Sensory Umbrellas!

Part One.

The key element of working in the classroom is finding an appropriate environment to work in. This short article is going to have a look at one successful and very popular approach – the use of umbrellas and parasols.  

As successful practitioners in education we will have bright, colourful, stimulating and busy classrooms, fantastic for general stimulation but very distracting when we want to work with individual learners. For sensory work we need to focus the learner’s senses upon the stimuli we are presenting. In the general classroom there is too much going on and other adults and learners moving around causing distractions. Do you remember the older style prams, with hoods and some sort of mobile strung across the front? Without understanding or appreciating the psychology, people had automatically provided a safe environment where all the stimuli came from a predictable direction. This reduces anxiety and decreases stress caused by the child worrying about noises and movement that he or she can’t see.  

We need something similar in the classroom and the humble umbrella, cheaply bought, provides a simple way of achieving that. It can also act as a screen for projection and we can hang artefacts from the spokes for the learner to interact with. A word of caution, however, in a typical classroom the use of an umbrella does require close supervision. Most umbrellas come with a pointed metal ferrule and the spokes are of a metal construction with plastic caps. There are potential dangers if they are used by a learner with physically challenging behaviours. However, used with supervision, they offer many advantages. They are easily stored and quick to put up.

Richard Hirstwood

Next in this series ‘Sensory Umbrellas’ – Part 2: Different Types.


Need to know more about innovative ways to deliver a sensory curriculum within your classroom?

Have a look at ‘Intent, Implementation & Impact’ with Steve Phillips & Richard Hirstwood.

10 October – Centre for Life, Newcastle

14 October – The Wesley Hotel, London

18 October – Redbank House, Manchester

Already using an umbrella in your classroom?

Try it with this fabulous bargain sensory torch from B & M – a steal at £3.99!