How to Create a Sensory Experience for Children

As kids grow, they eventually learn about the five senses: touch, taste, sight, smell and sound. They learn that senses help them discover the environment around them, influence their feelings, and alert them to danger. However, discussions about those who are deprived of certain senses are more rare. Some children are born with a limited sense of sight, others need devices to help them hear better. Your children will eventually encounter those who are unique in these ways, and it is a beautiful thing when a child tries to understand what challenges others experience. “X-Marks the Spot” is a multi-sensory production by Chicago Children’s Theatre that encourages little audience members to tune into each of their specific senses in a wondrous and creative way.

Sensory Experience for Children

“X-Marks the Spot” is a theatrical experience inspired by children who are visually impaired, but invites those of all abilities, sensory levels and awareness. Designed for children ages 8 and up, this family-centered sensory experience has an communal seating plan with multiple families seated at tables which surround the stage. Right off the bat, participants are encouraged to close their eyes at any part, for any length throughout the performance. Lights are turned low, and blindfolds are available to all.

Photo Credit: Pierce Cruz

I took my 7-year-old son to the opening show, not knowing what to expect or how to explain to him what this sensory experience for children was as all about. Turns out, he was able to “see” for himself by observing the story unfolding around him as well as partaking in each sensory adventure that came his way. The main story revolved around a family of four children uprooted from their beloved city of Chicago and plopped in the middle of rural Michigan on the west coast. One of the sisters is visually impaired, using a Braille typewriter and a probing cane to adapt. The children are left to their own (occasionally mischievous, always creative) devices to entertain themselves while their mom runs a bed and breakfast.

Photo Credit: Pierce Cruz

As each new adventure unfolds, an accompanying sensory activity is introduced to the audience. From guessing a color using your sense of taste to smelling the scent of fresh laundry as it dries on the line, each sense is heightened due to the absence of perfect vision.

Photo Credit: Pierce Cruz

“X-Marks the Spot” runs through March 3rd at Chicago Children’s Theatre, located at 100 S. Racine Ave, tickets are available online and are $35 each. It is the perfect thing to do with children in winter, and a great into to theater for the newbies. If you want to plan a full day of dining and theater with your child, check out The Madison, which serves up a gourmet kids menu complete with Waygu Beef Cheeseburger and Grilled Cheese on Toasted Brioche that will expand their palette beyond basic hot dogs.

The Madison

If you want something a little faster and less formal, grab bagel sandwiches at The Great American Bagel on Madison at Racine. They make their bagels fresh every day and steam bake them on premises (the smell of fresh bagels…YUM).

Want to add a sweet treat after the show and spark that sweet sense of taste? Check out Warm Belly Bakery around the corner, which offers plump, dense cookies with 70+ rotating flavors such as Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Salted Butterscotch Toffee and Red Velvet Nutella.

Warm Belly Bakery near Chicago Children's Theatre

If you aren’t able to attend this EST (Extra-Sensory Theater) production, create your own at home!

Take one of your children’s favorite books with sensory descriptions or opportunities for sensory play, like Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. Read through the book and gather items that appeal to the senses of taste, touch, smell and sound. Ask your child to close their eyes, or place a sleep mask/blindfold on them.

Read the book, using each sensory item on your child as it comes up in the story. Encourage them to use their imagination in conjunction with their senses to bring the story to life!

Sensory Items for Harold and the Purple Crayon-

  • Leaf
  • Apple slice
  • Sound of a dragon roar
  • Water droplets
  • Sand
  • Smell of apple pie (you can use a scented candle or something cinnamon-scented)
  • Balloon

If your children are old enough, have them create a sensory experience for you.

Cheers to thinking a little outside the box and giving your child an experience instead of plopping them in front of the iPad!

Disclosure: I received tickets to “X-Marks the Spot” for review purposes; all opinions are honest and my own as always.

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2 Comments

  1. Marilyn Hanson
    February 20, 2019 / 7:59 am

    This is an EXCELLENT write up!!!! Something that will enhance the lives of many children and adults!!! Very well written as it makes me want to participate right now!!!

    • alldressedupwithnothingtodrink
      Author
      February 20, 2019 / 12:35 pm

      Thank you!! Bryson really enjoyed adding new elements to the theater experience. The loss of senses is something we don’t usually bring up with our children, but it is definitely a topic they need to learn about.