Charlie House provides sensory fun for families

With Covid restrictions still in place a year on, we have been finding new and creative ways of providing sensory activities to the families we support during lockdown.

Due to ongoing restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we have not been able to hold our usual in-person family activities. This has seen many of our events go online over the past year, including sensory activities which have taken the form of recorded videos called ‘Sensory Saturday’. These videos were hosted by our Activities Co-ordinator Beth Hopkins, who came up with the activities and recorded them from home.

Speaking of the event, Beth has said, “When we went into lockdown it was a challenge to turn all of our in-person activities into online activities. We wanted to ensure that we could still provide Charlie House style fun to our families even if it had to be through a screen. When we were running face-to-face activities, such as a visit from a critter keeper, music therapy or a sensory disco, alongside the main event there would always be a chilled-out craft table. This was a quiet area for the children to get crafty and enjoy some sensory activities. Creating Sensory Saturday was like creating a virtual craft/sensory table.”

Sensory Saturday aims to get families involved in easy to follow, step-by-step activities that involve the senses through the use of touch, smell, sight, taste and sound. The activities include tools and ingredients that can easily be found around the home, making them a simple and fun way to spend their weekend and continue their engagement with the charity.

Sensory activities are one of the many ways that Charlie House provides support to children with complex disabilities, aiming to stimulate their senses and help them have fun. They have the ability to help children relax, stay calm and focus on particular events and situations; which is why it was important for the charity to continue despite challenges faced by lockdown.

Sensory Saturday includes siblings and parents/carers too, getting them involved in crafting items for their brother, sister or child to enjoy. For instance, a calm jar which is filled with colour and glitter so that it swirls as you move the jar; this can encourage calm and relaxation.

Another example of a sensory activity involves experiencing touch, bringing textures to children who may not have the ability to explore the world around them independently through the creation of boards with items that have varying textures. For example, tin foil, sand, dry pasta and softer materials. Many of the children we support are blind or have vision impairments, so experiences that include sound, smell and touch can be incredibly rewarding and enjoyable. This can be as simple as colouring in with textured paper or scented pens.

The families that we support have been at the heart of every event and activity since we started the charity in 2011 and especially during each lockdown, as not being able to go out or attend in-person activities can be isolating. Sensory Saturday is a fun and exciting way to engage the families and give them something to look forward to each week, even if it has to be through a screen.

You can view one of our Sensory Saturday videos on Facebook by clicking here.

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