Sensory stories are stories that are told with the aid of sensory props. The addition of these props makes the story accessible, tangible, concrete and real. They can bring a story to life.
We may not understand the whole story but may get tremendous pleasure from repetition, rhyme, the joy of sharing, particular words, or from the props themselves. A person may be able to understand that a toy represents ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ or they may just appreciate the way that it feels soft and pleasant. As well as the pleasure of sharing the activity with the person reading the story, sensory stories may help us feel calm or happy.
- Some people may have allergies or intolerances to wheat or gluten when touched or ingested. Gluten free flour or shop bought play dough can be used as an alternative.
- Some people may exhibit oral sensory seeking behaviours i.e. explore by putting things in their mouth. Ensure you have read care plans or eating and drinking profiles carefully to check for dysphagia (eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties) or choking risk before carrying out this activity.
What you need
- The Hungry Caterpillar story, which can be found by doing an internet search.
- Plastic food or real food – apples, pears, plums, oranges, strawberries, chocolate cake, ice cream, a pickle, swiss cheese, salami, a lollipop, cherry pie, sausage, a cupcake, watermelon, and some leaves (remember to check for allergies).
- Puppets – There are lovely resources to buy but a really easy way to make a ‘caterpillar puppet’ is to put a sock on your hand, or cut a finger off an old glove. The caterpillar could alternatively just be the use of your bendy index finger.
- Optional – Playdough, fimo, modelling clay or jumping clay.
- Optional – Scents e.g. an orange scented pencil crayon to smell when oranges are mentioned in the story.
- Pictures of the foods featured in the story. If you do an internet search for ‘The Hungry Caterpillar Colouring’ there are lots of pictures that can be coloured in.
The items can be kept in a ‘story bag’, box, bucket, hat box, handbag, suitcase, bag, pillowcase, or hung on a story mobile or sensory story umbrella. A sensory umbrella is an umbrella with sensory props hanging down. If you hold it above the person it can create a mini sensory world. For The Hungry Caterpillar, you could hang a squishy strawberry for the person to see and touch.
Guidance and instructions
- Gather all the props together.
- While reading the story, introduce sensory props at the appropriate times.
- ‘First he bites an apple.’ Here use your apple prop or offer a taste of apple sauce. You can also pretend to eat the apple.
- You use as many or as few props as you wish. You do not have to have a prop for everything that is mentioned. It is up to you. Sometimes, less is better.
- Be led by the person. For example, if they are really enjoying the oranges, explore them for a while.
- There is no rush and there is no need to read the whole story in one go.
- Tell your sensory story over and over again. The more familiar we are, the more comforting it is to hear. Repetition is key.
- You can also do theme related activities e.g. make a fruit smoothie, visit a butterfly farm or make a butterfly print. To do the latter, fold a piece of paper in half and paint on one side of it. Open up the folded paper and put the clean half on the picture to create a symmetrical print. Cut out in a butterfly shape.
What to observe, assess and record
- Watch for facial expressions and body language that may indicate what the person likes or dislikes.
- How are they before, during and after the activity?
- What impact does this sensory story appear to have on their mood, anxiety levels and general wellbeing?
- Do they smile, laugh, cry, become sleepy? Are they engaged?
- Hunger is an interoceptive sense and can be hard to identify for some people. Some people may not know when they are full. Label these words for them.
© Sarah Hall, Willows Sensory Service
Email: [email protected]
See ‘Willows Sensory’ on Instagram and Facebook where Sarah posts ideas most days
Created October 2020