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Sometimes the thought of bringing sensory playtime into your home can be off putting, especially if you’ve only just got the place looking ship-shape. And while we at Egg Box Theatre are advocates for the joys of making a big old mess, we understand that it’s not always an appealing prospect.
One of the things we have come to learn though our time creating sensory experiences for children is that it’s not all about having as many different sensory items as possible. Actually, the imagination can be stimulated even more if you stick to a couple of materials, or maybe even just one, and experiment with how much play can be inspired by finding different ways to use them.
Take the simple scarf: This colourful item is versatile and affordable. You can have fun with just one, or break out dozens and still have an easy tidy away at the end the session. These little gems also take up next to no storage space.
The same principle can be applied to any sensory item. Choose an item for the day, then think up as many different ways to play with it as possible. You can play all day long, and still only have one thing to pack away at the end of it. Also remember that repetition is good, playing the same game over and over can still bring joy, new learning and fresh ideas for your child, so if they’re still enjoying something there’s no need to move on from it right away. Relax into it and enjoy the repetition.
Playing with your child can have immense benefits for both of you. Taking time out for mindfulness can be difficult but adjusting how you see playtime could help.
This doesn’t just have to be an activity solely for you child. As adults, we often overlook the importance of play, but as theatre makers, play is an integral part of our practice and so we can vouch firsthand for the benefits of inviting play back into your adult life. So, whilst you are taking the time to invest in your child’s development and your bond with them, you can also invest in your own mental health.
When experimenting with sensory stimulation, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only seeing smiles and laughter as a cause for celebration. Of course, it’s always heartwarming to share an experience in which everyone is smiling and having a good time. But don’t be afraid of the moments when your child experiences something they’re not sure about, or even something they don’t like. All types of experiences with sensory play have value. Learning comes in many forms, and processing negative emotions is just as essential to development as positive ones.
Whatever you decide to do in your play session, the most important thing to remember is to do it together and do it wholeheartedly. It’s the best way to have fun!