After seeing an erosion table at a nearby museum, I decided to implement the same concept on a much smaller scale in my sensory table. There are three vital ingredients here: sand (you can buy a large bag for a little money at Home Depot), water filled spray bottles, and dinosaur figures. After placing the sand in the sensory table, add the dinosaurs and mix well. You want some to be buried, some to sit on top, and a few somewhere in between. Provide spray bottles filled with water so that the children can spray water to erode the sand and unearth the dinosaurs. Inevitably, they will incorporate some dramatic play as they create storylines involving storms, floods, or dinosaurs trapped in quicksand.
This type of activity gives children that time-honored sensory experience of mixing sand and water. That could be reason alone for doing this activity, but there’s more! Using spray bottles takes a great degree of fine motor strength and control, as well as hand-eye coordination for keeping aim while firing! Science and language skills come into play as the children notice and talk about the effects of the water on the sand; not only that it changes the texture and consistency of the sand pile, but that the sand can be moved by the force of water. This can also lead to discussions about the concept of erosion, or about how dinosaur fossils and remains are found as earth is moved, perhaps by erosion, exposing the prehistoric treasures!
When your little paleontologists are done at the sensory table, remove and clean the dinosaurs, drain the water from the sand, and leave it out to dry (preferably thinned out on several trays) so that you can store your dry sand and reuse it later!