Last Updated on June 3, 2022 by admin
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Toddlers love what I like to call “squishy play.”
Handling things like wet sand, wet mud, and play dough seems almost therapeutic for them. That’s why I wanted to make sure that my list of staff picks included a sensory play station.
The tricky part is that there are several great ways to create a place that encourages kids’ tactile play. It’s tough to recommend just one product.
To start, my kids used an old-school, re-gifted Little Tikes turtle sandbox like the one pictured below when they were toddlers. They loved it, and they spent a lot of time in it.
But the sandbox also had downsides: There was a lot of pressure to make sure it was always closed at night to prevent animals from pooping in it. Ants tended to congregate in it occasionally if it was unused for a while. And of course the kids loved being able to sit and walk in the sand, but that also meant more sand on their feet and in their clothes, which then made its way into the house. The plastic sandbox was also super heavy, which made the chore of refilling or relocating it an awkward one.
I still think a basic plastic sandbox like the one my kids had is still one of the most affordable options for the type of tactile sensory play that kids love.
But a simple plastic bin in a wooden or metal frame also works well for sensory play without the downsides I just mentioned. Plus, you can bring it indoors for use with things like play dough.
My father-in-law made the sensory table pictured in the featured image for my son (although admittedly he was already 4 by the time he got it). There are plenty of DIY plans online for people who want to make their own simple sensory play bin using a standard storage container from the hardware store.
However, there are also plenty of simple sensory tables available for sale online if you don’t want to make your own. Here are a few:
As I wrote in my gift guide for mess-loving toddlers, there are almost too many options for parents who want to invest in a “sensory station” for their toddlers. In addition to sandboxes and tables, they may also prefer one of these options.
- Mud kitchens – These are designed for outdoor use and tend to be made out of wood, and have a few more options like storage for bins and utensils
- Water tables – These can sometimes handle sand, but were mostly made for water use. They may come with funnels and spouts to make things more interesting.