Baby Boo

What is Sensory Play? Will my baby like it?

You may be shy to ask “what is sensory play?” but it’s a great question and I will try to answer it in this blog.

Babies arrive in to the world with a huge brain all ready to leap into action, but they are a blank slate in terms of experiences. Sensory play is a way to start introducing the world of sensations and experiences to your baby in preparation for childhood where their learning takes more sophisticated paths.

Will my baby like it? – yes!

Babies love discovering new sensations, and the aim of a sensory play session is to introduce a wide variety of objects and sensations for your baby to explore. There are endless possibilities – sights, smells, sounds, textures and colours are all around us all the time, simple things such as glittery pan scrubs are lots of fun especially if you don’t have to do the washing up!

What are the benefits of sensory play ? It’s all to do with brain development every time we have a new experience a little physical connection is made within the brain filed away for future reference, it’s how we begin to learn what is safe , pleasurable, dangerous or maybe just a bit uncomfortable. The more of these experiences we can get during our early years the better for our confidence, well-being and enjoyment of being in the world later in life.

What happens in the sensory play session?

The sensory play session is very informal, here at Baby Boo we have rethought our layout and now have individual mats for each baby and parent/carer which can be socially distanced in the main theatre. Each place has a variety of small objects to offer to your baby.

We create a warm and relaxed environment, with soft lighting and music and the babies can enjoy taking their time to explore and play with the objects. It’s a great opportunity to have focussed play time with your baby, we start to see the world through their fresh eyes and ears. The objects lose their everyday function and become a set of interesting shapes, colours, textures and movements.

We begin to realise that even the simplest items are new and fascinating to babies – after all this may be their first encounter with a nail brush, or a bracelet, or a scrunchie and alongside that we adults start to discover new ways to play with these simple objects to bring them alive. Can we make an noise with a nail brush? Twizzle the bracelet like a gyroscope? Ping the scrunchie into the air? Yes to all those questions and many more possibilities too!

Baby Boo sessions will be re-launching in the New Year after current lockdown restrictions have eased. Please join me!

Places can be booked through The Boo’s website – sessions are free of charge but must be booked in advance.

Baby Boo

Towers and Bunting

At the beginning of March 2020 I ran the 2nd of a planned series of 6 workshops aimed at professionals working in Early Years settings – Towers and Bunting.

Towers –   Build it up and knock it down!

A tower of cardboard boxes and sponge blocks

Bunting – Connect and decorate.

Create new spaces to play in.

In this session we branched out into working as a group, construction requires many hands.

“Can you pass me the tape?”, “Just hold this, will you, while I fix the other end?”, “How far will this ribbon reach?”  We also shared questions such as ‘What about…? ‘, ‘Do you think this will work?’, ‘How high? ‘, ‘Is it safe?’ ‘Is it strong enough?’  Designing on the hoof and putting our heads together.

What emerged was an evolving structure, constantly changing, improving and deteriorating by turns. In different phases the structure presented new ideas for interaction, new spaces would appear, a draped cloth would become a cosy space, is it a castle? Or a laundry? A gateway? or a wall? A shrine or a palace? So many possibilities…

It was interesting that there was no overall plan at the beginning, just begin and start adding and adjusting. So, there was no feeling of achieving or failing to achieve a pre-set objective. This is the essence of play, many things were achieved, objects lost their everyday function and became open to new interpretation.

We adults rarely get a chance to play in our everyday lives and it can feel quite awkward to put ourselves in such a situation, but as time went on the initial shyness disappeared and the fun of creating took over.

” It was very liberating to realise there was no judgement of my skills and to be able to experiment freely.”

” I found the activity really absorbing, the time flew by. “

Construction Play at Home

We were very lucky to have the big space of The Boo’s theatre to play in and lots of big boxes and tubes to build with but it’s also a great activity to do at home.

Play with objects is believed to make significant contributions to children’s physical, social, and cognitive development. Manipulation of small objects gives children the chance to practice fine motor skills, and play with larger loose parts involves gross motor skills.

The Power of Play – A research summary on Play and Learning by Dr Rachel White*

*Dr. Rachel White earned her doctorate in Child Psychology at the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota. Dr. White’s research focuses on how children can benefit from play and imagination in early childhood. Research for this paper was collected in 2012.

A couple of sheets, blankets or even a coat draped over two chairs makes a great start, the kitchen is full of good tower building objects; tin cans, cereal boxes, plastic cups, pots and pans..etc

Creating a new space to play is the starting point for stories and games, there is suddenly an inside and outside, who is inside? who has come to call ? can they come in? In my next blog I’ll be investigating story telling in more detail, so see you then !

Baby Boo

Emerging into the world again

Hello world!

I was very glad to hear that The Boo is gradually emerging into the world again after this strange hibernation that we’ve all been through. You can read the statement from Executive Director Esther Ferry Kennington here Covid-19 Update

Baby Boo has plans but at the moment they will still be virtual as we are not able to meet in person just yet. In the meantime summer is an on-off affair and now that we are encouraged to go out again the weather is a bit off-putting! At least the days are still long and the temperatures mild.

Back in March I’d just started a short series of hands-on workshops designed for people who work with very young children, when the lockdown happened. The first two were Play with Clay and Towers and Bunting, and I’ll write more on them in the next posts.

Further down my list was one titled Household Treasure and it seems to be much more relevant to us all now. So here are some of my thoughts on that theme.

I thought it would be fun to look around my house and see what household treasure I can find –  many of Baby Boo’s sensory play items are everyday items which we rediscover by playing with them.

For babies 0 – 12 months ( or pre walking ) create a comfy sensory play area by bringing a duvet on to the floor and finding some small objects to bring to baby. Look around in your clothing shelves for items with different colours and textures; leather gloves, fluffy scarf, stretchy leggings, maybe you have a feather boa or a chiffon headscarf, woolly socks or fun fur fleece. Towels, facecloths, nail brushes, tooth brushes , hot water bottle with a fluffy cover and body scrubs are great too.

In the kitchen you can find harder objects good for making noises or that have more scratchy sensations;  pan scrubs, tin cans, saucepans, wooden spoons, metal spoons, cups, trays, sieves. Empty tins filled with different grains or pulses will make noisy shakers, add split peas or rice and tape two tins together. In the kitchen there is food of course, lots of things to smell and taste, oranges and lemons, spices and herbs. Create little aroma jars out of yoghurt pots or jam jars with a gauze covering. You can also find cold or frozen items such as frozen peas – caution though, only allow brief contact with the skin. Best to wrap inside a tea towel so the pack does not directly touch the skin.

Fruit and veg can also be very good playthings – potatoes roll around nicely and can be small enough for little hands to hold. They have earthy smells and different textures, colours and weights. If you don’t want a squishy mess stick to the more robust varieties!

Squishy is also good and can be experienced by containing the items in a bowl and having cloths ready for clean up.

Don’t forget the traditional bunch of keys, lovely to make rattling sounds.

For older babies 1-3 years

Bring out the duvet but add in a few pillows and blankets as well. Throw the duvet over the pillows to create a challenging landscape to jump on and walk over. Blankets are great for making small dens, thrown over two chairs or stools it can create a doorway or a little house ( who lives there? – a new story begins). If you have a torch the den becomes even more magical.

Older children love to build up (and knock down!)  see what you can find around the house to build towers with; cereal boxes, biscuit tins, maybe even books, toilet rolls with or without tissue, tins, buckets and plant pots are a few suggestions.

Sometimes it’s interesting to create patterns on the floor with household objects, sorting, ordering and lining up. Try creating a simple set of shapes cut out of coloured fabric or paper that can be arranged and rearranged to make lovely patterns.

Singing and dancing are great energy burners, try controlling the energy by playing games – freeze when the music stops or sit down or hop on one foot when the music stops.

Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes  +  Sleeping Bunnies are songs with actions that toddlers often know and love to sing. Links …

Then wind the energy down again with more gentle songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Wind the Bobbin Up.

Baby Boo

Baby Boo February 4th –

Child's hands playing with clay
Play with Clay

I’m looking forward to meeting everyone next Tuesday, the session will be in the main theatre space again, lots of space for multiple play areas.

There will be some clay to investigate as well as the familiar sponge building blocks and small sensory objects.

So come along to The Boo and be prepared to get a bit mucky! Don’t worry there will be warm soapy water and plenty of towels to get clean again.

Venue: The Boo 679 Bacup Rd, Waterfoot, Rossendale BB4 7HB

Drop in between 10 -12 am Free entry

See you soon, Sue

Adventures of Pom, Baby Boo

The Adventures of Pom in Todmorden

I have recently taken over performing The Adventures of Pom from Ruth Boycott-Garnett. Ruth created the show in 2015 as a commission from Big Imaginations network. The story is inspired by the Greek myth of Persephone (Pom in our version) and takes us through the seasons, into the underworld and back to being reunited with Mum. All told in 30 minutes and with plenty of time and space for the children to mingle, interact and join in to play at the end. There are lots of sensory objects to handle; woolly hats, bright crystals, fruit and vegetables – knitted, wooden and real!

And last but not least we have Pom!

Young children meeting a puppet of a young girl. Ruth Boycott-Garnett

These photos were taken from my debut performance at Castle Hill Nursery in Todmorden as part of Todmorden Book Festival. It was a delight to perform to the 2 and 3 year olds, they were very engaged and attentive, here two children are meeting Pom who is the same size as them!

Many thanks to Catherine Browne and Ruth Boycott – Garnett for the photos and for their help on the day.