11 Nov

Sensational Christmas Present Ideas

Now we’re past Halloween and Fireworks night, the constant Christmas shopping emails are well underway. To help out, we’ve put together some ideas for presents to help create a sensational stash of presents for children with a range of needs, interests and developmental ages.

As therapists we often hear that finding Christmas presents can be a hard task, particularly adding in to the mix well meaning relatives and friends wanting to buy gifts too. So we’ve compiled our favourite toys and gifts below for a range of budgets and needs – AND we’ve made a Pinterest board with all the links to the toys we suggest.

Happy Senso foam. (£8 each from Southpaw). If you haven’t played with this – you should! A fun explosion of crackly foam that feels like popping candy. Loved by little and big people alike.

Bubbles. (Blizzard Bubbles from B&M £1.79, 3 years +). Always a winner. Great for little people to watch and work on hand eye coordination. Great for children at primary and secondary level to work on calming using breathing strategies and mindfulness.

Weighted lap pad (£43 from Sensory Direct) or weighted blanket (~£150 from Sensory Direct). Follow guidelines around safe use and weight recommendations (eg https://www.sensorydirect.com/media/wysiwyg/Blanketguidelines2017Capture.JPG). Or make your own / find a willing relative with a sewing machine and some festive goodwill!

Body sock. (£40 from Sensory Direct) you can buy these or again, these can be made! We have a tutorial on how to do this here.

Lycra tunnel (£50 from Amazon). These are probably the easiest items to make. Just buy a few meters of Lycra and sew up the long edge (check the diameter before you sew so that it will fit a small person through it!)

Peanut ball or gym ball. Peanut balls are great for children who need to move but may find a gym ball too challenging. Helps give vestibular and proprioceptive input, as well as deep pressure if used for rolling over hands and legs (with care!)

Vibrating cushion. Gives intense tactile input. This one has an on/ off button which means you don’t have to rely on children having enough strength to squeeze the cushion (as with other designs).

Chews. From vibrating Z vibes to ARC P’s, to cooler chewy toggles and pencil toppers, there’s a chew for everyone. A useful organising and calming strategy as chewing gives lots of proprioceptive (heavy muscle work) input into the jaw.

Bilibo – A great addition for any sensory kid who loves to spin! This simple toy encourages creative and sensory motor play. Most often used to sit in and spin, but can also be used to balance on, used as a bucket or pull along toy, a turtle shell, a helmet…

Bead curtain – One of the most overpriced pieces of sensory equipment, but so magical. It seems to be mesmerising for so many children at an early stage of development. The beads provide tactile, auditory and visual input that can be very calming. Nice to develop awareness of another as you can sit the other side and play too

Ikea egg chair – Long time favourite of the sensory child! It spins, has a cover to hide under and provides a great little escape place.

Ball run These can be another expensive investment in the grand scheme of toys. Cheaper versions can be found (or even made by some handy people!) Encourages hand eye coordination, visual tracking and turn taking.

Aqua Magic/ Water doodle mats – Great no-mess option to practice mark making. It just uses water and colour magically appears. Can be done lying on tummies for extra therapy points!

IKEA Egg chair (for smaller primary children) Long time favourite of the sensory child! It spins, has a cover to hide under and provides a great little escape place.

Find It Games – These are tubes filled with tiny plastic beads and objects to find. Great for occupying time when sat waiting or travelling – and a nice alternative to screen time.

Dark Den – or pop up tents. Creating a calm space for children to hang out in or calm down in is so helpful. The pop up dark den from Sensory Direct is one of our favourites as it collapses to a small size, but provides a good sized retreat that can be used with light up toys.

Light up toys These go really well with the dark den and provide visual input. Some children find this calming – don’t put all the lights on all at once unless you’re trying to alert someone!

Relax Kids This company have a great range of fun CDs and books with meditations designed for children. Fab to promote calm and relaxation.

Did you buy any of these? Already have them? Used it as inspiration? Let us know!

18 May

Opening Party!

Come join us for our opening party! Full details here: Opening party

Everyone welcome – come join us for a nose at our fun new therapy space in Basepoint Business Centre, Aviation Park (next to Bournemouth Airport). There’ll be drinks, nibbles and a chance to meet other families and professionals.

21st June 2018 – 4pm-6pm.

Let us know if you’re coming – activeplaytherapies@outlook.com

Hope to see you all there!


21 Feb

DIY Body Sock Tutorial

DIY Body Sock Tutorial
DIY Body Sock Tutorial

A few weeks ago, I bought some red lycra. In the world of sensory equipment – lycra is my friend! It stretches, it’s silky soft, it comes in lots of colours and it’s easy to get hold of and, best of all, it’s cheap. I bought 1 meter of this lycra from Fabricland.

The body sock is a great sensory tool – it provides a space to stretch against resistance (proprioception), a snug place to hide to minimise visual input and a great motor planning activity to get into and see how you can move your body. For children who struggle to have good body awareness, it can help them know where their body ends, and proprioceptive input such as this is often calming for those with and without sensory integration difficulties.

The body sock I made is adult sized as we want some equipment for parents to try out. You can make this smaller to your child’s height. This body sock can fit me (4’10″…arguably child sized according to multiple clothes shops!) and my other half (6’2″) due to the wonderful stretchy properties of the lycra!

I didn’t cut the lycra at all, and went with how it was cut to a meter in the shop.

Red Lycra for the DIY Body Sock Tutorial

So – to turn this rectangle into a body sock requires some fiddling around but if I can manage it, that means any level of basic sewing will get you by! Don’t aim for it to be perfect, it just needs to be securely sewn and roughly in a rectangle shape. I just used standard thread but it may be worth getting some more heavy duty thread for children who really like to push and stretch.

  1. Decide which is the outside of your fabric. I’m sure there’s some rule for this, but I just looked at both sides and decided which size I liked better – this side is your ‘right side’.
  2. Fold your fabric rectangle in half length ways, right sides together.
  3. To make a neat edge for your opening where you will climb into the body sock from, about a quarter of the way down, pin a neat hem – I pinned for about 50 cm but this is for a 10year old – adult sized one. I would imagine 30cm would be fine for a 5 year old. (This was fiddly as the lycra rolled itself in on itself).
Pinned hem for the DIY Body Sock Tutorial
  1. Sew down the pinned section, making sure to double stitch the ends as this will get a lot of stretching! Repeat on the other side of the fabric so there is a mirror image hem that side too.
  2. With your fabric right sides folded together still, pin either side of the opening then pin both sides of the fabric together, leaving the neatly hemmed opening unpinned. Sew up these seams either side.
Sewing the DIY Body Sock Tutorial
  1. Now you should have a long tube (with a neatly hemmed opening!) Lay the fabric flat on a surface and get the sewn seam in the middle – as per this photo:
Body sock tube for the DIY Body Sock Tutorial
  1. Sew up top and bottom seams (you can pin first if you want but I just attacked this with my sewing machine – its not an exact art and doesn’t need to be perfect – just a sack to stretch around in!) Again, I double stitched over all of these to make sure it could take some stretching.
  2. Ta da! Your body sock is ready! You can add velcro up the hemmed edges if you want, but I’ve left mine open as the velcro can sometimes add in an irritating tactile and noise element. Some children prefer velcro-ing themselves in though – its all a matter of personal body sock preference!
  3. Here’s a photo of the finished product – one with me in and one with other half modelling – the scary face on the t-shirt adds to the overall effect I think!

Hope you enjoyed this – do let us know how you get on if you attempt the body sock and what your children/ recipients think of them! We run regular parent courses on sensory integration topics, and provide sensory assessments to children and adults in Dorset. Do give us an email if you’d like to get in contact. Happy sewing!