I’m a huge advocate for sensory play- I even used to teach classes to groups of babies, and groups of toddlers. But I quickly learned the difference between applying knowledge and skill, and merely copying something you’d seen someone else do. Sensory play is a lot more than waving a bubble machine over a group of children with twinkle twinkle blasting out, sticking a pair of bunny ears on them while they jump around, or holding a flashing toy or hand puppet 7 inches from their face while they struggle to focus on it. You at least have to know WHY you’re doing it- the benefits to baby and their development. So after leaving that company, I did my research. I read books, blogs, studies. I worked for some other places, and really honed the craft. But I still wouldn’t call myself an expert.
However, Vanessa Woollatt is. She started by running her own classes, and selling some bits to her customers there, but when lockdown was implemented in March, classes were cancelled. No more meet ups for mums, and no more work for Vanessa. So, she used the time to create The Sensory Station- a selection of themed sensory play boxes.
The Newborn Box is a black and white themed box including a soft white tag blanket, sensory ribbon (black and white), sensory scarf (black), black and white book, teething bangle, and 4 sensory development cards. In the first few months, while babies vision is developing, they perceive black and white, and high contrast colours such as red, far better than anything else. Solid lines and patterns are stimulating and grab their attention far better than a pastel watercolour in a book! Each piece is carefully selected to stimulate a different part of baby’s senses, from vision to touch. River loves the black and white sensory ribbon- us shaking the ribbons for him to look at, running it over his bare belly, and most of all, holding it himself and waving it around or chewing the wooden ring. He also really enjoys the soft blanket, but again at the moment, mostly for chewing purposes!
The unicorn box includes a sensory ribbon (pink, purple, and white) and sensory scarf (pink) like the first box, but then also a flashing ball, space blanket, unicorn foam mirror (great for the bath!), and a bubble wand. Space blankets are great for stimulating babies- the crinkling noise and reflection of light around them can keep them entertained for quite some time! For gods sake though- the amount of mums I see putting their babies on them for tummy time calls for a disclaimer of some kind. While it’s great as they can explore their reflection (a bit) just please remember that they are not even remotely breathable- the equivalent of cling film, or a plastic bag. All sensory play should be a shared experience anyway- never leave your baby unattended with any toy, but I would say don’t even check your phone if there is anyway that a space blanket could make their way towards your baby’s nose and mouth. They’re great fun and an amazing tool, but they definitely need the extra attention.
Rivers favourite part of this box was the neon pink scarf (this photo is from a video of him absolutely blissing our over it)- it will keep him engaged for a good 3 or 4 minutes longer than the pale pink one or black one from the newborn box (I knew he wasn’t going to be a wallflower!). He loves to have it swept down over his skin from head to toe while he’s in just a nappy, and also feeling it on his feet and hands. Watching the bubbles is cute as well- we do this at bath time, as well as the foam mirror, which will stick to the side of the bath.
Both boxes are excellent, and I really liked that the contents were different. There is an option to build your own box, if you found you wanted a mix and match of the contents of the pre-made boxes. You can also buy the sensory ribbons on their own, in a range of colour combinations, as well as a range of hevea dummy’s and teething toys.
The website is easy to navigate, the products are displayed nicely with a good amount of information included, and the range, while varied, isn’t overwhelming. It’s a great place to start, especially for a complete novice, or mum wanting to take what she’s learned at a class back into the home for extra fun. The boxes come beautifully presented, and include a drawstring cotton bag to keep all the goodies inside when not in use- I especially love that feature, as with small bits and things that find their way into mouths, it’s nice to be able to keep it as its own kit, rather than scattered around or at the bottom of a toy box.
I’d absolutely recommend these boxes- knowing they come from a place of knowledge and research is helpful for beginners and experts alike, and the themes and packaging would also make them a nice gift for a new arrival, something different to the usual clothes and soft toys. In fact, when my sister asked for my advice buying for her friends new baby, The Sensory Station is what I recommended!
MEET THE MAMA- Vanessa
I am working so hard to deliver a brand that is driven by fantastic customer service and provides quality products at competitive prices.
I run the business from the spare room in my house. I have always wanted to run my own business. Ever since I can remember I have been mind- mapping ideas and coming up with business plans, my family and friends used to find it funny and never knew from one day to the next what new business venture I had come up with but nothing has ever taken off on the scale that The Sensory Station has. Everyone is shocked apart from me I think. I knew I was on to something and once lockdown came into place I was aware that this was probably going to be the only real opportunity I had to give it my absolute all. My husband was off work, I had lost my job due to the virus and I certainly had the hours to really make something of this business.
The sensory station came about after I had bought some bits to sell in my little shop I ran at my baby class. I had excess stock and offered sensory boxes on Facebook. Within an hour they had gone and I knew that this was something I could expand on, so using my scientific knowledge as a teacher and combining it with what I had learned as a baby group leader and as a mother I created The Sensory Station. People must think I am absolutely mad not to go back to my previous, well paid lecturing job. However my life has changed, working for myself gives me so much more freedom, plus I get to spend more time with my daughter who is my motivation behind all this.
At times it can be really hard. For the first month I was working 16 hours a day and even now I get up early and try to get an hour or two in before the family wake up. When I first started to get big numbers of orders I didn’t even have a packing table, I was sat on the floor surrounded by boxes and bubble wrap wondering what the hell was going on. I now have a much more user friendly work space and have learned quickly on the job. I have huge plans for The Sensory Station. We have new products launching all the time and I have some amazing new sensory boxes being released this year. The best part of the job is speaking to my customers, getting great feedback and seeing pictures of their babies with my products makes it all worthwhile. I pride my business on its fantastic customer services and is something I plan to continue wherever The Sensory Station ends up.