DIY: A homemade sensory table and tinker table

DIY: A homemade sensory table and tinker table

Last week my husband got highly motivated and built me some new furniture for my outdoor classroom.

He built me a sensory table…

And what I call a tinker table…

And a stand-alone plexiglass window (which I will share more on tomorrow)…

The dimensions on the tinker table and the sensory table are the same. I am going to do my best to tell you how they were built but I am not familiar with carpentry terms so bear with me. If you have questions, I will ask my husband so he can help me answer them in the comments below…

Sensory and tinker table details…

  • The length and height of the tables are 2 ft tall x 4 ft wide
  • The dimensions of the table tops are 2×4 ft.
  • All the materials were purchased from Home Depot although my husband had the nails, tools, and some wood that he needed at home already.
  • The approximate total cost in building materials and paint was $60.oo (this is the total cost for all three pieces of furniture)
  • The biggest investment was in time and skill. It took me just as long to paint the tables as it did for my husband to build them. About 3 hours for building all three pieces and 3 hours or so for painting them (had to allow for drying time too).
The legs of the tables are prefab furniture legs from Home Depot but you could make them less extravegant with just a 2×4 like the. I ideas shown here….



My husband cut the legs shorter so that the table would not sit too high. He added wheels to the legs at one end of each table so I could roll the tables around the room as needed. However, the tables are made from a solid but light weight wood that I can easily lift when the baskets are empty…



For the holes in the tables, I chose to have three holes cut in my sensory table and one hole cut in my tinker table. The sizes of the holes were determined by the size of baskets I bought. I purchased my baskets from Big Lots. I purchased more baskets than I needed for the tables so I can easily switch around the items I keep in the tables and so I will have extras that fit properly in case one of them breaks or cracks…



These are 16 quart clear baskets with lids from Big Lots…



I like having the three spaces in the sensory table for children to play together in a cooperative manner or have their own space to play at times too. I like being able to add a variety of materials for mixing as well. I also like that I can simply close the table by putting the lids on each basket…



The tinker table can be used for sensory play as well but I also wanted to use it for keeping unusual items that the children can tinker with. I purposely left the table with one basket hole so the children can reach into the one basket, pull out the items, and spread them on the table to explore…



After my husband finished the tables, I went to work sanding and painting them.  There was very little sanding necessary but some touch up around the edges and corners was in order…



I chose blue for the sensory table and red with a white top for the tinker table…



Now that the tables are all complete, I have been collecting items to use in the tables throughout the school year. I will share more about these as we go along. In the meantime – I am very proud of these tables and excited to put them to good use!



  • Little Wonders’ Days Posted July 21, 2011 6:25 am

    I love all the tables, especially the tinker table! Little J has an “inventor’s box”, but not a great place to do all his inventing. My husband has a little “honey do” project now!

  • Scott Posted July 21, 2011 8:03 am

    Those tables are pretty terrific, Deborah. I’m not very “handy” but these inspire me to hammer some wood together. 🙂

  • Christianne @ Little Page Turners Posted July 21, 2011 8:22 am

    What a beautiful play space! The tables are gorgeous and so practical. We’re all envying your husband’s mad carpentry skills. One day when I “grow up” and become a preschool teacher, I’ll have to try to bribe my hubby into building me one!

  • Sonja Posted July 21, 2011 9:34 am

    I love these! I am going to try tne glass one myself and have my son try the three tub one for 4H next year. it would be something so different than seen before. do you have instructions for the glass one?

  • Jamie @ hands on : as we grow Posted July 21, 2011 10:17 am

    Beautiful Deborah! So excited for you!

  • Stacy @ {share&} Posted July 21, 2011 10:29 am

    I just love it all! I like your space – I didn’t know you had that!

  • Michelle Posted July 21, 2011 11:09 am

    I can’t wait to hear more about the plexiglass easel thing!

  • Katy McKay Posted July 21, 2011 12:29 pm

    Do you rent your husband out???? Or can we do a husband swap for a week?

  • April Posted July 21, 2011 1:46 pm

    Can I borrow your husband for the weekend?!?

    I wasn’t sure if you have seen this website, but I thought you might want to share it.

  • Ashley Kate Posted July 21, 2011 2:16 pm

    Wow! These are fantastic – I think I am going to put my fiance to work ;o)

    Ashley Kate

  • Suzanne Schlechte Posted July 21, 2011 5:02 pm

    They’re fabulous! I have a similar sensory table and I like the fact that I can store a variety of sensory materials right in the bins and rotate them easily. I love the colours you’ve chosen, too. Very playful and fun!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 21, 2011 9:34 pm

    An inventor’s box would go perfectly with a little inventor’s table:)

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 21, 2011 9:51 pm

    Perhaps you can recruit a parent who is handy in woodworking Scott!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 21, 2011 9:53 pm

    Haha! You never want to grow up if your going to be a preschool teacher:)

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 21, 2011 9:53 pm

    I am going to share this tomorrow but I don’t really have instructions but I do have dimensions. I didn’t see my husband make it because he wouldn’t let me in the garage 🙂

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 21, 2011 9:54 pm

    Thank you Jamie:)

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 21, 2011 9:54 pm

    I just put it all together this summer – still working on it:) Thus the reasons for all the DIY posts!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 21, 2011 9:54 pm

    I will share it tomorrow!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 21, 2011 9:56 pm

    Haha – I am afraid you would want to send him back after a day! >>>>Just kidding honey!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 21, 2011 9:57 pm

    No, I hadn’t see Nancy’s Music. Thanks for sharing – I always love new children’s music. Haha on the weekend hubby – I will let him know he is wanted!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 21, 2011 9:57 pm

    Congratulations – you must be getting married soon! And to someone talented – will come in handy for sure!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 21, 2011 9:58 pm

    I LOVE color:) I like that too – I have been collecting items in storage bins to get ready for swapping them out during the school year.

  • April Posted July 21, 2011 11:13 pm

    I just thought it was pretty cool that she shares the music for free!

  • mama roses Posted July 21, 2011 11:54 pm

    I love both the tables! I can resist asking if I could borro husband but find it difficult to hold myself back from asking if I can send my son over ? 🙂
    The tables are so cute and can be used years after they outgrow pre-school!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 22, 2011 12:40 am

    Haha – I would love for your son to come over!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 22, 2011 12:41 am

    It is very cool!

  • Holly Posted July 22, 2011 12:41 am

    I am so happy to have found your site! I have taught 1st and 2nd grades for the last 6 years, but next year I will be teaching Pre-K for the first time! I’m so excited, but I feel like it’s my first year teaching all over again. I look forward to reading many more of your great ideas!

    Please come visit me sometimes over at Twins Plus One, Three Times the Fun

    ~Holly 🙂

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 22, 2011 12:51 am

    It is SUPER great to have you here Holly! You are going to love Pre-K – it is a wonderful age to teach!

  • Elle Posted July 22, 2011 11:20 am

    This is great, I love it. I saw a table like this once at the museum. Thanks for following me on twitter. I adore your site. @Cleverlychangin

  • Child Care Aware(R) of Central Missouri Posted July 22, 2011 2:49 pm

    Love these ideas! I love how you can swap out the tubs easily in the sensory table to use different substances.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 22, 2011 7:53 pm

    Yes – the tubs are so nice! I have started planning additional tubs already!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 22, 2011 7:53 pm

    Hi Elle – nice to see you here:)

  • Trish (My First Friends Preschool) Posted July 23, 2011 8:14 am

    I totally love reading your posts and great ideas and LOVE LOVE the new tables. I sent this to my husband with a PPPLLLEEEAAAASSSEEEE make these for me. I do not have a covered porch, just a deck. Hoping if I paint them with an outdoor paint/stain they with be ok. Living in VT, our winters are harsh and storage is hard for all of my preschool stuff. I will plan on covering these up and tucking them away. Can NOT WAIT!!!!!!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 23, 2011 9:49 am

    I hope he will give you a big yeeeeeeeesssss!! Let me know how it goes!

  • Trish Posted July 29, 2011 2:35 pm

    Deborah…he said YES! And, he’s doing the window easel too. I sent you a note asking about sizes and thicknesses on that specific post. Curious about sizes, as we want to start this asap.
    Thanks again!!!! After doing childcare and preschool for 18 years now, I’m feeling excited and can’t wait to show the kids what is next for us to explore!! I love networking and hearing the fantastic things others are doing out there. Thankfully, we can all share and the children benefit from it.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted July 29, 2011 11:32 pm

    TRISH!! How awesome!! I will look for your note and get back to you ASAP!!

  • artsy_momma Posted August 1, 2011 2:03 am

    Oh wow! I absolutely LOVE your outdoor playspace! I wish I could make something like that for my kids….. unfortunately we live in an apartment. What a great husband you have- makes me think of my grandpa 🙂

  • Mary Ann Johnson Posted August 3, 2011 4:49 pm

    I really love this and the great photos. I am going to pass it on to my readers. They will love it too!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted August 3, 2011 5:20 pm

    Thank you Mary Ann:)

  • Greg Posted August 4, 2011 6:07 pm

    You are so lucky to have a husband who is so handy with making furniture for you. I’m afraid if I tried this it would all go pear shaped, but like Scott I might be inspired to give it a whirl.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted August 4, 2011 8:32 pm

    I am lucky for sure! My husband builds homes for a living so it makes for a good partnership when it comes to furniture I need in the classroom:)

  • Valerie Posted November 9, 2011 2:36 pm

    What a great idea for outdoors! I just made a light table from recycled furniture, too!

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *