Who are you? The Importance of Identity in Sensory Play

Our sense of self, or our identity plays a big part in our emotional wellbeing. Without it we would be left floating; unaware of our own beliefs and values with no confidence to speak up for what we believe in. Our self esteem, body image and confidence all feed into our identity, and who we believe we are. But how do we teach that? how can we nurture our children to develop a good sense of self?

Healthychildren.org have a great article detailing many areas we can work on to help develop our children’s sense of self including developing a sense of security, belonging, purpose, trust, responsibility, etc, etc. What I want to look at here however is how we can use sensory play and art in a fun way to help to open up those discussions with children about who they are, to ask children, even from a very early age – ‘Who Are You?’ and to help to develop their sense of self in a unique and interesting way.

During the Alice in Wonderland theme at the studios in Manchester I have been focusing on how play can help to develop a child’s emotional wellbeing by  offering more than child led play which is great for developing the areas discussed in the article above. I have been offering opportunities within that play to help children to discover themselves, find calming strategies and sensory input to regulate their emotions.

Alice in Wonderland

Chapter 5: Advice from a Caterpillar

‘Who are YOU?’ said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I – I hardy know, sir, just at present – at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’

Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)

In this chapter of Alice in Wonderland Alice meets the Caterpillar who asks her the question ‘Who Are You?’ Alice finds this question hard to answer due to the changes that she has experienced during the day from being small, to being big, to being small again. Although the changes Alice experiences in the story are nonsense changes which we would not experience; we are all faced with changes throughout our lives which make us question our identity. Alice is given a mushroom to help her to be in control of the changes she needs to make, this helps Alice to navigate her way through the rest of the story. Just like Alice we all need things to help us cope with the changes that we need to make throughout our lives and the hope is that through The Emotional Wellbeing Project I will be able to do this.

Obviously this explanation is probably too abstract for many of the young people that will be experiencing the sensory play but below are pictures of the activities that we have been enjoying at the studios relating to this chapter.

A big part of this has been the use of mirrors which is a great sensory tool for children of all ages to use to study their own faces, babies are interested by the person staring back at them and older children can still enjoy watching themselves and pulling funny faces. Click on the individual images for more information.

If you or your school would like to be involved in The Emotional Wellbeing Project please get in touch


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