This post is all about sensory today. I wasn't really even familiar with the concept until I entered the early childhood field, but I think it's benefits extend to older children. The act of playing in and manipulating the material stimulates the child, opening his or her mind to the learning task at hand.
You can differentiate this activity all the way up through 2nd or 3rd grade by incorporating sight words, spelling words, vocabulary words, etc.
Here's an awesome twist to the above idea. Same concept, different process: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/178666310193234538/
These can be used for a Science center to help children explore their environment, or as a calming tool for behavior issues in the classroom. You can even have the kids make their own as an art project. Children can make bottles with different habitats or a rainbow of colors for Science. You can have bottles for big/small, short/long, shapes, etc. for Math. There are tons of things you can do and they look really cool!
A simpler version of this is sensory bags: http://www.growingajeweledrose.com/p/baby-play.html
This is a great idea for a magnetic unit. You can add Math to the mix by having the kiddos sort the different tools.
Here's another way to take sensory to the next level: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/76490893646534111/