Sensory play can be wonderful to help kids calm down. NICOLA HANSON of Calderdale-based children’s sensory play charity Grow Big shares how.
I was recently asked to give an idea of soothing kinds of play. Often play is raucous and loud and exuberant and this is fantastic, but play can also be calming and therapeutic. Sometimes it helps children to wind down and relax, or helps them to focus and concentrate. A great activity for when you want to turn the dial down a little is cloud dough. It is great for moulding, sculpting, pouring or just exploring.
For young children, cloud dough is a great sensory activity helping them to explore the world through their senses; it is malleable and soft and really engaging to play with. They can use it to build sandcastles or pies, or may just spend time running their hands through it or squashing it together.
Clean, empty yoghurt pots make great little sandcastles – try hiding small things inside as you make them. The soft texture makes it easy to find objects inside by cutting or brushing with tools, brushes or fingers – really engaging and fun. There is something meditative in the quality of cloud dough that makes these activities just as engaging for adults. Add a range of tools to spark creativity. Large rolling pins stimulate both sides of the brain to work together, so this supports bilateral brain development.
If you have older children, using cloud dough can be a way to help them unwind or refocus. It can also provide a good backdrop for any trickier discussions, as the focus is on the activity so there is less pressure. Avoiding intense eye contact and having something to focus on can help children to open up more. Even adolescents seem drawn to the silky tactile qualities, so it makes a good brain break for those children currently sitting exams.
Adding lavender to the mixture, either in flower form or as an oil or essence, increases its benefits for relaxation and soothing, as well as engaging another sense during play. Studies have shown how scents link strongly to memory, so the learning and connections in the brain can be even stronger when the element of scent is included in these activities.
The beautiful weather we have been enjoying lately makes this a great outdoor activity so mess is not an issue! Another option is to keep it in small high sided trays, large bowls or roasting pans for table top play.
How to make cloud dough:
Ingredients: 4 cups plain flour 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or you can use baby oil) 6 drops of lavender oil
It’s as easy as this! Mix all ingredients together in a container. It should look like fine breadcrumbs.