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Exploring Sensory Art for Babies

When the opportunity to be involved in the Combine to Create project arose I felt as though this was exactly the type of work that I’d been looking to do since I moved to Moray in 2013.

Funding in the arts, possibly like many industries, seems to favour short term projects. A project like Combine to Create that has a longer time to develop and that can actually dig into what folk in Moray want from the arts feels like it’s long overdue.

The idea

With Combine to Create I wanted to work in Lossiemouth. I lived there with my husband for my first three years in Moray and felt like I had a good understanding of the area and connections with the people there. I’m interested by the history, the new developments, the local businesses and sense of community I experience there.

Throughout my theatre career I’ve had a focus on creating shows and running groups for and with early years. This felt like a skill I could share that I know really benefits people with young families – particularly after such a long time of isolation through Covid. A time when the majority of parents and babies haven’t had anything close to the level of interaction they would have had in previous times.

Through the generous help of Louise McBride from Lossie’s 2-3 Group, I offered my services to an existing group of local mums and babies who meet weekly at the Lossiemouth Youth Cafe.

Photo credit: Heather Fulton

My offer was to plan and lead their sessions, each week with a different focus that uses a mix of creative play, open ended objects (rather than toys), music, projection, dance, drums, coconut milk edible baby paint and radio-controlled helium clown fish…. (the list goes on) which the babies can experience and explore at their own pace and level.

The aims of the sessions being to provide sensory stimulus for the babies and time for parents to be with their babies without all of the distractions faced at home. It also provides parents with the best advice resource available – other parents.

Working with this group is my first step into trying to get a sense of what would be beneficial
to families with young children in Lossiemouth.

Photo credit: Heather Fulton

From the group there was a view that Lossiemouth has a lack of resources for children 3 and under in Lossiemouth. They commented that there is some provision, through groups run from some of the churches and swimming sessions for babies available at the new pool in the high school.

However, they also identified that there is not enough variation in terms of options of times, availability and variety. For example, there are no sensory rooms or outdoor play resources like play parks for the youngest of the community.

‘The Laundry’

When I was running one of the Lossie sessions with fellow Combine to Create Collective member Kate MacKay, she was inspired by the lovely idea to create an interactive art installation for early years children around the visuals of a laundry.

Kate MacKay’s artwork

Kate and I talked about washing-lines strung across the room, hung with sheets that become tents, lit so that the children and see and play with their shadows. Bubbles emerging from buckets…laundry baskets to climb inside or move around like boats or fill with pegs and turn upside down. Scrubbing brushes to scrub the floor or the walls or whatever they want to scrub. Sensory experiences like water to splash in, sponges to squeeze and the projection of birds flying overhead on the ceiling at which to gaze and wonder.

I’m excited about trying to make this a reality in Lossiemouth. However my Combine to Create residency will pause whilst I embark on a period of probably the most in-depth research into early years that I have ever experienced. I am due my first baby in May and am looking forward to my own adventure discovering what life as a new mum is like and what resources are available for me and my baby.

When I return after my maternity leave I am excited to come back to the idea of the ‘Laundry’ and see if through my ‘research’ I still feel it could be as useful a resource as I do now.

I would be keen to hear what the people of Lossiemouth think in response to this blog and the ideas involved so please get in touch!

Photo credit: Heather Fulton

With thanks to Louise and the mums and babies of Lossie’s 2-3 Group for letting us share these photographs.

About the Author

A member of the Combine to Create Collective, Heather has been making theatre for children and young people for over ten years with her theatre company Frozen Charlotte. Heather has specialised in creating shows and projects for children such as Woodland Creatures, Luna, Paperbelle, Valentina’s Galaxy and Too Many Penguins? She is also an associate artist with Starcatchers – Scotland’s Arts and Early Years organisation.

You can find out more about Heather, Combine to Create and the Culture Collective on our project page.

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