Here’s a great tool for our tactile defensive kiddos! Water tables are essentially… tables with water. While the concept is somewhat self-explanatory, let’s talk about the benefits. Water sends a lot of sensory signals to the body, which can easily overwhelm a sensitive nervous system.
To make it worse, the overwhelming sensations of water are different from the overwhelming sensations of being wet (ie. the difference between swimming and sitting beside the pool in a wet bathing suit).
Water and rain can be triggering for kiddos with sensory issues, as it can hit the skin unexpectedly. When kiddos can’t predict when something will touch them, it can lead to anxiety and extreme caution.
Being wet on the other hand can be extremely uncomfortable for a kiddo with sensory issues.
The clothes and bathing suit clings to the skin; the wind feels especially cold; dirt and sand sticks more than usual.
Getting wet and being wet are sensations that it’s important for our kiddos to get used to. From playing in the pool to taking baths, washing hands, and going out in the rain, developing a tolerance to water is a huge sensory hurdle that will make many other daily tasks easier.
Enter, the water table!
The Good–Water Tables
There’s nothing magical about water tables, except that they’re fun. While you could get the same effect by putting a few toys and some water in a bowl, that just isn’t as exciting. The reason why sensory play works so well is because it puts sensory experiences, which can be scary for a sensory sensitive kid, into a fun context.
When you have a fun water table that draws kids in with its colors, shapes, sizes, and special features, you suddenly have something that is more appealing to interact with and makes sensory input less scary. Under this guise of fun, children can become more familiar with the sensations of water, which will translate into better reactions to baths, showers, rain, and other wet experiences.
Water tables can be game changers given how they let kids become comfortable with interacting with water and the other play items on the table. By turning therapy into play, it is easier to work on essential skills that translate to activities of daily living.
The Bad–Water Tables
Water need to be outside and are hard to store. While there are smaller options, they can be cumbersome if you have a small backyard. The only other downside is that your child may become disinterested in them quickly. While you can always add new objects to the water table as your child progresses, they can lose interest in the same way they do with their other toys.