Norfolk-based Strawberry Patch Nursery is the latest nursery in the UK to benefit from a Sensory-in-a-Suitcase Deluxe from SensoryPlus, a specialist in the design and creation of sensory environments for children and adults.
The Sensory-in-a-Suitcase houses a wealth of sensory equipment which is ideal for therapy, education and play activities. The Space Projector and coloured fibre optics provide a stunning visual display, while the tactile balls and colour packs enable interaction. These tools are complimented by sound makers and natural music to promote rest and relaxation, making the Sensory-in-a-Suitcase an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of sensory stimuli!
Sensory environments are designed to provide a safe and engaging area in which children with special needs can play and learn. Imaginative learning is openly encouraged and there is the freedom to roam and discover new experiences, completely uninhibited. Senses such as sight, smell, touch and sound are stimulated and heightened in order to improve cognitive and physical abilities in a fun and interactive way. A Sensory-in-a-Suitcase is a way of delivering the benefits of a fixed environment where a designated space is not available.
David Payne, Sensory Product Manager at SensoryPlus, said: “The Sensory-in-a-Suitcase is amazingly compact and has been designed for those on a budget or those who need to take the sensory experience to the individual. The products in it are designed to stimulate all the senses – and they come in a handy carry case, enabling you to create a sensory environment anywhere.”
So it comes as no surprise that when Linda Wells, SENCO and Behaviour Management specialist at the nursery, experienced the Sensory-in-a-Suitcase for herself, she immediately saw the benefits for children with and without special needs: “The Sensory-in-a-Suitcase here at Strawberry Patch has been fantastic for the children’s hearing, learning, understanding and attention span and their imagination has certainly been enriched!”
Strawberry Patch Nursery can host up to 40 children a day in its main room and a dozen in the baby room, making the sensory area an integral part of the nursery. Linda explained: “It can be difficult to keep so many children engaged whilst building on their learning, and the sensory room provides an outlet for them to learn and have fun in at the same time. We integrate sessions in the sensory room into their daily routine to help them engage and learn whilst still enjoying themselves every day.”
A sensory environment can also be a lifeline for children with special needs, like a child at the nursery with Sturge-Weber Syndrome, a rare congenital neurological and skin disorder. Linda explained that when the child started at the nursery, they were having several seizures per day, and at just a year old, had surgery to disconnect the right side of her brain, leaving her with a left sided hemiplegia, hemianopia, left side visual field deficit, limited mobility and a learning delay. Using the equipment in the Sensory-in-a-Suitcase has enabled her to build her interaction skills, along with developing her social confidence, and she now plays with other children who use the area and is happy to share the equipment with them.
“She loves the sensory area and the equipment in it,” said Linda. “The sensory tools help her to concentrate and help her to engage and interact in a way she has never done before. She will never get her vision back and her parents are concerned she will develop glaucoma; however, they have watched her use the sensory equipment and are so impressed, they want to purchase it for themselves, especially the bubble tube, as it helps to keep her vision as strong as possible. The vibrations and lights from it are beneficial for her vision as well as touch. Her cause-and-effect skills have majorly improved, as she now knows that by pressing the switch on the tube, bubbles can come out or the lights can change, which is fantastic.”
The nursery also cares for another child, who at the age of two was unable to walk. “She had outgrown our baby room but was still playing in it because of her delay in walking,” Linda says. “In the long run, of course everything is fine, but at the time, there were concerns as to why she was not walking. We used the Vibrating Snake from the suitcase on her legs to stimulate them and encourage her to walk, easing her into the transition from the baby room into the main room. She started slowly but now happily plays in the main room with the other children – proof of the fact that sensory equipment works for children both with and without special needs!”
So what is the children’s favourite piece of equipment? “The bubble tube is the most popular product, followed by the fibre optics,” Linda says. “The children love the lights and vibrations, and spend hours playing with them. We have found the UV lights and illuminating stars to be brilliant too and have now incorporated equipment into the baby room for them to share these experiences – and it is working fantastically well.”
“I would highly recommend other nurseries to invest in a Sensory-in-a-Suitcase, as we have found it to be extremely enriching, not only for the children’s imaginations, but also their learning. Best of all, you do not need to have children with special needs to justify having a Sensory-in-a-Suitcase and sensory environment – this is the icing on the cake for us!”
The Sensory-in-a-Suitcase, which was funded by Norfolk County Council as part of their inclusion strategy and the equipment comes highly recommended by Karen Leggett, Development Officer – Inclusion for the council, who is responsible for purchasing the suitcase: “Different settings use the suitcases in different ways. We have a number of pack-away settings who are unable to invest in a fixed sensory area but are very innovative with its use on a daily basis. However, we also have nurseries like Strawberry Patch who use the equipment in a room and have created a fixed sensory environment. It is incredibly versatile and so easy to transport.
“As part of the original project, we bought 35 Deluxe Sensory-in-a-Suitcases from SensoryPlus, and have recently purchased 13 more with the new Mini Suitcase included. We cannot commend its services enough. David and the team are always exceptionally helpful and they have never failed to provide us with the perfect sensory solution at a very competitive price! We are very pleased with the feedback from Strawberry Patch Nursery as it is positive comments like these that make the investment well worthwhile.”
David said: “We are delighted that Linda and Strawberry Patch Nursery are so happy with their Sensory-in-a-Suitcase Deluxe, they join hundreds of other customers delighted by the Sensory-in-a-Suitcase range. SensoryPlus strives to match products to the needs of our customers whether the answer is simple or sophisticated. Listening to those needs informs everything we do. The on-going supply of Sensory-In-A-Suitcases to Norfolk County Council is an arrangement which has proved very fruitful and I admire Karen’s skill in bringing yet another project together. It is a type of provision with tangible benefits for people like Linda and her children and one which is simple to execute for local authorities who boast Norfolk’s vision.”