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!


By |2011-07-21T06:00:42+00:00July 21st, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Little Wonders' Days July 21, 2011 at 6:25 am - Reply

    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!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 21, 2011 at 9:34 pm - Reply

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

  2. Scott July 21, 2011 at 8:03 am - Reply

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

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 21, 2011 at 9:51 pm - Reply

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

  3. 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!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 21, 2011 at 9:53 pm - Reply

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

  4. Sonja July 21, 2011 at 9:34 am - Reply

    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?

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 21, 2011 at 9:53 pm - Reply

      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 🙂

  5. Jamie @ hands on : as we grow July 21, 2011 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Beautiful Deborah! So excited for you!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 21, 2011 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      Thank you Jamie:)

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

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 21, 2011 at 9:54 pm - Reply

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

  7. Michelle July 21, 2011 at 11:09 am - Reply

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

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 21, 2011 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      I will share it tomorrow!

  8. Katy McKay July 21, 2011 at 12:29 pm - Reply

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

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 21, 2011 at 9:56 pm - Reply

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

  9. April July 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    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.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      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!

      • April July 21, 2011 at 11:13 pm

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

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

        It is very cool!

  10. Ashley Kate July 21, 2011 at 2:16 pm - Reply

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

    Ashley Kate

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm - Reply

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

  11. Suzanne Schlechte July 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    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. July 21, 2011 at 9:58 pm - Reply

      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.

  12. mama roses July 21, 2011 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    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. July 22, 2011 at 12:40 am - Reply

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

  13. Holly July 22, 2011 at 12:41 am - Reply

    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. July 22, 2011 at 12:51 am - Reply

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

  14. Elle July 22, 2011 at 11:20 am - Reply

    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

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 22, 2011 at 7:53 pm - Reply

      Hi Elle – nice to see you here:)

  15. 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. July 22, 2011 at 7:53 pm - Reply

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

  16. Trish (My First Friends Preschool) July 23, 2011 at 8:14 am - Reply

    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. July 23, 2011 at 9:49 am - Reply

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

  17. Trish July 29, 2011 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    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. July 29, 2011 at 11:32 pm - Reply

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

  18. artsy_momma August 1, 2011 at 2:03 am - Reply

    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 🙂

  19. Mary Ann Johnson August 3, 2011 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    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. August 3, 2011 at 5:20 pm - Reply

      Thank you Mary Ann:)

  20. Greg August 4, 2011 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    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. August 4, 2011 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      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:)

  21. Valerie November 9, 2011 at 2:36 pm - Reply

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

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