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Montessori Sensory Tubs: Sand Play Without a Sandbox - featured July 10, 2009

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Montessori Sensory Tubs: Sand Play Without a Sandbox

Copyright © 2009 Chicago Montessori Learning Examiner
Reprinted with the express permission of the author as originally published on her website.

By: Jocelyn Scotty
Chicago Montessori Learning Examiner


One of the key elements in a Montessori environment is a child’s exposure to sensorial experiences, those things which engage the senses in a way that allows a child to explore and discover the world around her. Why does a child love to take off her shoes and squish her toes in a sandy beach or a playground sandbox? It’s all a wonderful sensory experience.

Whether you live in an apartment or just don’t want to deal with a big messy sandbox, it is easy to make your own individual sensory tubs for your child to experience a variety of touch activities at home.

Choose different clear plastic storage boxes with lids in a size appropriate for your child and space. Fill each box 1/4 to 1/2 way with your sensory items and be sure to have a supply of child sized measuring cups, spoons, scoops, tongs and funnels available. The manipulation of these tools will encourage concentration and improves fine motor dexterity.

Sandy tub: use play sand, corn meal, ground coffee or soil

Smooth Tub: use dried beans, small pebbles or dried corn kernels

Slick Tub: use very small items like uncooked rice, bird seed, table salt or glitter

Slippery Tub: float a few small bars of soap in water

Soft Tub: use craft poms, cotton balls, feathers or marshmallows

Rough Tub: use uncooked pasta shapes, sea shells, dry leaves or pine cones

Wet Tub: use shaving cream, Jell-O or finger paint

Cool Tub: use ice cubes, frozen peas or snow

Therapist and Parent Tips:

  1. Have only one sensory tub out at a time and do not tell your child the name of it, let her discover the sensation on her own and use her own language to describe it.
  2. Place a washable plastic tablecloth or placemat under the sensory tub before play begins for ease of clean up.
  3. Place the lid on the sensory tub and have your child shake it for a completely different sensory experience.
  4. Children should always be supervised during sensory play as most items in tubs are choking hazards for very young children.


Featured Author/Blogger: Jocelyn Scotty of the Chicago Montessori Learning Examiner

Jocelyn Scotty is a certified Early Childhood Montessori teacher, former teacher educator, school administrator and summer camp director. She is currently working as a consultant to the educational materials industry and has a daughter who attended Montessori through 3rd grade

We thank the Joceyln for allowing us to reprint her copyrighted article. Please visit her blog site at Chicago Montessori Learning Examiner

Tags: Sensory Motor Skills - Sensory Integration Newsletter July 2009 Tip or Resources of Week Sensory Processing Disorder OT Article