A gift for the senses

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The Koala Kids Foundation has made a large donation of sensory toys to Monash Health. Sensory toys include things like stress balls, bubble poppers and fidget spinners. The toys tend to squish, pop, spin or stretch when handled.

In August 2021, Monash Health’s Foundation put out a request on our social media channels seeking companies that manufacture, import or sell sensory toys.

Sensory toys are used in mental health, rehabilitation and general ward areas at Monash Children’s Hospital.

Marian Varney is Senior Clinician and Senior Behavioural Clinician in the Oasis Unit, Early in Life Mental Health Service (ELMHS). Marian explains more about sensory toys and how clinicians and their patients use them.

“Sensory toys are sometimes called sensory fidgets or tools. When played with by children they stimulate the senses, they might be bright and colourful, [or crackle and pop] … and these sensations can help to regulate emotions,” Marian said.

“We find that at times young people cannot find the words to express their emotions or struggle to find the words of others soothing. At ELMHS we use sensory toys to help a child to regulate their emotions when words fail. Use of the toys can help them to become calm enough to express how they are really feeling,” she said.

In the children’s rehabilitation service, patients rely on sensory toys.

“They help children engage in deep breathing and distraction techniques during their treatment sessions,” said Dr Kelly Thompson, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Victorian Paediatric Rehabilitation Service, Monash Children’s Hospital.

Amanda Mandie OAM is Executive Director and full-time volunteer at Koala Kids Foundation, a Melbourne-based charity with the mission to provide small things that make a difference to children and young people during cancer treatment, their families and their healthcare teams. Amanda saw the Monash Health social media posts and immediately contacted the Monash Health Foundation.

“In the last 10 months, Koala Kids has started to look at, source and provide sensory toys to paediatric hospitals,” Amanda said.

“We call them ‘Distractables’ and they are fast becoming an important part of the program we provide to children’s cancer and other services across Victoria.

“When Monash Health shouted out for sensory toys, I knew that Koala Kids could help,” she said.

“Our team of volunteers packed our first delivery of five big boxes filled with a large variety of sensory toys. These went to nine units across Monash Children’s Hospital. This is part of a two-month trial to see what volume of toys will be needed in the future, what works and what doesn’t.”

Marian expressed her thanks to Amanda and Koala Kids volunteers.

“The donation of these sensory items will tangibly help distressed children to regulate their emotions and to form therapeutic connections with others. Thank you to the team at Koala Kids for making such a positive difference in the care of our patients, they and we are endlessly appreciative.”

For more information on Koala Kids, visit: www.koalakids.org.au.

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