SPARKLERS / Mindfulness

Sensory Kete

Sensory kete promote self-regulation and calm.
Connections with the NZ Curriculum and Mental Health Education Guide (learn more)

Learning outcomes

Tamariki create a sensory kete and know how to use this to tune into their senses and feel good.

He aha ai? – 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.

Featured by Twinkl among their Sensory Play tips.

Each tamariki 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

Hei mahi - 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.

Sparklers at Home

If you think it may be useful for whānau to know about the benefits of a Sensory Kete and perhaps create one for home, simply copy and paste the following 'blurb' into an email or your home-learning programme as an introduction.

In the classroom we've been practising calming strategies so we're better able to manage our big emotions, such as worry, anger, frustration or excitement. One of the ways we've been doing this is by creating a sensory kete - calming things we can do when we need to take some time to relax.

Sparklers at Home has the same activity, Sensory Kete, we've been adopting in the classroom, but ready for home use. It would be great if you could have a look and think about creating a Sensory Kete for your child to use at home. We're finding their sensory kete really helpful, and if children are using similar calming strategies across home and school, this will only benefit them.

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