What's a teacher to do? Center items like the objects in a sensory table can be time-consuming to change frequently. Plus, it can be expensive to fill a sensory table well, and most teachers can't afford to change them out too frequently. As a result, you find yourself looking for ways to "stretch" these centers and find ways to extend your students' interest (and learning) in and from them.
Here are some of my favorite containers:
The cups found above were found in the current Target Dollar spot. I think of them as "oatmeal" sized, and they come in wonderful fall colors:
Here they are with their green dot, showing what a bargain they are:
There were also in dollar area at Target:
They come in a package of three:
They even fold flat, which I think is a complete bonus:
I find these at the Dollar Tree. I believe there are about 10 in the package. The lids are easy enough for most of the Little People to open and close alone, which leads to all kinds of sorting, filling and stacking:
I also love these glittery containers from the Dollar Spot. However, they are more expensive, at $1 each. But oh - so much glitter!
I do also love this Target Dollar Spot bag for its cuteness and its fall theme. However, in my experience, containers like this almost beg the children to take the materials out of the sensory table and carry them off somewhere else in the room.
Maybe it's the handle. I don't know. But since I don't like rounding up all of these little sensory caches around the room, I avoid these containers.
Whatever containers you use, just remember - don't put them out the first few days the center is open. That would be the equivalent of handing your own three-year old child the entire contents of a new "car toys" bag at the outset of of ten-hour road trip. Let the excitement of a new area play itself out a little bit before you "stretch" the center with the addition of the containers.
I think you'll like the "stretch" that these containers will give your free-play centers, along with the added learning opportunities it will give your students.