Sensory Redesign

Dear FELC families and friends,

You have may have noticed we have gotten just a little more sparkly and new these past few weeks. We have undertaken a sensory redesign of our rooms. Kate, our star of a second in command, and I have worked tired(less)ly for the past couple of months organising and implementing the redesign with the help and support of staff, management and the committee. I am one of the parents of the parent committee, you may have noticed me staring confusedly at some IKEA instructions in the spare office. I am an Occupational Therapist, so I know my Kmart from my Ikea and we bought a little of both.

The main thing we wanted to do was promote engaged play experiences for the kids. Playing is their job at this age. It’s how they learn, grow and develop. Evidence tells us that if you put twenty two-year-olds in one big room they will run in circles screaming like a scene out of Braveheart. So what we looked to do was create some spaces to slow our little angels down and give them areas to play and meet their sensory needs. Supporting kids sensory systems allows them to have better attention and emotional regulation. Our sensory systems can overwhelm, excite and balance us. We looked to increase sensory input in some areas such as Vestibular (movement and balance), Proprioception (body awareness), Tactile (touch) and Auditory (hearing). We also looked at toning down the visual input the kids are experiencing in the rooms as this can be overwhelming and distracting for those who are sensitive to it. Below is some ways we looked to make these changes.

Using rugs and furniture we have created spaces in each room to separate areas and activities and to increase calm, meaningful play. Each room has a chill out space for the kids to go to rest, roll around on some pillows and get some proprioceptive input to calm them. This is a great space to sit with kids who are having a hard time at drop off and want a cuddle. Two of the rooms where kids have the most energy and the least capacity to manage that energy (ahem, toddlers and pre-kindy) have sensorimotor areas. These areas are designed to be active, to burn off some of that (relentless) energy our 1-3 years olds have. We have also created a new learning space in pre-kindy for mat sessions.

Walls and Colours
We repainted the walls white to reduce visual input and make it easier for the kids to focus on what is in the room and on the walls. Also. nothing like a fresh coat of paint to find out that someone superglued those shelves to the floor, ah, but we can laugh about it now though. We chose cool (blues, greens, charcoal, and grey) secondary colours for the furniture in the rooms.

Comfy Chairs
We have placed a rocking chair and foot rest in the babies’ room for mums who stop by to breastfeed or for families to have drop off/pick up cuddles. There’s also a new large armchair in pre-kindy for parents to sit and read to their kids and for educators to use during lesson mat times. We have added some seating options for the kids in each room with child armchairs and poufs.

Sensory Boxes
Babies and toddlers rooms will continue to have changing sensory boxes in their shelving unit for the kids to explore and experience. These are often guided by themes that are of interest to the kids at the time such as a favourite book or song.

Aladdin Mats
In Kindy the kids have 20 new small mats which they can use to create and define their own play space. This gives them a sense of pride and purpose when playing and develops their respect for each other’s play space and time.

We have a huge new collection of toys. Kate has researched and chosen toys which promote our children’s development and inspire their creativity. Many such as the wooden rain makers offer beautiful sensory experiences as well.
Play is often talked about as if it were relief from serious learning. But, for children, play is serious learning. Play really is really the work of childhood’ – Fred Rogers. Play is an essential part of the early years of a child’s life and it’s our job as a quality early childhood centre to provide children with the best resources to do this very important job of theirs.

Through play children develop socio-emotional, physical and cognitive skills.
With the purchasing of the Centre’s new toys we have gone with a more Montessori approach. We have tried to incorporate more wood and move away from too much plastic. Also tying in with the Montessori approach, we now have less toys on display. Children can be easily overwhelmed by a cluttered environment. A lot of the toys are open-ended and allow children to use them in a way that promotes their own interpretation and engages their imagination, curiosity and problem solving skills.
We have also made sure to mix things up and added in lots of (the ridiculously priced, yet amazing) Schleich animals, new sandpit toys, occupational people and an update our home corner materials.



Sensorimotor Toys

Tunnels   Climbing through tunnels is a great way for kids to improve their body awareness and core strength.
Hopper toys    They’re red and vaguely shaped like animals. Kids can bounce on them to increase their balance and gross motor strength. Also it’s cheaper than buying them a pony.

It’s the Bilbo Baggins of toys!

Note: the Bilibo is in no way associated with hobbits.

Actually, a Bilibo is a great toy for creative play as they can play with it as their imagination sees fit. They can put two together as a capsule, line them up and use them as stepping stones, sit in them and rock or spin around in them, tie ropes through the holes so they can pull each other along, pop them on their back and play ninja turtles or use them to scoot down a hill like a toboggan.

Foam Log   The foam log in the babies room is a great way for the younger babies to practice tummy time and building their strength. It is also great for the older babies to practice rolling and sitting on to improve their balance and strength.
Ribbon Rings Great for spinning around, dancing and big arm movements. Helps our pre-kindy kids develop coordination, sequencing, strength and flexibility.

These are just a few of the new elements in each room. I hope you and your families enjoy the new room designs and if you have any questions please come and see Kate or myself to discuss them.


Libby Boulakdam & Kate Seery

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