This Cambridge-local duo began humbly. Amy’s mother in law, Karen, came to Amy with an idea for sensory play sessions where there were bins set up and parents and children learn alongside each other.
“At the time, I was pregnant with baby number three and thought why not? Once we got down to the planning of what we valued and what we wanted to get out of the class we soon realised the lack of opportunities for sensory/messy play if you weren’t interested in joining a Playcentre. My family loves Playcentre but I understand it isn’t for everyone.”
As a result, they decided they wanted to fill a gap in the early childhood age group by offering opportunities for sensory/messy play. “Resilience is talked about a lot these days and how we need to make sure our children are resilient. The sensory play set up we have allows children to explore a variety of different textures with different tools and play items. Children are in control of their learning and are able to develop skills to help them overcome difficulties in a non-threatening way.”
The Sensory Room sessions:
“There is very little structure to how the sessions run. People arrive, sign in and the children are off exploring. Children are able to explore at their own pace and with whatever area/s they wish to. The adult’s role at the session is to play alongside their children and enjoy the experiences together. Use language the children may not have been exposed to and model that it is okay to explore new things. The children are encouraged to keep the items in the bins but we are well aware they are preschoolers and so near enough is good enough. We have calming music on in the background as it helps to create an environment that is not overwhelming. We know the benefits of creating a calming space for children to learn and develop.
All of our sessions are different as there are always a variety of areas set up but the sessions the children get used to the different opportunities to explore. Some sessions children spend the whole time at one or two areas and that’s fine. Other sessions the same children explore all areas. It is great to see what interests are sparked each week.”
I asked Amy what were the 3 most popular activities at the Sensory Room that the kids enjoy?
“Our top area over and above everything else we do is the birdseed bin. It is always well loved and is a great base to use different tools with. Slime and gloop are always popular. Children enjoy having the opportunity to gather items up from inside the slime or gloop. They also enjoy adding items to the mixture and exploring the different textures. They are both experiences that adults seem to love or hate. The third favourite is tricky. A lot of the children enjoy painting but not in a traditional way. The children enjoy paint and brushes but prefer to explore paint through rollers, bubble wrap, tinfoil or with their hands. This is often a messy experience, especially when the children rub it all over their arms and legs!
The Sensory Room keeps up with the seasons. The play sessions are creatively transitioned throughout the year to ensure that the children are fully immersed in the joys of each season. “We use a lot of ice in the warmer months, more natural elements (like leaves) in autumn and we get inspiration from celebrations and holidays.
Behind the Play: the values and beliefs of The Sensory Room
Research supports the idea of play being vital in creating independent and capable learners. Through play, children are able to learn vastly different skills and it’s fun.
Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning.
In order to grow and learn, the human brain needs to be stimulated by sensory experiences... a child needs to seem tough, hear, taste and smell to play, explore and experiment. - Vea Vecchi
Scientists have recently determined that it takes 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain unless it is done with play, in which case, it takes between 10 to 20 repetitions. - Dr Karyn Purvis.
Parents agree that one of the most wonderful things about The Sensory Room is that your child can enjoy the experiences of messy play without you having to worry about the cleanup process! However, Amy wishes to transform this perspective of messy play. “Some adults join up so they don’t ‘have to’ do it at home but our sessions are a great way to show parents that sensory play doesn’t have to be scary or super messy. Yes, sometimes it is messy and that’s okay.” Parents love bringing home the experiences their children discover at The Sensory Room, “it has been really encouraging to hear adults trying different ideas at home. I have heard the success stories and failures. I’ve had them at home too. I had a patch of my lawn killed by the overuse of vinegar and the ‘cute canvas painting’ that was brown but it’s okay. We learn and the grass grows back! The best way to explore messy and sensory play is to just give it a go. We need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, onto the lawn and experiment. There is no one way to do it and kids generally take play into a different direction than planned.’
Amy: a mum, a businesswoman, a play extraordinaire and a co-president
While running a successful business, Amy is also a mum, co-president of Playcentre! I asked her to share how she manages to have good work/life balance, she shared the following tips:
- Being grateful: I would not be able to do what I do if I didn’t have the many blessings in my life that I do have. Having an amazing support system is the only way I am able to do what I do. My husband really is my partner. He helps me through the day to day roles, encouragement and doesn’t have a ‘Pinterest ideology’ of what our house should look like. I try really hard to make sure those in my life know and feel I appreciate them.
- Being realistic: I love the idea of a Pinterest worthy home but I don’t. Yes, I vacuum every day but that’s because I feel a sense of achievement, that feeling you get when you see the lawn freshly cut. My washing pile is always neglected and I have piles of paperwork and to do’s coming out of my ears. But all of this is okay. If my family is fed, bathed, loved and happy then I’m winning. One day I won’t have the same pressures in my life and my kids won’t need me to prepare meals, do washing and bath them. For right now it is okay that we grab clothes off the couch and stack more paperwork on top of more paperwork.
- Find what works: What works for my family would not work for others and that’s fine. A family needs to find what works for them and focus on that. We are all so very different and differences make our lives richer.
- Find your strengths: It has taken me a few years to work out what I’m good at in my role as primary carer. My mother and some dear friends have all the skills I thought mums needed and would love to have. They bake, clean (skirtings and de-cobweb) way more often than I do. They sew, mend, and wash/fold AND put away their family’s clothes daily. I am not this mum. I bake occasionally, clean what is required, rarely get the washing back into draws and I am okay with this. However, I do encourage my children to explore all sorts of different areas of play: I limited tv hugely, I don’t need a recipe book for all sorts of different play recipes and the area that stands out more to me is involvement. I LOVE to be involved in my families lives. I document hugely, write letter/notes regularly and that is my strength.
- Don’t compare: I get told a lot ‘you have it all together, all the time’. I can guarantee I DO NOT and the more you get to know someone the more you see they have their own struggles. Social media does not help this. We need to remember Facebook and Instagram are the highlights reels. We need to get off social media and form genuine relationships. They are the true gifts.
Parenting in Cambridge
Cambridge is a wonderful environment to raise children, it’s no wonder the town is full of young families. Outside of The Sensory Room, Amy shared some ideas for entertaining the kids in Cambridge. “We have just bought bikes and we are loving exploring our town together on them. There are a lot of safe tracks to ride on and quieter areas in town to explore. We also enjoy visiting the parks. The Leamington Domain have train rides and this is great as you get to sit (in silence as you can’t hear your kids asking questions) and ride around and around. Saint Kilda and the Avantidrome both have playgrounds and bike tracks. A great way to burn some energy and get some fresh air. Waipuke Park is a favourite in the warmer weather. The children are able to decide how deep they would like to go in the water and it is always a family-friendly environment.”
If you’re looking into The Sensory Room, here are some details about their play sessions:
Play sessions happen on Wednesday mornings fortnightly. The sessions run for an hour, 9.30am to 10.30am and cost $15 a session for one child and $8 for each additional child. However, if you sign up for the term it is discounted to $10 a session for one and $5 for each additional child. Parent’s or caregivers are required to stay during the play sessions!
The Sensory Room is now offering party options too! It’s a great way to keep the kids entertained while also reducing the clean up required!! The Sensory Room sets up and cleans up everything enabling you to focus on the kids! When the children arrive, play areas are set up and prepared. While the team packs up, children can have snacks and enjoy the remainder of the event! The fees are as followed: $80 for a 45-minute session with 6 sensory experiences.
For more information about The Sensory Room, check them out on social media and visit their website here!
From our home to yours,
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