We have finally set up our Baby Calm Room!
We have been meaning to create this room for a while now but just not had the time to gather everything together and sit down to plan the logistics of it! It wasn’t until I was rummaging through my photos of my eldest (now 4 and at school, where did the time go!) I came across one of him as a tiny baby whilst living in London at an activity we went to weekly called ‘Treasure Babies’. We LOVED this group. A dedicated time every week we could spend exploring all of the items in the ‘Treasure Baskets’ and relaxing whilst staring into the various colourful lights. I met some lovely mums in this group also, people who I could share the highs and lows life with a new-born brings. This was my inspiration behind Baby Calm. We had to re-create this in the café!
Obviously we couldn’t just stick a load of lights in a room with a few toys and expect babies to gain a rich sensory experience from it, we needed to do some reading and get a plan. From my work in nurseries and working with play specialists in hospitals I have a fair idea on how to stimulate babies senses and how to notice if a baby was getting ‘over’ stimulated. But how do we create a good balance in our room?
We started off with deciding we wanted to include some sensory lights. We use a few for our baby massage and Yoga sessions so had the overhead lights for when babies are lying down. We just needed a bubble tube – every sensory room needs a bubble tube! (and fish in this tube are a must!) Add to this some fibre optic lights and we had the perfect combo!
Now onto smells. During my time in a special needs school we used what they called ‘smelly jars’. These were jars which when you opened each had a different unique smell. The idea was to hold the smell under the child’s nose for a short while ensuring you watch their expression. The face they made and their body language would tell you what they thought of the smell. You would chat to them about what sort of smell this was, for example ‘this smells really sweet, it reminds me of flowers.’ A bit more reading on the subject and our own ‘smelly jars’ alongside some instructions on how to use them were created.
Our final aspect of the room was using Heuristic play, a term coined by a child psychologist Elinor Goldschmeid in the early 1980’s. This is something we base our playroom on at home. My children don’t have any ‘noisy toys’ or ones that have lots of buttons and flashing lights. They both started off with treasure baskets to explore made from everyday items I found around the house. We now have many drawstring bags containing different themes such as metal, wooden items, a variety of brushes and a material and ribbon bag. We also use the silk scarfs we sell in the café stuffed into an old tissue box as what child doesn’t enjoy pulling all the tissues out of a box! I have found that these open ended toys holds their attention much better than the traditional toys you find in all the toy shops. A fantastic article on ‘treasure baskets’ was written by Melody Masters on her page ‘Little Acorns to Mighty Oaks’. We have a few of these baskets in the Baby Calm room and envisage them changing and adapting over time as we find more things to add and take out any broken or well used items. We will also be cleaning these items regularly as they will inevitably end up in babies mouths. That is after all how babies explore and make sense of their world.
And finally we are ready!
We opened the room last week and have been overwhelmed by the response and the interest in the room! We even have interest in the room for children with sensory processing disorders which as a paediatric nurse is something I am really passionate about supporting. We will be looking into providing this space for any children who would benefit from this – watch this space!! We really hope many babies can come and enjoy this space and give parents some much needed time out in a calm and enriching environment to spend with their babies.