We just finished the 67th Street Library's first programs specifically focusing on sensory development and made to be encouraging to children of all abilities. The quest-themed program is called "Mysterious Matter Adventures" and includes sequencing practice, art, and scientific exploration. It was limited to eight families per session to minimize chaos and allow for individual attention.
We started out with a visual schedule and reviewed the order of steps in the program to minimize anxiety and confusion about what would be happening. I read a story—the hilarious "King Arthur's Very Great Grandson"—and gave out props to deepen the experience by bringing in a sensory element: feathers for the Griffin, anti-sequins for dragon scales, a shiny eye sticker for Cyclops, and a wet pipecleaner tentacle for the sea creature Leviathan. (For the second session, I read the lovely "We Were Tired of Living in a House" by Liesel Moak Skorpen, in which children try living in a tree, in a cave, by a pond,
and on the beach, and bring mementos with them each time they move. Participants were given a leaf, a stone, a "slimy frog" made with green foam dipped in soap, and a seashell to feel and put in their own travelling bags).
After the story I introduced them to the song I would sing when I needed their attention, and told them to find their first station. Each station had a yellow challenge card next to it which parents could use to help guide the play. For example: can you sort the pompoms by color? How many different patterns can you find under the glitter salt? What happens when you press a comb into the dough and then lift the comb up again? Each participant was given a treasure map and got a stamp on it marking their progress along the map for every station they completed. They moved to the next station when they were ready.
Glitter Salt TrayRice Bag Toss Pasta Play
Most stations involved touch and texture, but one that asked kids to climb two steps and toss a beanbag (well, colored rice in a baggie) incorporated movement, while a bin of dry macaroni asked them to notice sound and also to try to figure out how to use a tool to separate the small from the large. One enterprising family created their own extra challenge of sorting pompoms by size with their eyes closed. A great idea I will try to incorporate next time.
Other stations included a button sorter when kids dropped buttons down colored tubes to click and clank on the bottom, a ice-cube painting station, clear zipper bags filled with two colors of paint to squish, mix, and write on with your finger, and a sticky tape wall on which to stick squares of colored tissue paper.
button sorter Painting with Ice Cubes Tape Wall
After time had gone by, I sang the song to let them know there was time for two more stations, and then sang again to bring the group back to our storytime mats. Everyone got an award ribbon and a prize. I had a suggestion box to elicit helpful feedback from participants. I think everyone had fun. One kid who walked into the program with a big sigh, asking if he had to stay the whole hour, didn't want to leave when the program ended and put a note in my suggestion box asking when he could come again.
A few staff members from NYPL's committee for serving children with special needs will be posting on this blog channel with a monthly sensory craft or activity idea that you can do at home. Or you can join us at one of the branches! More Mysterious Matter Adventures programs will be scheduled during the fall. Also upcoming at the 67th Street Library is an sensory-aware Art Explorers program on alternating Tuesdays at 4pm starting October 1st (please call to pre-register). While all NYPL programs are open to people of all abilities, there are some other branches that are also doing programs specifically geared to be more sensitive and engaging to those with disabilities and/or to highlight sensory growth. The Chatham Square Library hosts Circle of Friends every Thursday at 10:30am for ages 5-11. Mulbery Street Library hosts Kids Can Cook. Contact the Andrew Heiskell branch about upcoming sensory storytimes. If you are an agency or a school and would like to schedule a contained program on Staten Island, contact Diane at the Hugenot Park branch.