Archives for category: Senses

My name is Kevin and I’ve just started a 10 week placement at @playtoz as part of my Masters in Health and Organizational research at The #University of Essex. I am keen to investigate ways of supporting people within #Dementia. Having seen my Nan suffer from Dementia I would like to explore the link between the symptoms of mood and behaviour, (two key consequences of Dementia) and the use of #sensory-rich resources – objects, toys or messy play resources, hence my placement at award-winning sensory play resource and training provider – Play to Z.  Initially I hope to explore the benefits of stimulating Dementia sufferer’s senses of touch and smell to ultimately improve their behaviour and mood as I feel that this in turn could act as a coping strategy, supporting both the patient and carer.

I am passionate about conducting meaningful research that can help make a difference to people’s lives, which is why I am looking for Dementia sufferers, carers and families to be involved in my research by trying out a range of (observed) resources or activities, and providing feedback on their affects, if any.

I would be really interested to hear from anyone who’d like to be involved or feels they can provide information, advice or insight to help shape my dissertation focus and ultimately make a difference.

Kevin Hughes

Email: research@playtoz.co.uk

Mobile: 07506755781

Tel: 01206 796722

On a crisp day, with gloved fingers keeping the cold at bay and the sun warming noses and cheeks, there’s something really thrilling about venturing out in fresh snow. If you’re like me, you may even be tempted to create snow angels or start a snowball fight. But I wonder if the same is true on chillingly cold damp grey days, when all but the most stalwart adult would rather stay snuggled up indoors? For children their keen interest in just about everything outside seems to protect them from the cold and damp, much like the Ready Brek ad of my childhood. If you have children then at some point you too will probably have felt the need to explain to strangers their lack of coat when you’re wrapped up from the cold like Michelin man! Children, unlike adults, show little awareness of the cold and given something exciting to do, can play absorbed in low temperatures for hours. Adults however, myself included, are much less likely to respond enthusiastically when cold which makes me wonder if it is the adults rather than the children in nurseries and schools, who need the protective clothing! So if the right clothes and being absorbed in something are key, here are some ideas for fun things to do on those cold grey winter days:

  • Make a mud pit as this is great for splashing in; experimenting with  consistency for creating mud pictures; mixing up hearty concoctions with old pots and pans; and of course, making mud pies.
  • Fill an old ice cube tray with mud and leave outside overnight to freeze in the freezing temperatures. Turn the mini bricks out for lots of building fun. Add small world figures for firing imagination.
  • If you don’t fancy getting messy, make frozen mini ice bricks instead to build igloos with.
  • If it’s damp and cold outdoors then why not create a fire pit for charcoal making, toasting of marshmallows and warming chilly fingers by the fire? Share a flask of hot chocolate for the best snack ever!
  • Make ice sculptures to hang on the trees. Simply arrange holly and other foliage or sliced citrus fruit in transparent plastic takeaway containers. Add a loop of string for hanging, fill with water, put the lid on and leave to freeze over night. Freezing accentuates the colours in the leaves, berries and fruit creating a truly mesmerising display guaranteed to melt even the frostiest heart!

shell-sand close upIf we take the time to watch children, and I mean really watch them rather than pre-judging or paying lip service to this as we busy adults are prone to do, then they can do as Rudyard Kipling suggest, ‘teach us delight in simple things’. It doesn’t happen though unless we give them the time and freedom to become truly absorbed in whatever captures their interest, be it an unusual stone, an insect or inviting puddle.

If you’ve ever tried to walk anywhere fast you’ll know how much there is for young children to marvel at in everyday life and how open they are to its possibilities. Us adults in contrast miss so much by virtue of being in a rush and plagued by preconceptions. With this in mind storytelling guru #MiltonErickson implores adults to look afresh at our environment saying “Did you know that every blade of grass is a different shade of green?” 1 In so doing we can open our minds to new possibilities and be rewarded with wondrous awe and wonder, discovering a wealth of patterns, symmetry, joy and inspiration in everyday nature.

If you need a reminder of nature’s awe and wonder then google ‘sand grains microscope’ on the internet and be amazed by the gloriously detailed, highly patterned images that you will see.  I guarantee you will never look at a sandy beach in quite the same way again! Inspired by the sticky globule left by some gorgeous Longiflora lilies, my 11 year old dusted off her magnifier to take a closer look. What followed said it all, as she gasped with awe as a multitude of dash-like lines came into view. How fitting then that her science homework was to create a cell? Choosing a plant cell to make, she set to work with jelly, a bouncy ball and loom bands to create the different #cell parts! If you want to have a go at making your own cell or even a cellular cake, check out http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Model-Cell. For more microscopic inspiration treat yourself to The Natural World Close Up (Giles Sparrow, 2011). Much more than just a coffee table book, children and adults alike will be wowed by the close up views of nature revealed. So go ahead and enjoy nature close up this weekend.

1 (My Voice Will Go with You: The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson, Sidney Rosen, 1991).

Image source – http://geology.com/articles/sand-grains.shtml

In my quest for a healthy work life balance I decided to combine a speaking commitment at Derby University, with a family weekend in Derbyshire. As with most family weekends, it was characterised by highs and lows. The cable car ride at Matlock Bath was a hit and the picnic in the sun and exploring Chatsworth’s beautiful grounds made up for the 11pm bedtimes! My trip also gave me some food for thought…

Amongst the carefully tended beds of the formal gardens, a daisy speckled lawn featured three magical looking circles, each a metre across. I found these glistening pools of waterlogged grass mesmerising and was clearly not alone in thinking this judging by the various children who slowly approached the shimmering circles before standing, walking and jumping in them! Mother Nature and our bountiful weather certainly know how to provide intrigue, awe, wonder and excitement in abundance!

Having explored much of the gardens we reached a series of bold metal sculptures near the magnificent house. Unlike the wonderful wicker sculptures whose bulbous curves intertwined around trees, successfully merging the natural and manmade landscapes, these hard cold sculptures stood stark and distinct. As my six year old ran to the first of these industrial-looking sculptures, we read the sign saying Please do not touch the sculptures and quickly stopped the inevitable touching and climbing. A group of ladies approached us and lamented the fact that children couldn’t play with the sculptures, ripe for climbing and playing on. It was then that I realised that while these crude sculptural pieces may not be to my personal taste, they would undoubtedly have been greatly enhanced and their relevance within the landscape increased, if designed for children to enjoy and be inspired by or for adults to pause and perch on. This would have instantly softened their hard edges and created a bridge between the beautiful landscape and its admiring visitors.

The fantastic children’s play area at Chatsworth showed just how successfully large architectural and industrial sized pieces can blend with the environment and offer heaps of play potential. Two working Archimedes screws, a water wheel and a series of robust metal channels and pools encouraged children to draw water from a babbling stream and direct it into a huge sand pit to be shaped with diggers, hands and minds. This provided an altogether different experience for children as they were invited not just to connect with the open ended environment but to actively shape it, something which children across the ages actively did.

Archimedes Screw

All in all it was a magical day of exploration, sensory pleasure and play, only slightly dented by the four hour journey home!

Speaking on the Workshop Theatre stage at the Autism Show to over a hundred parents and practitioners this weekend was an experience I’ll never forget. As the audience swelled, so did the background noise of another speaker, shrill feedback, tanoy announcements and ‘Autism’s Got Talent!’ Every time both speaker and audience had adjusted to the ambient noise, another new sound reared its head, each time more disruptive than the proceeding. The irony was tangible, I was speaking about sensory processing and the audience was made up of people who either had autism or an interest in it who were being bombarded with sensory overload!

Aptly my talk took the audience on a journey through the senses, focussing on how each sense typically functions and inviting them to imagine what it might be like to experience a sensory processing difficulty such as over or under stimulation. As you can imagine, with the fantastic Alicia Key’s Empire State of Mind blaring in the background and applause from a 300 strong crowd, very little imagination was needed to get a taste of what hearing-related sensory overload might feel like! I guess I couldn’t have planned it better if I’d tried. As the audience later surged round our stand to give their appreciation and praise, many proudly conveyed how they had managed to keep focused for the duration, in spite of all the disruptions. Much like an Olympic sport it seems, the context for my “brilliant talk” required stamina, perseverance and focus!

Although unpleasant, we are of course the lucky ones, with that sensory bombardment fleeting and not a constant intrusion into everyday life.  For my part after two full-on days, aching legs and the challenges faced while speaking I was ready to curl up in the corner with a sensory-rich object that didn’t flash or make any noise. Thank goodness I’d come prepared with our Treasure Trove of sensory delights!