For some time, Learning Support has wanted to provide a Sensory Space which would meet a variety of needs: a space to be calm, a space to explore, a space for children to self-regulate, a space for turn-taking and interaction and a space for 1:1 interventions. Seeing our opportunity over the Summer, we oversaw ‘The Fridge’ being transformed, with a fresh coat of ‘calming blue’ paint, into a quiet, private area for children to enjoy, just off the main library but away from the hustle and bustle.

The benefits of sensory play and activities:

  • It helps to build nerve connections in the brain.
  • It encourages the development of motor skills.
  • It supports language development.
  • It encourages ‘scientific thinking’ and problem-solving.
  • It can involve mindful activities which are beneficial for all children.
  • It engages one or more of the five senses—touch, taste, sight, sound and smell.

Understanding that every child has different needs, and that the space needs to cater for everyone, we have planned the room with a variety of sensory stimuli in mind. To quote K Meyer, “The motivation for a child to be involved in daily activities depends on the senses.” Children can be over-stimulated during a normal school day, needing calming places to escape to, such as our cosy cave, with its subtle lighting toys; or some time out reading a good book on a comfy bean bag.  Conversely, they can be under-stimulated, perhaps needing tactile sensory feedback from our trampette, sensory floor tiles or balance boards. By providing a sense of calm and comfort, our Sensory Space helps the children to learn to self-regulate their behaviours, which ultimately improves focus and enables them to be better prepared for learning and interacting with others. This is one of the most valuable strategies a child can learn.

Learning awareness of the ‘danger’ signs and that moving into the ‘red’ zone can be avoided if we use our tool box of strategies, can make the difference between a child having a bad day, or just an unsettled session. Our Sensory Space provides a safe environment that builds up the child’s confidence and abilities. We are already seeing the signs on the faces of our children that they are benefitting from the sensory and calming effects of using the room.

We are constantly building on the emotional awareness being developed in all classrooms across the school, through the Zones of Regulation Tool and the Dispositions.  We are working together with all teachers to promote this in our children and help it to become second nature to them to be more self-aware of their needs. We think the adults are benefitting too!

We would like to extend a huge thank you to the Friends of Vinehall, whose support has enabled this venture to come to fruition.

Phoebe Cameron and Karen Betts