Here’s a foolproof step-by-step guide to make your own sensory table from PVC pipes that will easily collapse into a storage container. Sensory or water tables are a wonderful outdoor toy for the summer or indoor sensory play, but they come with a hefty price tag and may not fit in smaller houses. The best choice for us to save money and space was to make one.
There’s so many ways to make water or sensory tables out there, but we needed one that was inexpensive, easy to make, and easy to take apart for storage when not in use. And we needed one that could change uses- water table, sand table, sensory bin holder-to what fine motor skills activities we were doing that week.
So we decided to build our own! We are by no means ‘handy’, so anyone can make this easy PVC pipe play table that little kids will love.
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Benefits of sensory play
If they’re expensive to buy and a process to make, why even have a sensory table? Sensory play is great for many areas of development including fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and critical thinking all while having a blast. Making messes to learn in sensory play is truly the best way to play in early childhood, so check out our full blog post on the many benefits of messy play.
Sensory play like this is also a form of open-ended play. Open-ended play uses these simple tools to benefit your child’s development in huge ways that you can read all about here.
One more good reason to make your own sensory table is to encourage this type of play at home. For both indoor and outdoor use, having a table like this that you can change out the type of sensory play is a fun way to keep your child engaged and learning.
Benefits of making your own sensory table
This easy PVC table is a great option to save money and make a table that’s perfect for the height of your kids. Building your own water table may seem too daunting, but with these free plans, we make it straightforward and manageable. And you can easily find everything you’ll need at your local hardware store like Home Depot.
Another benefit of this DIY project is that your children can be involved in the construction process! They will have so much fun helping you measure and put together the PVC pipes, not to mention seeing the finished product.
The best part of building your own sensory play tables is that you can customize it to exactly what you need. You can make the legs of the table to the perfect height for your child and even change them as your child grows. And you can make the top of the table the size of a storage bin you already own to use as the sensory bin part.
While making your own sensory table is a great way to save money and personalize it, any DIY project like this comes with challenges. Luckily, we’ve already been through it and can offer some helpful tips to save you the frustration.
First, be sure to measure everything to the right sizes! Measure the legs of the table to your child, not necessarily the height we used. That sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do it.
Next, most of the online tutorials say you need a hack saw or something similar to cut PVC pipes. We didn’t have one and weren’t going to buy one, so we used a pair of large hedgers that worked great! Another great idea we found out later is that you can buy a pair of PVC pipe cutters for much cheaper than a saw.
Lastly, as you’re putting it together, take a rubber mallet and pound in each of the braces. We turned the table in all directions and did this multiple times while putting it together.
Materials needed for the DIY sensory table
We easily found everything we needed in one quick trip to Home Depot. Here’s the full list:
- 1 28-quart storage bin (we like the ones with a hinged lid, but that’s optional)*
- 2 3/4″ PVC pipes- 10 ft.
- 8 3/4″ PVC 3-way elbow connector
- 2 3/4″ PVC elbow connector
- 2 3/4″ PVC T-shaped connector
- PVC pipe cutter
- Tape measure
*Note: You can use any size storage bin, especially if you already have one. If you do, just remember to measure your storage bin for the dimensions of the top of the table. Our dimensions are for a storage bin that measures 21.5 x 16.25 x 6 inches.
How to cut the PVC pipe pieces
First measure out on the pipes and use a marker to mark each measurement. Using the PVC pipe cutters or a saw, cut the following pieces:
- 2 pipes 21 inches (or length of your storage bin)
- 4 pipes 10 inches (or about 1/2 of the length of your storage bin)
- 2 pipes 4 inches (or 2 inches less than height of your storage bin)
- 5 pipes 14.25 inches (or width of your storage bin)
- 4 pipes 18.5 inches (or about height of your child’s waist)*
*For this measurement we suggest actually holding up the PVC to your child to get the perfect height.
Putting together your sensory table
First, put together the base of the table. Connect the 21″ pipes to two 14.25″ with four of the 3-way elbow connectors to make a square with the open connector part pointing up.
The next step is to put on the legs on. In the open spot of each connector, pound in all four 18.5″ pipes. Then, add the other four 3-way connectors to the top of each leg.
After the previous step, make the top of the table. Add two more of the 14.25″ pipes over the bottom 14.25″ pipes.
For the long side of the table top, connect two of the 10″ pipes with a T-shaped connector. Make sure the third opening of the T-shaped connector is pointing down. Repeat this process for the other long side of the table top.
In that open spot on the connector put one of the 4″ pipes for each side. Then, connect an elbow connector to the end of the 4″ pipe.
Lastly, in the other end of the elbow connector, place the last 14.25″ pipe to connect to the other elbow connector and make the extra support piece under the storage bin.
The optional last step is to spray paint the entire piece a different color. We chose not to this time because we’re fine with white.
Then, place your storage bin on top for the final product! The first time will always take the longest, but once you take it apart for storage and put it back together a few times, it will not take a long time at all.
Securing the table
Again, to make your sensory table more secure, you can pound in each pipe with a rubber mallet. This ensures nothing will fall apart. Just don’t pound too hard if you plan to take it apart for storage.
If you plan to keep your sensory table up, we recommend glueing the pipes into the connectors.
Bringing your table inside
Now you’re ready for the sensory bin! This sensory table can also be used inside if you’re not afraid of a little mess, or if you teach your child how to use a sensory bin with minimal mess. Here’s our complete guide to making the perfect sensory bin and teaching your child to use them for imaginative play.
This one is small enough to fit in most rooms, but you can also make one to the size you need for indoor use.
Check out the sensory bin in the photo
In this example, my son is playing with our homemade Halloween sensory bin with all the instructions here. It happened to be fall when we made the table, and this was the bin with had made. Here’s even more fall sensory bin ideas.
Try this farm sensory bin
For another great idea for outdoor activities with this sensory table, try making this farm sensory bin. This one is a favorite for younger and older children.