For over 27 years, Tom Bedard has been building apparatuses for the sensory table. And it all started with a bucket.

The bucket answered a NEED at the sensory table – transporting the sand out of the table.

Hello!  How many of you have fought the “there’s more sand on the floor than in the sensory table” phenomenon?

The bucket provided the children the pathway to perform this need appropriately.
You see, Tom noticed children were naturally driven to transport the sand OUT of the table.  Truth.

Tom noticed that providing the bucket shifted his dialogue with the children. He no longer needed to redirect the children to keep the sand on the table.

This simple bucket gave them a place to transport it to! (Rather than on the floor!)


As a teacher researcher, Tom wondered – why does it seem that children’s attention isn’t sustained in the sensory table?

Tom noticed something.   The sensory table lacked challenge.

Think about it.   Once children get past the dump, pour, and fill stage, there really isn’t much else to do.

Tom had an incredible idea.   What would happen if dimensions were built in and around the sensory table?  His observation and research have resulted in an incredible framework for the sensory table.  

Here are Tom's 5 ways to extend and deepen sensory play.

1.  Alter the ORIENTATION of Planes.

Horizontal plane (the medium moves ACROSS):


Vertical plane (the medium moves DOWN):


Incline Plane (the medium moves DOWN):


2.   Provide a diversity of LEVELS.

Think low (floor) to high.  Levels are important for children to experience space.  Notice how the child has to reach up to pour the corn down the chute!

3.  Provide opportunities for OPEN and CLOSED pathways.

Think ramps, chutes, and tubes.  Children will naturally try to block the flow of the medium.  They will also naturally pour the medium into those pathways!


4.  Provide a variety of SPACES around the table.

Think spaces over, under, around and through the table. These spaces will encourage exploration.  Here's an example that is wildly wonderful!  Oh, my!  Look at all of those cardboard spaces!

5.  Provide lots of HOLES!
Children need to put things in holes. Make holes of various sizes and shapes and on various levels.  I loved this simple idea of a grid of holes over the table.  Simple but amazing!


I am beyond excited to have Tom Bedard back for Summer Conference to share his new presentation: “Dialogue with Water: Children’s scientific inquiry at the water table.”

Click here to register for our online powerhouse conference this summer and get a chance to hear Tom Bedard!


  1. Start small.  Start simple.  Pick just one of Tom's five ways of extending the engagement of the sensory table.
  2. Research.  Go to Tom's blog for inspiration and oodles of ideas.
  3. Test it!!  Don't get intimidated by Tom's elaborate structures.   Do ONE simple thing!
  4. Share your favorite sensory idea below!