sensory pit-stops: invitations to find calm

We are counting down now to beginning a new term – new teachers, new classes, and for two of mine new schools. There is definitely a need for me to be providing and enabling as many calming sensory activities as possible – yesterday I just couldn’t keep up!

Our emotions and physical responses to them are so complex I wonder how any of us actually learn to regulate ourselves. For many of us no doubt it comes easier than for others. Certainly if our understanding and recognition of different emotions is still a work in progress then instinctive self regulation is going to be almost impossible. It has to be learnt. So the more varied and frequent opportunities to learn to become calm and collected when feeling huge emotions the better.

These are some of my favourite activities to leave out dotted around the house that can become calming sensory pit-stops:

  • cornflour gloop – best in a room with a wipeable floor: cornflour and just enough water to make a gloopy paste in a shallow bowl or tub. This is great, it gives a sensation of resistance when poked and pushed and also soft fluidity when dangled or allowed to ooze back into itself. To dispose of it afterwards I leave it to dry out a little and then put it in the bin. Bits on the floor or table leave to dry then brush and scoop into the bin. (It blocks drains if washed down the sink)
  • playdough – We make our own, and then for extra sensory input can give it a scent like lavender, citrus, peppermint etc. The best bit of making your own is that it needs to be kneaded like bread dough as it cools down and the warmth with the kneading is amazing… just check it’s not still very hot before you hand it over to the kids. (Our recipe came from a good friend: 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 2 tbsp oil, 2 tsp cream of tartar, 1 cup of water with food colouring in if desired… beat it together as it heats up in a saucepan.)
  • painting- not perhaps something I would leave out casually all the time but this can be really absorbing; big plain paper, brushes, sponges, fingers etc, paint & imagination.

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  • wobble board – we have a circular board with a curved underneath that was being sold as a toning piece of equipment for keep fit, but we use it simply for fun balancing. When movement and concentration come together it can prove very calming. And this can simply be left out in a place with some space to be used in-between things, or on the way from one part of the house to another.
  • Animals – in our house one of the key strategies for self-regulation is to spend time with animals. Before we had the kittens days like these would be better if the guinea pigs came in and were easily available for cuddles. Now of course the kittens are always to be found somewhere in the house, and thankfully they crave attention and fuss. The only problem is when the attention given to one of them becomes a stress trigger for a sibling- either because they are not ‘doing it right’, or the kitten was found in someone else’s space, or its not considered to be ‘their turn’… but despite those (very frequent) moments I still think being in physical contact with animals brings such a lot of calm and reassurance.
  • blankets – and hot water bottles which add weight and warmth. Always on the sofa and beds ready to snuggle up in, hide under or tuck in tight around you.
  • water – another I cannot simply leave out, but there are so many opportunities during the day whether it’s to encourage lingering over hand washing, helping with some washing up, or allowing some pouring play between jugs tubs and cups. And there’s always the bath & shower on a day without time pressure which for our youngest is probably one of the best ways to really ground her when very anxious. Yesterday we resorted to a bath in the afternoon – and I got time to clean the bathroom at the same time!
  • a familiar activity – whether it’s a film that’s been seen a hundred times, reading a book that is known word for word, or a puzzle that’s a favourite, or a sorting activity with buttons or marbles etc that always gets done in the same way, a familiar activity can be very soothing.
  • music – a tricky one to balance everyone’s different needs at any given moment but brilliant nonetheless. As I write A is playing the piano which he gets completely absorbed in. B likes to listen to music on headphones which shuts all other hustle & bustle out. T loves to move and sing, and tends to want music loud when she wants it. Dance mats, dance games on the Wii, and listening to songs over and over again seem to really help T… but for the sake of everyone else we try to manage how long each time! Another absorbing and regulating music & movement activity is hand clapping rhymes and other nursery rhymes. T still asks for ‘this is the way the lady rides’ (a bouncing on a knee rhyme), and loves ‘a sailor went to sea, sea, sea’ etc.
  • hugs! – almost always on their terms of course, but being available for regular deep squeezing hugs is essential – and so easy, no prep required!

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  • marble bowl – simply marbles in a shallow wooden bowl. They can be swirled, spun, sifted through fingers and listened to as they spin gradually getting slower and slower.
  • mini sensory bin – again a simple bowl or tray, with rice, pasta, cous cous or sand in that is simply available to arrange things in (small world play figures or stones, shells, beads etc) and feel.
  • balloons – not for everyone I know, but the process of blowing up a balloon slows breathing down, and makes us take deep breaths in. And they are really fun when you don’t tie them but fill them and let them go over and over. And for the daring moments when the thought of the clearing up doesn’t phase you, balloons with some water in that can be held (it has a weight to it) and that move about in your hand are fascinating too.
  • dens – safe, inviting spaces to retreat into and block out the hustle and bustle. Soft glow light, flumpy cushions, paper & pens to doodle with and some cuddly toys.
  • tearing and cutting – leaving out an old newspaper or magazine with scissors if that’s appropriate. Prepare for easy to clear up mess, but T can be absorbed in cutting, tearing and scrunching paper for some time and this can be a good distraction from the times when anxiety begins to show itself as restless frustration.

 

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Free printables: Scrap-booking with God

A while ago T & I got started on a scrap book all about the Bible. We love the cutting, sticking and doodling process of scrap-booking. It’s something we do on some holidays (something I did on holidays as a child – in fact I also used to doodle and put together diaries or activity books for my younger sisters too when we went away which probably annoyed them intensely!), and if we are busy finding out about a particular topic. So for us it is perhaps the most natural thing in the world to do scrap-booking with God.

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I don’t chat with T about scrap-booking about God, but with him. What we doodle, cut & stick is all part of our conversation with him. Sometimes our pages become conversation starters between God & us; sometimes they are a response to what we experienced in being with God that day; sometimes in writing a verse out or colouring or drawing about a bible verse we are better able to listen. Just the same as a spiritual journal but with much more glue, stickers and felt tips!

Anyway, I have been busy drawing some more printables that can be coloured, cut out and used in your scrap-booking with God. Because T is still enjoying exploring the facts about the Bible the most recent page is full of fascinating facts about the Bible alongside the picture-language the Bible uses to describe God’s word in our lives. These will need a bit of explanation for my literal thinker – though I look forward to learning from her take on them too –

  • light for my path – picture language that gets us remembering how difficult and scary it can be walking on a path in pitch darkness. We find it easier and safer when there is a good streetlight, or a powerful torch showing us the path and where we can walk. God’s word is like a light that makes it safe to walk forward in life, helping us see where to go next and the dangers to avoid.

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  • honey on my lips – a comparison between God’s words when we hear them and honey when we eat some. Honey not only tastes amazing it also has superpowers and can help heal because it has antibacterial properties, and is soothing, and eating local honey can genuinely help hay fever. Honey is also very precious, looking back to when this comparison was used granulated sugar did not exist, nor did artificial sweetners. Honey was beautifully sweet in cooking, so over time in many cultures people began to keep bees and collect the honey despite the risks.
  • my guide/map – if we are going somewhere we need to know the way. If we don’t we feel lost, and become lost very easily without a map or a guide to show us the directions. In life there are so many choices every day – little ones and big ones, and without directions and help it can feel very difficult – we may even feel lost (sometimes people even describe someone who has made bad choices as having ‘lost their way’). God’s word can be our guide (just like having someone with us to show us the way) and our map that we can work out the best choices from.

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  • every day bread – Jesus said we can’t live just on bread, we need the word of God too. Thinking about God’s word being like every day bread reminds us how much we need it. We would get hungry, then weak and ill if we gave up on eating what we need to each day. It is as important for our health and well-being that we hear God’s word every day and let it’s goodness give us what we need to live.
  • sword of the Spirit – from the picture Paul describes about the Christian dressed in protective armour so they can be strong in their living out of the faith. The ‘sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’ is the only weapon Paul talks about when he describes living as a Christian in this way. God’s word can battle with our worries and doubts, they can tell us what is true when lies come at us. The Holy Spirit reminds us of God’s word at all the important moments in our living for God, always reminding us of who God is and how loved we are.

click here to download free printables 

I really hope you enjoy using these pages in your scrap-booking with God. If you want to take a picture I would love to see. Tag me on instagram, @clearlynurturing.

 

planning for holidays

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The summer holidays are nearly here!!!

(I say, half excited half terrified!)

It’s altogether a little bit overwhelming at the moment for the Porter family. The heat has been incredibly intense for us – keeping cool in hot weather brings with it particular sensory challenges. Noisy fans, different from usual clothes, sun cream, extreme brightness, open windows (noise we don’t usually hear in the house, insects coming in)… Of course it also gives us sensory opportunities to enjoy – I have written before about some of our favourite hot weather sensory activities – and we also discovered ‘skidding ice cubes with kittens’ this week too.

We are also near the end of term so there are lots of extras going on, each an exciting new challenge which is tiring for all of us. And there are more in the next week too – services, concerts, parties and BBQ’s.

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Do you like to plan ahead for school holidays, or do you prefer the freedom to be spontaneous? I am so looking forward to the pressure of the school mornings being lifted, but I do not like the thought of no routine at all – if I feel we need a day without any structure at all it has to be planned ahead for! And we call it a pj day – then it has expectations and routines all of its own! The first three weeks we have planned for us: the church holiday club (all of us involved either as leaders, young leaders or part of a group), then straight to New Wine summer conference followed by holiday in our usual campsite. Each of those weeks has their own order and lists, usual things to pack, play and do.

When we get back we have some time based at home, Andrew will be back at work and I will be balancing our need for ‘down time’ – lots of time for special interests; family together time – maybe a familiar outing or two; get together with friends; and getting us prepared for a new term – lots of questions, worries, fact finding and getting used to new uniform (not to mention the dreaded shoe shopping!).

I usually find it helpful to have ‘ready to go’ crafts, and games all to hand before the lack of routine (and anxiety) makes it almost impossible to plan and prepare anything.

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Here are some of my favourite go-to sites:

I love the ideas and printables on RedTedArt – great ideas for activities and crafts with everyday things, bookmarks and models to print and make.

A lovely list of (mostly) no prep outdoor ideas with notimeforflashcards

Always lots of new fun meaningful ideas with flamecreativekids

I will be busy collecting ideas I find on one of my pinterest boards

 

 

 

fun memory verse ideas

We are very caught up in revision at the moment, right in the middle of exams for B.

There are a lot of things to remember – not my best skill! (thank you long term sleep deprivation & anxiety) – formulas in science, definitions, quotes in English and RE. B actually has a really really good memory, and if she is engaged in the learning – if focused, definite, clear cut things get stuck so quickly.

Yesterday we were praying before leading our junior age church club, Blast, and listening to T beeping the numbers on the church key safe to help by getting the keys to open the main doors. She’d been allowed to do the code once before a few days previously and of course, yes, she could do it. The number sequence was at her fingertips. To me that kind of memory seems like a superpower! I simply cannot remember number sequences at all, and am pretty hopeless at recalling definite factual information from memory.

For me, remembering and being able to bring to mind verses from the Bible effort has to be intentionally put in. I know I want to. I know it’s not going to come easily. I know I have to put in the work. With all the focus on revision though at the moment, I am questioning whether I am sharing that hope and expectation about Bible verses. Do B, A & T even think about why or if its important to know verses and be able to bring them to mind? Am I sharing with testimony with them, of times when verses have powerfully changed a situation or strengthened me or someone else? They are naturally gifted with the ability to remember, am I encouraging them to remember the Bible?

I remember a season with A when he was facing night after night of nightmares which were vivid and difficult to move on from and find rest again. We taught him a tiny snippet of scripture;

‘…perfect love drives out fear…’ (1John 4:18)

thinking together about who we knew who was perfect love, and how strong a word ‘drives out’ is. Over a stretch of nights we spoke it before sleep, and when the nightmares came showed him how to speak it out and cling onto Jesus who is perfect love. We imagined Jesus like a superhero/ninja standing tall and kicking his fears out of the door, down the stairs and out into the driveway. We imagined him coming back into A’s room and standing guard till his angels took over again. Sometimes we actively did the kicking alongside Jesus, kicking his fears out of the room as we reminded each other that Jesus, perfect love, was with him fighting for him. We learnt it to the point when some nights we simply spoke out ‘perfect love’ as we sat with him, welcoming Jesus in and waiting for sleep to come again. It reminds me how precious scripture is for our children, how much I want them to delight in it and know it.

So some fun ideas to learn memory verses:

  • love this idea from #flamecreativekids of a dice race… who can be first to roll the dice and be able to say the verse in order.
  • of course, I’m immediately reaching for doodling and colouring… my latest colouring verse was designed for a friend leading an after school club wanting a verse to reflect on.

 

  • following #godventure on social media means I now have the yummy idea in my head of icing parts of a memory verse onto different cupcakes so they can be arranged, remembered and eaten! Love the symbolism of that.2016-06-11 10.19.17
  • using lego, bricks or playing jenga with words from the verse on the blocks.
  • Making up actions to go with the words.
  • Enjoying a song that uses the words, T would be wanting to dance too.
  • Making a nature or magazine collage of the verse together and pinning it up in the kitchen.
  • playing charades to find the words
  • a treasure hunt for the words
  • make bunting or a set of decorations that can display the verse. IMG_20180602_232001_387
  • using different voices, or accents (both T & A find this funny)
  • use fabric pens and design a T-shirt or a tote bag with the verse on.
  • challenge each other to see who can use the verse in everyday conversation!

Please do comment with your favourite ideas for fun memory verse learning!

pentecost prayers

IMG_20180519_114620532 Our church took part in the global prayer initiative #thykingdomcome, and we had our prayer room set up for 48 hours so that as a church we committed to pray for the whole of that time taking turns in the room.

It was set up using the resource ideas on the #thykingdomcome website. Which focused on the image of the Holy Spirit bringing light.

As a family we have got used to spending an hour in a prayer room together over the years,  (wrote about last years too!) but even so it does still feel a little daunting! And this year I remembered the wrong time!! Ended up gatecrashing another slot (thankfully a family we know well) and then coming back later to do the hour we had signed up for! So we managed it twice in the end…

Each section of the room led us to pray for ourselves or neighbours, our town or the wider world through a hands on activity to help us think or to visualize that prayer. T really liked the coffee filter pictures. We drew in biro first, our street or just our neighbours house, then decorated around the edge with colours of the warm fire of the Holy Spirit. When it was wet the invitation was to pray for that household as we watched the warmth of those colours get closer and eventually cover the whole house. It was messy, visual and meaningful.

Cutting out newspaper stories and putting them onto the large lightbox (a DIY job with a plain plastic box & white Christmas lights) helped us to reflect on how wherever Jesus’ light shines it reveals things for what they are – showing us what’s true.

Using mirrors and torches we tried to shine a light onto different countries on the big wall map of the world. It was quite tricky, and actually involved both B & T at the same time which was great. Finding countries we knew something about, then directing the light and praying.

There was also playdough, and a playdough mat with prayer suggestions. A local map to let feathers (flame colours of course) float down onto to choose us a part of the town to pray for. Some Christmas lights to add thumbprints onto to pray for particular friends. Spiral family prayers.

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Of course I managed to fit in drawing a reflective colouring page using verses about Jesus the light of the world and our calling to shine like stars. This went down well with B (and me!). Feel free to follow this link and print one out to use.

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Also a perfect opportunity to put my book to use, helping me to encourage us to pray boldly knowing that God will answer our prayers because he loves us!

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