Learn how to make a homemade sensory table for kids using PVC pipe affordably and quick!
Today, I'm going to show you how to make a sensory table for under $25 with just a few supplies so that you can introduce your kids to textures that are fun and educational without having to worry about the mess that they bring.
This tutorial will give you some ideas on how you can build your own PVC sensory table, a list of ideas for filling your bins for home or school with things that are fun and educational for your children.
Making a Sensory Table versus Buying a Sensory Table
If you are trying to debate on whether you should buy one or make one, I'm just going to let the prices speak for themselves down below.
As you can see, pre-built sensory table can be really expensive. However, for under $25, you can make one for yourself right at home with just a few tools. The best part about it: you can also easily disassemble it and store it out of sight and out of mind until the next time your kid wants to play with it.
As an additional bonus, you'll be able to have MULTIPLE sensory object boxes if you use the same storage containers.
PVC versus Wooden Sensory Tables
If you are thinking about making your own sensory table at home, you're probably wavering on whether you should use PVC or make a wooden one. Two concerns that come to mind with either material types are whether it will be pleasing to look at as well as where you can store the sensory table when it's not being used.
With a wooden sensory table, you're going to need to bring out a miter saw, screws, screw driver, and after all of that, you'll need to make sure you have a place to store the sensory table.
With a PVC sensory table, you can make it so that you can take it apart and store! It might look less "professional" than the wooden ones, but will your kid care? They are also really easy to build and make it much lighter than a wooden table.
Wooden Sensory Table Advantages and Disadvantages
- Pro: Better reinforced and better looking
- Con: Expensive wood material and does not disassemble for storage
PVC Sensory Table Advantages and Disadvantages
- Pro: Easy disassemble for storage and least expensive option
- Con: Not the best looking if you are wanting to store it in plain sight
For us, it was a no brainer to make a PVC sensory table because we just don't have enough room. In this post, I'm going to show you how to build a PVC sensory table, what you need in terms of supplies and materials, dimensions of a few different size storage bins, and some of the best ideas for sensory objects to put into your sensory table bins for your kids.
About the Tools and Materials for Making a PVC Sensory Table
Most of these items you'll be able to find at your local hardware store, especially the big box ones.
One thing you'll want to make special note of is that the PVC connectors should be slip fittings (also known as socket fittings), not pipe threaded. I know some people have had a hard time finding 3 way connectors with a slip fittings, but you'll be able to find them for sure at Lowes. If you can only find the 3 way threaded, you can get an adapter to make it work.
If you go to a large hardware store and already have your measurements, most of the big box stores will cut the pipe for you (but I promise you it's not that hard if you have a saw).
Tips Before Making Your PVC Sensory Table
Before making your own sensory table out of PVC pipe, I wanted to share with you a few tips before you start this project:
- Buy multiple storage boxes for storing multiple sensory experiences and one for the legs.
- If you want to adapt it to add funnels and waterways, buy more pipe and elbows.
- Buy multiple storage boxes if you want to store and and water separately.
- If you are using sand and water, remember that this adds weight and can cause your table to bow. You'll want to create the reinforced bottom or glue the joints together.
- If you plan on using water, drill holes in the bottom of the feet to allow water to drain out (especially if you are glueing your PVC together).
- Heavier grade PVC will cost more, but will be more sturdy.
- Buy extra pipe and fittings because your kids will love to build things with them!
- When you buy PVC, they come in 10ft sections, so be informed so that you'll know whether it will fit in your car. As long as you know your dimensions and measurements, just make sure you have a pipe cutter, and you can cut the piece you need while you are at the store.
- Biggest construction tip: Make sure that you measure twice and cut once.
- For each bin, you could also get a ring and stretch accordion to add some instruction for the kids on what is inside the box and what they can look for. See the picture below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we get started on this amazingly easy project, here are a few questions that I've been asked fairly often:
What should the leg height be for a homemade PVC sensory table?
During the cutting list, you'll be able to customize the PVC legs to the height of your child. However, if your goal is to be able to store this for later, make sure that the length of the legs are no longer than the length of the storage box. How amazing is that?
For a five year old in Kindergarten, 24" is a great height (but makes it longer than the bin).
You can also have this sensory table "grow with" your child. This design can be used to add PVC pipe extensions to the bottom as your kids get taller.
What if I can't find slip 3 way connectors?
If you can't find 3 way connectors that are slip (not threaded), try going to Lowes. If you can't find them at Lowes, you can always buy a PVC male adapter and it will work out beautifully!
Should I glue the PVC pipes together?
If you want to make your stand sturdy, then I would recommend using some PVC glue.
Dimensions for PVC Pipe[table “3” not found /]
How to Make a DIY Sensory Table with PVC Pipe
Materials (see dimension table for more storage box cutting sizes)
- Sterilite 28-quart storage box (23 ½" by 17" x 16")
- 5 ¾" x 5 feet PVC pipe
- 8 ¾" PVC side outlet and 3 way connectors
- ¾" x ½" PVC male adapter (optional if you cannot find slip connectors)
- 2 ¾" PVC tee
- 2 ¾" PVC elbow
Step 1: Measure and Cut
Measure and cut out the PVC according to the dimensions (see table above for conversion).
Step 2: Layout and Organize
Organize all of the sized pieces next to each other by where it's going to be placed from the top section, middle section, and side sections.
I would also recommend adding reinforcement on the top branch if you plan on using water and sand.
Step 3: Assemble PVC Pipe Together
Put together all the pieces by adding the connectors in with the polls.
As an optional step, if you do not plan on disassembling the sensory table, you can add glue to reinforce the stand.
Step 4: Add the Tub and Sensory Objects
Finish the sensory table by putting the storage container on top of the PVC stand. Add sensory objects and you should be good to go.
Best Sensory Bin Filler and Filling Ideas
Sensory bins do not have to be expensive. You can fill sensory bins with just about any household item that you can find, the kids will love it just because it's in a bin and they know they can play with it. You are limited to you and your child's imagination and creativity.
Here are some sensory ideas that you can use to inspire you as you create your sensory table for your kids:
Colored Rice and Animals
The kids will absolutely love using colored rice and little animals in their bins. Add a few small tongs, and they'll be playing for hours.
Alphabet and Beads
Are your pre-school kids starting to learn letters? Add a few felt letters along with a bunch of inexpensive colored beads, and you'll have a bin of fun.
Cotton Balls, Ribbons, Rice, and Beads
Teach them about the sky, clouds, and rainbows with this awesome collection of material that literally is just cotton balls, ribbon, blue rice, and beads.
Bin Full of Textures
If you are wanting to have the kids play with sensory items with different textures, grab a few plastic balls, craft poofs, stress balls and add them to a bucket!
Bin to Learn About Farming
This is an awesome one. Just add popcorn corn kernels along with some animals from a farm, and you've got yourself a fun learning environment for learning all about the animals on a farm.
Storage for PVC Sensory Table
The best part about a PVC sensory table (that isn't glued together) is that it disassembles easy and stores quickly! Again, if you were thoughtful in your leg design, it will all fit in the same size bin so that everything is one place.
If you are using water in your bins, make sure that you take it apart and allow it to dry before storing so that it doesn't grow mold. Just dump out the water and turn it over for drying outside in the sun or your basement.
For sand and other small mixed textures, you can snap the lid on and store it away from rain and animals if you are keeping it outside.
Other Sensory Table PVC Adaptations
- You can add a pipe across the top for funnels.
- You can add extra elbow joints and pipe sections so kids can build different pipe arrangements.
- Create a shower bar with holes at the top for kids.
- Make a longer sensory table (with lots of reinforcement) so that multiple kids can play in it at the same time.
- Use a horse water trough on the bottom to catch water and PVC as a water wall to catch the pipe.
Waterfall PVC Wall for Kids Sensory Play
This is an awesome one I found at a fun educational fair that we went to. If we had enough space to do this, we would have this set up in a heartbeat. Our kids absolutely loved playing inside this water trough and waterwall.
Sensory tables are a great way to have kids get hands-on education. It doesn't have to take a lot of space in your home if you design it right. It also doesn't have to cost a lot of money to make a sensory table. With a little inspiration and know how, you can make this sensory table in less than 30 minutes and fun for a ton of morning and afternoon activities for your kids.
Do you have any other play ideas for kids? Check out my other crafts for kids below.