SPARKLERS / Using our senses

Sensory kete (or box)

Sensory kete promote self-regulation and calm.
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Why we love it

Sensory play is “food for the brain” because stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help strengthen the neural pathways important for learning.

This activity is about creating a unique Sensory Kete tamariki can turn to when they would like to use their senses to feel more balanced and calm. If you work with new entrants and have connections with early childhood teams you might be able to make these in partnership, to create a connection between the old (familiar) and new. Or you could involve parents in the development process.

The best sensory ketes are unique to each child and contain tactile items that promote mindfulness and calm. They help emotional regulation and can be particularly helpful for new entrants, or tamariki in transition.

Each child will need

A small box or case, and depending on their interests (and what they can bring), their ketes might contain:

  • Photos or favourite pictures
  • Cotton wool dabbed in a calming essential oil (e.g. lavender)
  • A small toy and/or book (needs to fit in the box!)
  • A zip-lock bag with puzzle pieces
  • A quiet activity they enjoy (e.g. drawing, colouring, wordfinds)
  • Some play-dough
  • A bottle for blowing bubbles
  • A swatch of cloth

What to do

For this activity you may like to play relaxing music and enlist some parent helpers.

To start, remind students that using our senses can soothe us when we’re upset and boost the way we feel.

Explain that they’ll be able to use their Sensory Kete to relax, have fun and feel good. Then give tamariki time to piece their kete together, and make a special label with their name.

Allow them some time at the end to try their kete out then to finish up, ask how the kete made them feel and when they could use it.

Write ideas on the board (e.g. when mum leaves, when I’m feeling worried, when I fall over, when we have spare time).

We’d suggest keeping these kete in a special area of the classroom – ideally in your calm space where they can be respected and used appropriately.

What next?

Read Invisible String by Patrice Karst – a fantastic book reminding tamariki that even when they’re not with their whānau, there’s an invisible string that keeps them connected.

Make Smiley stress balls or calming Glitter timers.

Or play Sleeping statues, our precursor to Tummy breathing.

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