Our center purchased several plastic containers with lids, as portable sensory stations for material such as rice, dirt, sand. moon sand, etc. As well we've been enjoying using them for shaving cream fun; cornstarch goop; clean mud, made with shavings of ivory soap and paper (from the Ooey Gooey Lady's recipes).
I have rice in this one with various toys for scooping and filling. My children enjoy this, although the rice does get out on the floor, more so than with a deeper sensory table. And so out come the small brooms and dustpans. The children have become pretty good at sweeping, and I think it's part of the fun!
I created the container below from an ice cream pail. I just cut a circle out from the side large enough for a hand to fit, and then sewed a sock to it. Then you just need to place various objects in the pail, close the lid, and allow the children to reach in and feel the objects. I have always found the children love this activity.I borrowed this idea from my assistant director who I worked with for 16 years. She had all kinds of wonderful homemade ideas.