Sensory Spaces and Child Led Play

How can sensory spaces and child led play can help to develop your childs emotional wellbeing?

The new theme at the studios is Alice in Wonderland. I have spent the weekend re-decorating the sensory space and getting everything ready so I thought this would make a great starting point for introducing the new Emotional Wellbeing Project whilst at the same time explaining the sensory space and what my vision is.

Sensory spaces are available in many soft play centres and sure start centres as well as special needs schools, but what are they for and how are you supposed to use them?

As a secondary teacher in an autism unit I often felt that the pressure was on the create lessons using the sensory room to have a fixed structure and outcome to the lessons. All of my training had told me I needed to have a safe and predictable structure to my lessons and a fixed outcome, that if this was not in place for the children with autism I was working with then it would cause anxiety and further problems within the school setting. As time went on and I developed the sensory room I came to realise that this not only went against the idea of a sensory room but also against my values of how children learn and how to best support young people to develop their social communication skills as well as their emotional wellbeing. We tend to spend years training children to follow instructions, not to deviate from the norm or be creative thinkers before sending them out into the big bad world to do just that.

Sensory rooms are supposed to be places which appeal to a persons senses, somewhere they can interact with things using the 5 main senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste, depending on the type and purpose of the sensory room they can also offer a quiet space away from sensory overload and specific equipment and activities prescribed by an OT to help people with specific needs.

“Sensory Room” is an umbrella term used to categorize a broad variety of therapeutic spaces specifically designed and utilized to promote self-organization and positive change.

Sensory rooms have the ability to engage children in a different way of learning, to teach them through play, and by play I mean child led play, not structured ‘play’ which takes away all of the main benefits of play. It can teach a child how to think independently, how to share, communicate and express themselves, how to problem solve and even find ways to develop their own emotional wellbeing.

Sensory rooms should and can be used by all children, and even adults. i think everyone could benefit from ways to either stimulate or calm the senses. Most of us have found ways of doing this which we use every day: listening to loud music, chewing gum, or a big hug all have sensory purposes to help our central nervous system keep us calm.

Below I am going to share some of the images of the sensory space I have created along with the purposes behind each activity and how it can help a child. Click on the individual images for a little more detail.

The above pictures all show a part of the sensory space I have developed. When you click on the image it will give you a little more detail about how the certain activity can help. The overarching idea however is that the play is child led. That means that this might all happen, or it might not. The key to developing your childs emotional wellbeing using sensory play is that they find their own way. They discover that hiding under a blanket makes them feel calm, or that the light box makes them feel happy. We are merely offering the tools in which to help them discover their own way. One day, after all they will be the adults expected to do it all for themselves.

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Kids Creative – Interactive Sensory Room – Is it Art?

The Sensory Room at Kids Creative

Is it Art? Or …. am I being a mother, teacher and small business owner setting up the learning environment for the day.

Is it Art?

As an art student 10 years ago this was the question I would ask and be asked time and time again. Be it a painting, sculpture, installation, performance the list goes on. The answer – I don’t know. what makes one thing art and another thing not? I looked at some “art” and thought seriously? is THAT art?

If something had the ability to make me think, feel or act differently about something then it also had the potential to be art.

The way I finally organised it in my own head was this: If something had the ability to make me think, feel or act differently about something then it also had the potential to be art. Some art looks great, some does not, some wants to make you feel uncomfortable, some wants to get a point across. And some, draws you in, makes you want to touch, play, and be a part of it.

I started to play with the idea of that relationship between the viewer and the art work. To explore how someone could interact with it, My dissertation and my degree show were both heavily influenced by this.

Fast forward 10 years, as a trained art teacher and a mother that focus has shifted hugely onto how I can engage my new audience. Kids!

As a trained art teacher and a mother that focus has shifted hugely onto how I can engage my new audience. Kids!

I have just opened up my own business, Sensory Art Studios for Kids. A place for kids to come and be creative through child led play, sensory experiences and art. Somewhere between a pottery place and a soft play place, where the focus isn’t on the end result but on the experiences enjoyed.

I find myself questioning again. The same old question. Is it Art?

Is what I am doing now the same as what I did for my degree?

Am I creating an installation as an artist and then inviting the children to engage with it, play with it and maybe become a part of the artwork as it changes and grows over the period of the installation.

 Or …. am I being a mother, teacher and small business owner setting up the learning environment for the day.

Am I offering children something which is rarely allowed with art, even with so called interactive art. To interact, touch, engage and learn.

What makes it a piece of art rather than a learning environment, (or why isn’t every learning environment classified as a work of art?!)

  1. The main purpose is to invite the audience to change the way they are thinking, feeling and acting.
  2. I have taken time to make the room/installation visually attractive, using a certain level of skill and craft in certain areas.

So, what do you think? Is it Art?

Leave your comments to join in the conversation below.