Do It Yourself: Build A Learning Table

Ideas for building and designing an activity table geared to a child's playing and learning needs, including sensory, creativity, development and artistic skills.

Creating a learning table for a child in your life can be an exciting project. Start by making a list about the child or children it is going to be used by.

What are their ages?

Are they walking and talking yet?

Do they need extra help on certain skills?

Is this going to be something to be used at a specific age?

Alternatively, will you expect the table to grow with the child and his or her needs?

Can it be adapted as the child ages?

Once you know if you are creating a table for an early learner, built around the basics, such as the ABC's, colors, and numbers, or are going to build a table to teach a specific lesson to an older child or group, it's time to start.

The Table Base

The table itself can be a purchased table, either sized to the project at hand, or built from scratch. If buying a table, look for a basic square child's table that has a wipe-clean surface, sturdy, and not easily toppled. If you choose to build the base of this project, follow similar guidelines. The top itself can be finished wood, or ideally, marker board, purchased at any lumber supply. For a large group, consider a larger table from a second hand shop. If the height of the table is too high, alter leg height.

Table Features and Learning Aids

Decide on what features to include. Try to keep them to a minimum so as not to overload the child. Some learning aids that you could choose to include could be:

A "╦ťscrapbook' of wipe-clean ABCs, colors, and numbers can be created. Using construction paper or other brightly colored papers or fabric, stencil and cut out the alphabet and number shapes, each approximately three inches high. (This is just a suggestion for size, as it seems to be a good visual, and easily handled, size.) Seal each individual letter and number between double-sided laminating sheets. With a paper punch, punch a hole in the side of each one. Color names could be spelled out in the correct color in a similar fashion for the slightly older child. Attach to the table in groups of ten or less by drilling holes around the outer edge of the table, and attach with either short lengths of shoelace type material, (Keep short so as not to be a risk to a young child.) or by recycling plastic rings from old baby toys and teething rings.

A scroll of paper attached to one side of the table is a creative outlet for the budding artist, and is great for the youngest child just learning to color as they are not restricted to just a small area in a coloring book. A second scroll on the opposite side lets the child save their work. Just roll off from one end, and onto the other. Drill holes along outer edges for crayons and markers. Also, include a hanging pouch on another end for extra supplies.

Ever popular, building blocks often come with a flat base to build on. Incorporate one into the tabletop by gluing it in place. This is a great way to keep all the building materials in one central location and allows the child to continually build on a project and not have to tear apart their works of art each time. A bin beneath the table can work as storage for extra blocks.

A sensory skills table can be fashioned for a child that is in need of extra input along these lines, as long as the child is going to have supervision. Containers secured to the tabletop can include items such as sand, water, clay, and Styrofoam pellets. Along this same scheme, include fabric squares in different finishes, such as silks, plastics (Kitchen scrubbies made from spun plastic are a favorite!), canvas, burlap, or button-covered cloth.

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