SEN Relaxed Christmas Experience
One of the many families that joined the Relaxed Christmas Experience
We have once again worked with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council to host an Autism and SEN Relaxed Christmas experience for families across the borough.
Having worked with the council for a number of years on this event, we have been able to shape and craft each element. Creating a bespoke and tailored event that is suitable and magical for all the families that step through the doors.
What is the Relaxed Christmas event and what makes it so unique?
The Relaxed Christmas experience is tailored to families with Autism and SEN children. And it’s been wonderful working alongside the team at Goal Line Youth Trust again. They do fantastic work all year around with our target audience. The Goal Line team takes on the roles of our very special elves, and Mrs Claus.
As this was a ticketed event, there was no queuing and families could go through the experience at their own pace. Upon arrival, each family was assigned their own elf that guided and stayed with them through the experience.
We have a range of activities that appeal to all senses throughout the Christmas experience. Music can be turned on or off depending on each families, and child’s, needs. We have creatively crafted and selected decor, lighting, props, and sensory items. With everything from light up liquid tiles, to virtual reality headsets, magic snow, and water beads.
This event gives families the gift of time-as they have approx. 10 minutes in each room, allowing children to become truly relaxed throughout.
Types of Activities
The sensory room at Relaxed Christmas
We think it’s essential to have activities that support the ethos of the event as well as being engaging for all children. Which is why we have tailored each element, room or activity. The activities we provided, created and even handmade include:
- A sensory room with a storytelling corner, virtual reality headsets, soft play including ball pit, light up objects and much more.
- Arts and crafts room to use sticker sheets and create their own card or letter for Santa. Which they can post in the special Christmas post box.
- Extended time with Santa in a decorated grotto which includes time for children to talk with Santa and have a photo taken. Santa can even use sign language! A gift is given to each child for taking home.
- Making reindeer food that includes using different ingredients with textures, shapes and colours. All ingredients are also kind to the birds and eco friendly.
- Messy play to allow the children to be as free and expressive as possible.
- Sweet treats and hot chocolate.
Building a Sensory Experience From Scratch
We love nothing more than putting our creative flair into action. And a sensory experience such as Relaxed Christmas is the type of event that demands it. This year we transformed the Bleary Business and Community Centre from a community space into a magical sensory Christmas wonderland.
When approaching a space, we have to treat it like a blank canvas. The fixtures and fittings influence the design and, at times, the narrative. For example, in this year’s location we had a kitchen in the centre. So rather than keeping it as just a kitchen it became Mrs Claus kitchen where children could help her make magical reindeer food.
Turning a kitchen into sensory experience and into Mrs Claus’ kitchen
Having reviewed the space we planned where each activity would be, and how we would make it visually and sensory appealing. We planned each activity and what was going to be included like props, lights, sounds and backdrop should be used. Where needed, we made activities by hand, like coloured rice that we safely dyed with food colouring for messy play.
Before the event started, we spent two days building the event space. This included draping the room, building the grotto and installing each element.
Aside from the design and delivery of this event, we also did the event management. We built the booking and ticketing systems, which allowed families to book their dedicated time slot.
We also operated a waiting list. If a family couldn’t attend we had a waiting list of families on standby to avoid anyone missing out on this event.
We created, managed and delivered each step of the registration. This made it easier for ABC Council and easy for the families as there was one line of communication.
In this BBC NI report, Lord Mayor Paul Greenfield, said “We’re trying to lead the way on this as a council, that we can get as many of these young kids in – and they’re actually having a lovely time.”
Not Just for Christmas
We loved creating this event. It’s unique, but more than that. It gives those children that need that extra sensory experience and time the opportunity to have a truly magical Christmas experience.
We know an event like this is so popular because every year we have to have a waiting list. With our skills and experience for this type of event we would love to see more of them across NI. A sensory experience like Relaxed Christmas is something that can take place at any special events throughout the year, ensuring that every child is included in these celebrations and events.