory tub ideas
You can use sensory tubs for the pure delight of exploring the senses, as a way to calm or stimulate children, and also for maths, literacy and imaginary play. Here are some suggestions to try.
You might like to give your sensory tub a theme, perhaps including things that are all the same colour, or the same shape.
You could make a sight word sensory tub with hidden letters inside.
Or try using a sensory tub for storytelling, like this Three Bears tub.
Sensory tubs are still great for older children too. Try learning spelling in a sensory tub full of coloured salt.
A sensory tub can be a particularly useful activity when you need to transition from one time to another, such as coming home from school or before bed time. Give this zingy lemon sensory tub, or this relaxing bedtime lavender tub a try.
Ready for a whole year of exploring through the senses? Super Sensory Invitations to Play is a delightful resource that encourages your children to explore the five senses through the year, using a wide variety of sensory materials. It includes 52 invitations to play, linked to the festivals and seasons of the year, and including water, ice, dough, rice, paints, sand, sensory tubs, and more.
They are easy, simple, and fun ideas that you can use right now to give a multi-sensory boost to your play and learning. It comes with a printable recipe book featuring all our favourite recipes for play. Come and see more here.