Learning to play again

Young girl in witch hat and mum wearing mask doing messy play in foil tray

Sensory play offers many ways to meet the individual needs of the children and young adults in our care who cannot access the benefits of standard play activities.

Sensory play supports learning, language development and communication by reducing anxiety and enhancing interactive relationships. It may help to start a conversation that feels challenging or may be a distraction for a child who has difficulty expressing conflicting emotions. Sensory play uses fun, exciting and engaging activities to break down barriers that may otherwise be tricky to navigate.

Annabelle and her family visit Naomi House & Jacksplace for respite. We spoke with her mum, Lisa, about the sensory play session they took part in during one of their visits.

Lisa said:

Annabelle has a neurological degenerative condition and didn’t start showing symptoms until she was six years old. As her mum, I’m having to learn a lot about living with a child who has additional needs. Annabelle had grown out of this type of play and had moved on, but then her cognitive ability deteriorated, so I’m having to learn to adapt to her care needs, skills and play.

Young girl in wheelchair smiling with hat on
Family stood on beach smiling with arms around each other

When we visited Naomi House, Annabelle took part in her first sensory play session. She had only recently had a big cognitive decline, so this type of play had not been relevant before.

With her recent decline, engaging with Annabelle has been very very hard. She used to be the chattiest person ever, and now we struggle to get a conversation. During the sensory play session, she was laughing and giggling; it was so nice to hear.

Naomi House carer and young girl laughing

The theme of the sensory session was Julia Donaldson stories, with the witch from ‘Room on the Broom’ casting spells. In the session, Annabelle loved the wet textures the most, so I was hiding plastic spiders in the jelly and foam and she was enjoying finding them. Annabelle also has eczema, and the foam was friendly on her skin, so we will be taking that idea home with us.

Young girl wearing pink top and witch hat holding squirty cream
Young girl in witch hat and pink top doing messy play

Annabelle loved experiencing the different textures and smells. For example, the spaghetti has always been a food to her and then to see it as a sensory toy was a great experience.

Annabelle definitely benefits from sensory play. It allows her to explore independently, giving her confidence and freedom.

This session has given me loads of ideas that I can continue to use at home, to engage with Annabelle and make her happy.

When we visited Naomi House, we also got the chance to go for a bike ride together around the garden, play parachutes with the other families/children, paint and make a sparkly whale! It really was a great session.

— Lisa, Annabelle's mum
Annabelle and mum on accessible bike in Naomi House garden

How your support makes a difference

Hear from another one of our families about their recent stay at Naomi House, and what our hospice means to them.

Read our family blog