Sensory tables have been closed in most preschool classes since the spring, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have sensory activities. You just have to adjust. One adjustment is to make individual sensory trays for your classroom, allowing more space between your students instead of a communal sensory table. One of the challenges when moving sensory activities from the big sensory table to individual trays is that you need a clear objective. Scooping and pouring aren’t possible with a tray but exploring with magnets is. This magnetic sensory tray still lets your students explore textures. They can dig for different foam shapes and sort them, and of course, discover what is magnetic and what’s not. When I saw these paper clips, I knew this would be a fun use for them!
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Gather your materials. You will need a tray with edges, some filler like popcorn kernels and rice, foam beads, and if you want to make this a magnetic exploration, these animal paperclips, and some magnetic wands.
Start by filling your tray with rice and popcorn kernels. I used white rice as well as rice I dyed for these sensory bottles.
Add some fun harvest-themed foam beads ( I got mine here).
Add the rad animal-shaped paperclips ( find them here) and, of course, a magnet wand or whatever this is called…
Time to play.
I took this little video and shared it on Instagram here.
Harvest Farm Books to Go With this Sensory Tray
Fall Friends by Mike Curato is a sweet tale about friendship and exploring new places. Elliot and Mouse leave the big city and explore a farm in this book, but Elliot gets lost. Luckily Mouse knows what to do, and new friendships are formed. The illustrations are incredible, and you will be craving apple pie after reading this sweet autumn book.
Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown is one of my favorite books to read to my daughter before bed, although it took a while before she warmed up to it. I was worried because I loved reading it to my son and couldn’t wait to share it with her. The story is simple readers see a day in the life of a big red barn and all the animals inside. Each animal is introduced in a seamless text that reads like a lyrical poem. It’s calm, soothing, and Felicia Bond’s illustrations are perfect. I love how the sky subtly changes as the night beckons. An excellent book for any time, but especially poignant before bed.
The Grumpy Morning by Pamela Duncan Edwards is a great book. I think I got it as a freebie with a Scholastic book order years ago; either way, I am so glad I have it. The book follows all the animals on a farm as they wake up grumpy and hungry and needing attention from the farmer. As a teacher, I love this book because I could talk about whining and demanding and ask my students if there are better ways to get what you want. As a parent, I love it because the text is musical, and my son loves seeing all the animals and what sounds they make since he is still a little young to appreciate the lesson about feelings at 16 months.
Duck on a Tractor by David Shannon is a delight! If you are familiar with Duck and his adventures on a bike, you will know that his place in life doesn’t confine this farm animal. In this book, he boldly gets on a tractor and starts it and encourages his barnyard friends to jump on too! Younger kids love the silliness, and older children will get a more profound message about not believing things even when you see them. It is a little long for 3-year-olds, which is why I have paired it with a fun and simple activity. Older preschoolers will be fine with the length.
This school year is one of a kind, but I have been so inspired by all the preschool teachers trying new things, adjusting, and connecting with their students in new ways. I’d love to hear how you have modified this year, and what is working well for you.
If you like this lesson idea you will love the ideas I share in my printable thematic units – with multiple themes to choose from to fit your curriculum they are perfect for preschool at home or in a classroom. Check them out here and find out how you can save 20%.