Activities

Penguin Sensory Table

Penguin sensory table using plastic toy penguins, ice, rocks and books.

This penguin sensory table is so much fun to set up! Princess L is totally infatuated with and fascinated by penguins currently. I love leaning into her latest curiosity to spark more learning opportunities!

Currently, we are using the IKEA FLISAT children’s table during our sensory play activities. But if you don’t have something similar, not to fear! For a long time, we actually used a drip pan from Dollar Tree. Other ideas of items you may already have that can double as a sensory bin are an old baby bath tub, an aluminum tray, or a shallow storage bin!

Let’s jump into how I set this activity up and what you’ll need!

Sensory table items you need for this penguin activity:

penguins

Penguin sensory table using Wild Republic brand plastic penguins. Sensory table contains plastic penguins, fake snow, and water.

No penguin sensory table could be complete without using some penguins! We love these penguins by Wild Republic! These feature different types of penguins including Emporer Penguins, Gentoo, Chinstrap, Adelie, and Rockhopper penguins.

It comes with 10 penguins that have held up super well to lots of playing. Other brands of plastic animals have had paint chipping and smearing after they have been submerged in water. These haven’t chipped or smeared, and have had loads of playtime.

These also make a super fun bath toy too!

creating the environment

Plastic toy penguins sitting on ice cubes and fake snow.

My favorite part of creating these sensory tables for Princess L to explore is having fun creating the environment. I really wanted to create a super cold place for these little penguins to live at! To get that frigid feeling going, I started by making fake snow.

A little bit of this expandable snow powder mixed with water goes a long way. I feel like it really adds to this sensory bin and makes it feel more realistic!

In order to get the penguins to stand on the ice, I knew I needed to make little mini glaciers. I used a square ice cube mold and mixed different shades of blue, purple, and black food coloring into the squares.

I also added some rocks that I had picked up at the dollar store and some regular ice cubes. Mixing some food coloring with the water in the bins also helped create some more pizzaz in our sensory table as well! I especially love this set of food coloring I ordered from Amazon. Itcomes in an array of different colors and I use it for almost every sensory activity I set up.

Plastic penguin toys set up in fake snow and water with penguin books displayed behind.

Books to help facilitate learning

I love including books in our sensory table activities if they are relevant to what we are doing. Usually, I like to set the books up at the beginning of our play, and depending on what types of materials we are using in the sensory bin, I sometimes move the books onto the floor to keep them from getting wet.

I mentioned this book, Baby Penguins First Waddles, in my top 100 books for toddlers post. We love that this book is packed full of interesting facts about Emperor Penguins. It features real photographs of penguins as well and is perfect for children who are interested in learning more about these creatures.

Another fantastic book that we get so much enjoyment from is Frozen Planet: A World Beyond Imagination. This book is big and heavy, and more like a textbook than anything else. But it is filled to the brim with breathtaking photos of arctic animals! We don’t read this book per se… but we do flip through the pages to talk about all the different animals we see. This book offers a lot of opportunities for learning!

Playing with the sensory table

Toddler hand reaching into penguin sensory table that includes plastic penguins with fake snow and water.

The great thing about sensory tables is that you almost always get to step back and enjoy watching your little one explore and play without needing to intervene.

Setting up the table to help promote your little one to continue to investigate and learn while playing will help to make this a successful activity. Here are some ideas:

Working out those fine motor skills

Penguin sensory table where toddler is working fine motor skills by using tongs to sort rocks.

I love including tongs in many of our sensory table activities. It is a perfect way for little ones to work on their fine motor skills. Encouraging toddlers to work out these small muscles in their hands is important. It helps to both strengthen and improve their dexterity.

Also included on the table were some small plastic bowls I had picked up at the dollar store. My daughter loves to sort and separate things. She immediately starting taking the rocks out of the bin and dividing them between the two small bowls.

Imaginative play

Toddler hand reaching into a penguin sensory table that contains blue water, ice cubes, plastic penguins, and fake snow.

My daughter naturally gravitates towards imaginative play. I like to help her get started by joining in the fun since I enjoy it also. Pretending to penguin can get messy! I totally recommend throwing a towel down on the ground before you guys get started.

Another great element to add during your sensory playtime is music. I like to play some original background soundtracks while she plays. These types of songs are instrumental and do not often have words. The Pirates of The Caribbean soundtrack is what I usually like to play whenever I set out any sort of ocean-themed sensory table.

Introducing different textures in sensory tables

Utilizing different textures when creating sensory tables for your little one will make the play more interesting. For this sensory table, I focused on snow, ice, and water.

Toddler hand reaching into a sensory bin that has plastic penguins and fake snow.

The giant ice cubes were a big hit with Princess L. She had a lot of fun moving them around in the water and splashing them. Together, we talked about the different temperatures and together we investigated what was coldest in her sensory table.

Toddler hand holding giant ice cube over a penguin sensory table.

Clean up and conclusion

Cleaning up after setting up a sensory table can be a real drag if things get too messy. My daughter enjoyed helping clean this activity up since I let her give the penguins a “bath” in some warm, soapy water. I wanted to be sure there wasn’t any blue food dye residue hanging out on them. Blue food dye has a propensity to stain and I didn’t want that to happen.

Messy penguin sensory table with fake snow, ice cubes, plastic penguins, and rocks thrown into a bin.

Having a towel on the ground for this type of activity definitely helps make clean up a breeze. You may find that the fake snow has floated away and landed somewhere else. A vacuum cleaner is the easiest way I have found to get it up!

I have had so much fun sharing with you this sensory table activity! Sensory table play is a regular part of our normal routine. I can’t wait to share with you more activities that I have put together. Please share with me any sensory table play ideas that your little one has enjoyed playing with also!