Who are you? The Importance of Identity in Sensory Play

Our sense of self, or our identity plays a big part in our emotional wellbeing. Without it we would be left floating; unaware of our own beliefs and values with no confidence to speak up for what we believe in. Our self esteem, body image and confidence all feed into our identity, and who we believe we are. But how do we teach that? how can we nurture our children to develop a good sense of self?

Healthychildren.org have a great article detailing many areas we can work on to help develop our children’s sense of self including developing a sense of security, belonging, purpose, trust, responsibility, etc, etc. What I want to look at here however is how we can use sensory play and art in a fun way to help to open up those discussions with children about who they are, to ask children, even from a very early age – ‘Who Are You?’ and to help to develop their sense of self in a unique and interesting way.

During the Alice in Wonderland theme at the studios in Manchester I have been focusing on how play can help to develop a child’s emotional wellbeing by  offering more than child led play which is great for developing the areas discussed in the article above. I have been offering opportunities within that play to help children to discover themselves, find calming strategies and sensory input to regulate their emotions.

Alice in Wonderland

Chapter 5: Advice from a Caterpillar

‘Who are YOU?’ said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I – I hardy know, sir, just at present – at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’

Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)

In this chapter of Alice in Wonderland Alice meets the Caterpillar who asks her the question ‘Who Are You?’ Alice finds this question hard to answer due to the changes that she has experienced during the day from being small, to being big, to being small again. Although the changes Alice experiences in the story are nonsense changes which we would not experience; we are all faced with changes throughout our lives which make us question our identity. Alice is given a mushroom to help her to be in control of the changes she needs to make, this helps Alice to navigate her way through the rest of the story. Just like Alice we all need things to help us cope with the changes that we need to make throughout our lives and the hope is that through The Emotional Wellbeing Project I will be able to do this.

Obviously this explanation is probably too abstract for many of the young people that will be experiencing the sensory play but below are pictures of the activities that we have been enjoying at the studios relating to this chapter.

A big part of this has been the use of mirrors which is a great sensory tool for children of all ages to use to study their own faces, babies are interested by the person staring back at them and older children can still enjoy watching themselves and pulling funny faces. Click on the individual images for more information.

If you or your school would like to be involved in The Emotional Wellbeing Project please get in touch


Sensory Story – Thunderstorm. Using a Sensory Installation to engage children in Play

Sensory Story - Thunderstorm.

A Sensory Story based around the experience of a Thunderstorm.

This Sensory Story and experience is in 3 different parts which would have to be delivered at different times. Once all of the parts are done it might be nice to put it all together as a performance piece, either for an audience or for the experience.

The inspiration for this came from watching a thunderstorm and seeing the blue lightening lighting up the sky. I knew I wanted to make an experience that was using light and photography so this seemed like the perfect starting point.

This experience focuses around a sensory story in the first part encouraging discussions about feeling and fears around storms and loud noises, then the second part is about the retreat from the storm & building a calming den/space. Part 3 then focuses on the physicality of the storm, of recreating the lines of light in the sky and the loud noises.

Charged – Poem

I created a simpler sensory story to use with this workshop that would be understood by the toddlers which I have also recreated into postcard format to sell for people to try out the sensory story at home. This is available to purchase this through my Etsy store 


Expressing Emotions through Sensory Art

Expressing Emotions through Sensory Art

Expressing Emotions through Sensory Art

Anger is Bright Red

This is a lesson plan for a sensory session focusing on the emotion of anger, it aims to give a safe environment for children to discuss their feelings of anger whilst engaging in sensory activities.


Anger is a bright red (Room lit bright red)

Like a ripe tomato exploding (let students squash tomatoes or have clip of tomatoes exploding)

It sounds like shouting and screaming for no reason (allow students to try this out or again, have a clip to view)

It smells like fiery smoke (Have a cloth that smells of fire – from a BBQ/burning garden rubbish etc  – pass  it around the class)

It looks like slamming doors and running away (Use drums for the loud BANG of slamming doors)

It feels like crying and hitting everything that comes your way (ask children to remember a time when they have felt like this and discuss)

Anger is Bright Red – lesson plan and sensory poem.


Sensory Art, Messy Play for children with Autism – Painting it Yellow, A Sunny Day

Sensory Art - Messy Play

Sensory Art, Messy Play for children with Autism

Painting it Yellow, A Sunny Day

UPDATED for The Emotional Wellbeing Project

Messy painting is a great way to engage children in a sensory activity that can help them to develop their motor skills, communication and emotional regulation whilst at the same time using most of their senses in some way.

Not all children enjoy getting messy, and messy painting, like with any sensory activity should not be forced upon a child as this will then hamper any of the benefits that you would receive.

There are different paintbrushes and tools which can be used for the paint, this is a great way in for children who do not like to get their hands dirty and can still experiment with the paint.

The lesson plan I have attached details the benefits and learning opportunities for this activity and the photos below show the different painting activities and how they can help to develop your Childs emotional wellbeing.

Paint it yellow – A Sunny Day

For a kit to use at home with various tools for messy painting take a look at my Etsy Store.